Searching for the American Music Culture

This summer I am getting ready for my doctorate studies. I have packed quite a lot of my stuff, I also got a silly summer job which an IMAX cinema is also located at, and we get to watch stuff here and there. I am also getting some videos recorded and put on Youtube. I still need to get more composing and writing done, but I feel good. I am feeling that I am being more optimistic about what is going to happen in Minneapolis.

In the last 24 hours I have quite an interesting journey on screen. My internet service provided me a free HBO trial for 3 days, and I noticed that it included Elvis Presley: The Searcher. Expecting it to be a 2-hour thing in total, instead, I had to stay up to watch the 4-hour thing.

I have never been an Elvis fan, nor did I feel affiliated to the Rock-n’-Roll tradition at all. However, the documentary made me think about how much heritage Elvis has reflected and developed on, and how crazy his time was. Think about that, in the mid-twentieth century, so many things have happened in the world. However, it might be the first time in America that we see people who are pursuing some ideals are being chased after and hate still exists in many places. Elvis, in the midst of everything, is mixed with his uniqueness, excitements, and sentiments. I am now really interested in visiting Graceland and learn more about this tragic figure. Also, it really inspires me to look at musical figures in that era much more carefully, and understand how they come to who there were.

Very surprisingly this morning at work I got to watch the American Musical Journey. I can’t say I like this film at all. The use of IMAX technology is basically pointless. The story of the musical heritage of jazz, blues, pop, and rock is almost like completely fragments that do not make much sense. It was not educational at all. However, as a travel movie, it worked. It definitely reminded me of how Chicago felt, and it successfully made me consider visiting some of the cities as I travel from Florida to Minnesota. It is, however, a pure coincident though. I was already planning the trip the night before.

In a month I will be doing a grand tour. It has been under revision forever and I am still working on it. It looks like that the 5-day trip will be Tallahassee->NOLA->Memphis->Little Rock->Lawrence and Kansas City->Des Moines->Minneapolis. I will be seeing a lot of the musical styles that I have not really exposed to much, as well as some part of the civil rights movements that I have always wanted to know more. I am very looking forward to seeing and hearing new sounds, and once again, be filled with wonder.

Wintergreen Summer Music Academy 2016


It has been a little while since the festival, since right before the festival I was in the process of moving out, and right after I went back to Lawrence and loaded all my belongings in a car that had wiring problems, and drove two days to Tallahassee, FL. Now I have settled in Tally for a week and I can finally typed something here about the festival.IMG_2528

I think it is my first participation in a festival. Last year I was at the Global Musician Workshop, but that’s really more like a one-week intensive of world music tIMG_2417hat does not involve many guests artists or is loaded with tonnes of performances. Wintergreen is located in the mountains with some really interesting history, in many ways it surprised me, by the scale as well as the organization, but more inspiring than the concerts were the people I met here and the scenery.


In terms of composition, I must say it was more because of me being lazy, as well as not willing tIMG_2402o start a big project in this transition process, that I didn’t do too much in these two weeks. (and we weren’t assigned anything during the festival) But I spend so much time talking with fellow composers, about life, really intimate parts of life, as well as our views on music. It really made me think how introspective I am as a person, I listen to others a lot, I hear a lot of stories, I ask myself why they matter, I ask how I could do something, either through music or my own actions. At the same time, I really need to listen to a lot more music.

I was assigned to work with the Trillium quartet, 3 of theIMG_2544 members were still in high school and one is a freshman to-be. I knew I wrote a simple piece. However, it turned out that for the kids, they didn’t found it that simple (while they worked on Beach’s string quartet in one movement which is, to be honest, a million times harder), and they progressed fast. In the unexpected dress rehearsal, things went really well, but in the real performance, they probably suffered from both anxiety and fatigues, that the performance/recording was not as satisfactory. Nonetheless,  I had a great time seeing the kids working hard and asked intelligent questions, and really tried to make things sound good. They are all so gifted and I hope to see them shine on big stages soon.



The composers also had a chance to write a movie score collaboratively. The more-than-a-thousand-measure monster of music was executed in a very nice manner. I heard some words about the project, but it was a great experience for u s. There are a lot of funny moments in the movie that was illustrated through the score effectively.

I also volunteered to help the chef Giustino in preparing dinner once, and I think I learned how to use the deep fryer perfectly after frying two big boxes of tofu and 3 packs of dumplings. It is veryinteresting to hear his perspective as a chef and an observer of the festival, and his participating in a salsa band.

The most impressive and inspiring thing during my stay is definitely everything about Joseph Conyers. Not just because he presented a ridiculously wonderful bass concert, but his absolutely passionate and useful masterclass that addresses so much performance issues, his absolutely selfless sharing on his musical journey and his project 440. I really would ask, how can one has such a big heart, such musicality, and such entrepreneurship? Maybe having a big heart itself is the answer.


I really miss the nights when my housemates and a friend hanged out in a 70s-styled house in the woods, but in many ways, I am glad that I am back to the modern world and I am using a modern stove.

Story behind Lalita

I first reIMG_2242ad about the AGO Student Commissioning Project in August last year when the TAO magazine arrived. I thought to myself, how boring it was not to allow a composer/organist to do it on her own. What I didn’t notice was that the winner in the previous year was actually someone that I know fairly well, Mr. Alex Meszler. At the beginning-of-school year organ studio party, he approached me and encouraged me to find someone to enter it, and I suggested in return that he should try it two years in a row, if he had a greater plan in mind. So that led to the piece, and the first organ composition I started (but not the first one that was completed, that went to a little chorale prelude).

The opening theme was written before it was decided to be an organ piece. I began the piece with another instrumentation in mind (percussion and flute, for another pair of my good friends), which allows me to explore dryness and silence better than the organ. Yet, I was determined that if I were writing something for organ, I would write something atypical to the organ repertoire and creating unusual sounds, so I did not even change a single note from my first draft. As I continued writing, the whole piece just laid in front of my eyes, which was a very interesting feeling. I never wrote anything as smooth as this piece, and it felt wonderful to just pour out notes after notes.

After completing the piece and look back, I could still recall the feeling of writing music effortlessly. However, writing for organ is simply a nightmare. I am writing something with organ in it, but not a solo piece. Just like writing for orchestra, I would think a thousand times before I decide on writing another solo organ piece.

That said, my first attempt of writing for orchestra is actually rearranging and orchestrating THIS EXACT PIECE. It is definitely too difficult for a large orchestra though.

As all the project requirements were completed, now Alex and I can head to our next destination in peace. Good luck at ASU Alex.

Year-end reflection


Essentially my degree isn’t finished yet, I still have a presentation for my Schenkerian class to be done on Thursday, yet I’m done with the writing, the class is really not part of the requirement, and I consider myself as done with everything. I am finally done with all the undergraduate work, in 7 years, and I earned some kind of good academic standing in both of my engineering and music degrees,  I couldn’t be more grateful for all the recognition my teachers have granted me and how much they nurtured me.

Looking at what I have done in the past year, it is kind of scary to look at it. I have done my theory thesis, poured out 6 compositions (which one is doubled by an orchestra version), and some tiny works on the organ. This semester I also had to write two 4000+-word paper in 2-week notice. Could I be more hardworking than that? Maybe. Every semester I feel it was the hardest semester ever, but the following semester became worse. Maybe that’s life.

In terms of my future, I am still 100% certain that I want to have a teaching career, but I am also becoming more certain that I want to compose. I want my voice to be heard. Yet I also feel really sad when I was done with my physics tutoring – I am not ready to give up my little bit of participation in science.

I was at the non-major organ recital last night briefly, just to support a friend who eventually improvised the Bach chorale in Orgelbuchlein. I was very touched by a beginner’s playing of the hymn adapted from Holst’s The Planets. It was by no means technically perfect, but the organ sound touched me, for the very first time for quite a long time. (two years maybe?) I wasn’t sure whether it was the organ sound or The Planets the touched me. At the end, what makes music moving? It seems like nothing could explain it.


Senior Composition Recital


It happened. My senior composition recital was held on April 6, 2016.

Starting composing 3 years ago, and I barely wrote anything last school year, I actually made it to the end with a recital than ran badly overtime. It was definitely a miracle. I am also very grateful for all these people, who gave me a lot of encouragement and support. Without them my music wouldn’t be heard.

I still barely felt the existence of the recital, I am still very confused that it actually was over. (or, I barely realized that it was coming also) All I know is that it is just the very beginning of more compositions to come, and more people will know that there will be some weird music coming up.

One of my colleagues gave me his organ piece the day after the recital, that made me think what I could still do for the organ world. I hate how the organ society works, I am not happy that I’m stuck with those standard repertoire by the masters’ (in Schenker’s style of speech), I want to do something different, maybe I could specialize in “ultra-new” works by composers that are not organists. And I could perform pieces by great contemporary composers which organists do not care about.

More to be discovered in my musical life.

“I’ll Love Thee for Those Sparkling Eyes”

十一月把研究院申請辦妥以後,這些日子在寫的是flute studio委約composition studio而作的solo flute work。我被指派為一名碩士生Margaret寫一首八分鐘的”advanced solo flute work”,而和她的傾談之中,發現她平日多聽Celtic音樂。那時我正被Celtic fiddling所吸引,於是決定以這為題材,配上一些和celtic regions有關的詩句作命題。研究之中又決定加入一點點美國fiddling style。最後這小組曲由三首短作曲組成,一首用了Texas style,一首模仿Scottish style,另一首用了Irish song作原本。每個樂章的命題都是來自當地詩人的詩句(如果不計較美國的不同地域…)。

I. “I’ll Love Thee for those Sparkling Eyes” – A Country Dance (George Moses Horton)
II. “I’d Shelter Thee, I’d Shelter Thee” – An Air (Robert Burns)
III. “To Love You in the Old High Way of Love” – A Hornpipe (William Butler Yeats)


早前已經起了II和III的稿,這個早上,趁這天是學期最後一課,我想把I的初稿給老師過目,在學期完結前把稿子都交給演奏者。最初對這個樂章沒有甚麼頭緒。看了聽了不少的tunes開始對Texas style有了認識以後,定了調,開始亂寫。但到了某個位置,我突然想到了一個故事。一個牛仔在跳著line dance/square dance/ whatever dance that is的時候,突然被一雙極雪亮的眼睛迷住,身邊的音樂都聽不見了。他一心想認識那女孩,千方百計地邀請她共舞。女孩佻皮地拒絕了幾次,但最後還是應邀。這個故事又剛巧把整個系列完整起來。

有一名男士對我說過”You have the most beautiful eyes I have ever seen.”他來自Western Kansas,正正是一個牛仔,現在在KC area當政治顧問。我和他在網上認識,談了幾天還是很投契,於是約了見面。第一次約會時,我倆還是可以不斷地談著,對話內容可以嚴肅,也可以很瘋狂;不過同時間,我很清楚我倆之間就算是多親密,我對他沒有那種想去愛的感覺(也許是因為他一早已警告了我),也完全沒可能發展甚麼關係。大約是,互相吸引、喜歡,但因為時間地點而不相愛。快兩個月以後的這天,我倆還在定期見面,沒有愛情,但又不只是友情。這個早上一邊寫著曲子,一邊想著當代的感情、關係是多麼的古怪和複雜。