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Posts tagged composer

My Take on Mulan

Jerry Goldsmith’s score for Mulan does a brilliant job of balancing her femininity with her obviously masculine badassery of, you know, defeating the Huns. It’s a tricky thing to do and a very interesting concept, so I wanted to try my hand at it, though through a different genre because, I mean, who among us mortals can even compare with Goldsmith?

Writing this piece has been one of the most frustrating experiences I’ve had in a while. I can’t tell you why, but I do know that everything from finding the basic tune all the way to producing an arrangement out of it was no walk in the park. Sometimes, I suppose, you’re struck by inspiration and all the elements of the process just gel. Other times, all you can do is muck about and hope everything you’ve done and learned up to this point can get you through it.

And funny enough, despite all the troubles involved with composing this piece, I really like it - especially the tune. I would definitely put it up there among the better melodies I’ve written, all of which came much more easily than this one - which just goes to show that sometimes the tenacity to see a troubled piece through is just as valuable as that elusive divine inspiration.

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Posted at 5:59 PM 24 February 2012

Olympics 2012: The Stadium

Here comes another piece, now the second, that I’ve written by hand. I’m still excruciatingly slow at it, but I also think I’m making progress as far as efficiency goes.

The idea behind it is pretty embarrassingly simple - ever since I’d seen the opening for Star Trek Deep Space Nine, I’ve always wanted to write a piece that uses that interesting “twinkling” effect. What better chance to give it a shot than in a stock Olympics anthem?

I think I’m getting better at long melodies (though it never really seems that way when you’re staring at a blank page), and I’m happy enough with this one that I think I may follow up with a piano-only version. Might as well get as much mileage out of a tune as you can.

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Posted at 10:02 AM 15 February 2012

This post comes a little late, since this article published a week ago, and an earlier version of it many months ago. But anyways, here is the final version of China Daily’s profile on me. It’s fitting for this to appear on Tumblr since that’s how the reporter Amanda and I first “met,” and over the topic of chicken fried steak no less.

Dear Amanda, thanks for all that work and interest! You’re awesome, and I’m truly grateful for it!

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Posted at 4:38 PM 12 February 2012

Stumbling Upon China’s Great Symphonist

Through a labored series of connections and some haphazard scheduling, I recently met with a Chinese symphonic composer, Wang Xilin. Admittedly, I hadn’t done my research until the day of meeting him, and when I did…well, go read his wikipedia page yourself. That plus a few Youtube searches, and I was pretty much floored I’d stumbled upon the opportunity to meet this guy, China’s national treasure.

While his body of work is impressive and very enviable, I was most struck by the story of his life. For fourteen years he went through absolute hell (really, read the bio), enough that even before meeting him, I’d heard rumors that he was well…crazy, you know, stereotypical-composer-crazy. It’s hard to imagine that through all those years of agony (something my first violin teacher, Bingsun Yang, had to suffer through as well), all he had to cling to was his love for music. You can hear the pain of his experiences too in his music, and you can hear a distinct lack of it in mine.

This is where he lives. Mr. Wang apologized profusely for the apartment, but I couldn’t help being so amazed and impressed that someone this famous, successful, and rich would still choose to live here. Then again, when you think about what came before in his life, it’s easy to see why this would seem totally sufficient.

Despite the rumors of him being crazy - and it still might be true, what can you tell from only talking to someone for two hours? - my first impression of him was a peculiar one: he really reminds me of Randy Newman! They’re both roughly the same age, and it was really quite striking how similar their movements, facial expressions, and even voices were!

I learned from Mr. Wang that, for many years, he used to work where I now work, the Beijing Dance Drama and Opera. They still pay him his retirement checks. Unfortunately, him and my boss and mentor, Mr. Liao, see differently about the artistic direction of this troupe.

After a two hour conversation that covered my background, his background, listening to each other’s music, and geeking out (as best I could in Chinese) about Prokofiev, Bartok, Shostakovich, Beethoven, Wagner, Brahms, John Corigliano, George Crumb, John Adams, Tan Dun, John Williams, and China’s John Williams - Zhao Jiping, Mr. Wang suggested that I devote a large chunk of my time to do score study.

He thinks I should push my technique in the contemporary classical direction, and I see why - his technique is superb. The technical demands of contemporary classical music is many many times higher than that of film music, so why not build up your technique so that when you write film music, it’s peanuts? The other end of the spectrum though is that what good is the best technique in the world if you’re not working and building your career?

In the end, Mr. Wang wants to send me the score to a movement of a suite he recently completed. I heard it today - it’s quite beautiful, and I’m to do an analysis of it with whatever free time I have, then get back to him so he can ostensibly give me a lesson. Seems flexible enough, and more importantly, useful.  We’ll see if this becomes a pattern. If so, back to school it is.

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Posted at 4:08 PM 06 July 2011

Showreel!

Well, here it is folks, a China showreel and a US showreel! Actually, not sure if this is so much a showreel as it is a showcase since it’s not all strung together…Would it be better to fuse them into one video of demo diarrhea?

In the words of a friend, can I haz j0b plz?

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Posted at 4:00 PM 01 July 2011