A Journey Into The Love Of Erhu


Amely Zhou - A Journey Into The Love Of Erhu - October 5, 2014 01

On October 5 of 2014, Toronto-based erhu player Amely Zhou held her inaugural concert ‘A Journey Into The Love Of Erhu 胡情之旅’ at York University. She had invited me to compose a brand new piece for her to premier at this concert, and I graciously accepted. Composed for erhu and piano, ‘Wind Chaser 逐風旅人’ is a piece that I am tremendously proud of. Compositionally, it utilizes both the idiomatic pentatonic nature of Chinese traditional music, as well as more contemporary ideas. In this piece I took the opportunity to play around with some of the erhu’s more extended techniques, as well as its its virtuosity, versatility, and emotiveness.

Amely Zhou - A Journey Into The Love Of Erhu - October 5, 2014 02

Alas, there is no recording of the piece available online yet, but I do hope to make a recording and video of it in the not too distant future.

Program note:

Wind Chaser‘ takes the listener on a musical journey, and tells a story of love, contemplation, and adventure. Like someone running through the hills, trying to grasp the wind, so does life itself elude us. It can slip through our fingers just as soon as we grab hold of it. Composed for Amely Zhou, this piece showcases the expressiveness, the virtuosity, as well as some special techniques of the erhu, and receives it’s world premier tonight.

Amely Zhou - A Journey Into The Love Of Erhu - October 5, 2014

Xpressions

Dim Sum Ensemble - Xpressions - October 27, 2013 01

I debuted my first commission in 2013 with the Toronto-based Dim Sum Ensemble 點心絲竹樂團. The commission was for their inaugural concert ‘Xpressions‘ on October 27, 2013 in downtown Toronto at the Array Space.

Titled ‘Ripples 波紋,’ my piece was scored for two erhu, zhonghu, cello, yangqin, and an assortment of Chinese and Western percussion. I was also able to conduct this piece at the concert.

This piece is the first piece in a series of pieces inspired by water.

Dim Sum Ensemble - Xpressions - October 27, 2013 02

Program Note:

‘Ripples’ begins quietly and meditatively, drawing the listener in to the deliberate movements of each instrument. As the piece develops, the instruments begin to move more, and create ripples of sound that interact with and complement one another. A quick, joyous section in the middle is like a burst of sunlight amongst the calmness of the surrounding sections, and fades away just as quickly as it had begun. In the second half of the piece the consistent movement in the lower register of the yangqin reminds one of rain steadily falling onto a surface of water, creating ripples. The piece ends quietly, just as it had begun, and fades into silence.

Dim Sum Ensemble - Xpressions - October 27, 2013 03

 

Photo: Wil Lau

The Annex

The Annex Logo

In July of 2013 I began working on a new Toronto-based project titled ‘The Annex.’ It is being developed by Spiderclown Productions; the same group that I worked with for ‘Nightlights‘ and ‘Winter Harvest.’

Two teasers have been released so far, both including new music by me. One is a teaser for the project, and the other is a corporate video for the fictional Xiang Xiao Corporation, which plays a major role in the project.

The score will be a mixture of traditional scoring techniques, electronic, and Chinese influences. The first teaser offers a glimpse at the style of the score, and includes the main theme (as well as hints of other ones!).

The second teaser features dietetic music from the ‘world’ of the series, and the Xiang Xiao Corporation jingle is played on erhu, yangqin and triangle at the end.

You can purchase the score from the first teaser here. A new trailer is currently being developed and will be released soon, so stay tuned for that!

The Annex - Music from the Teaser Trailer

BlackBox, MMC 2.0, and Songs of Field and Stream

BlackBox

Blackbox - December 21, 2012

In December of 2012 the Indonesian Christian Church of Canada put on a unique production called ‘BlackBox’ at the Toronto Centre for the Arts. The premise of the show was ‘A unique story about the meaning of life told through the arts.‘ Many different artists from around Toronto came and performed at this event. From dance, to music, to spoken word, and film, this production truly was unique in every respect. I wrote a variety of pieces for this production, two pieces which included spoken word artist Mic Tee and erhuist Amely Zhou, as well as part of the score for Ian Darrel M-T’s short film “Welcome Home.”

I also had the opportunity to direct a few members of the York University Gospel Choir in two performances scattered throughout the show.

Blackbox - December 21, 2012

Overall, the show was received extremely well, and I can’t wait to try something like it again.

MMC 2.0

MMC 2.0 - January 24, 2013

In January of 2013, the York University music department staged the second iteration of it’s Music Media Concert. I once again contributed a piece (my first being the original ‘Guardians of the World’ for ‘MMC 1.0’ in March 2012). My orchestration for this concert was a selection of pieces from the film and television series ‘Stargate.’ I selected pieces by both composers that contributed to the series, David Arnold, and the late Joel Goldsmith (son of Jerry Goldsmith). Keeping with my involvement with Chinese instruments, I included parts for erhu and guzheng, played by the fantastic Amely Zhou, as well as a bansuri solo by Nanthini Namasti.

MMC 2.0 - January 24, 2013

Scored for full orchestra, choir, and soloists, this was one experience I’ll never forget, as it was my first time conducting in front of such a large audience (around 300 people).

Songs of Field and Stream

Windago - Songs of Field and Stream - July 3, 2013 01

I was invited by Elaine Choi who is one of the directors of the wind and choral group Windago to compose a new work for their summer 2013 concert. I composed a piece based on the text of Psalm 61 for choir and wind dected titled ‘Selah (Psalm 61).’ It is a calm, and contemplative piece, and doesn’t stray away from silence to let the meaning of the text and music be absorbed by the listener.

I was also invited to orchestrate a version of Shenandoah for this ensemble based off of Bob Chilcott’s arrangement for piano and choir.

Both pieces premiered during ‘Songs of Field and Stream’ on July 3, 2013 at the Timothy Eaton Memorial Church in Toronto.

Windago - Songs of Field and Stream - July 3, 2013 02

Knuckle Down

Last year I received my first opportunity to score a theatre production. The production, presented by Theatre After Secrets and titled ‘Knuckle Down,’ is a combination of both theatre and dance.

Theatre After Secrets - Knuckle Down - September 20/22, 2012

The music composed for ‘Knuckle Down’ is rather reserved (for the most part), and features only a small group of instruments (piano, strings, flute, clarinet, voices, and synth effects). I took the chance to assign not only specific melodies, but also specific instruments to the two characters in the story. I used the flute for the ‘Bird’ character to represent her innocence and naivety, and the clarinet for the ‘Cat’ character to represent her bitterness and darker nature. ‘Knuckle Down’ premiered on September 20th, 2012 at the Fred Thury Studio Theatre at York University in Toronto.

Theatre After Secrets - Knuckle Down - September 20/22, 2012

Synopsis:

Do you ever want to turn it all off?

A story of two runaways confronting the pain they are escaping in the other. In a broken down playground against the backdrop of the city, the eagerness of one is challenged by the hardness of the other. They have until sunrise to let each other in.

Theatre After Secrets - Knuckle Down - September 20/22, 2012

Photos: Martin Kessler and Farah Ghazal

Reborn

Last summer, after the Toronto Chinese Orchestra‘s ‘Boundless Songs of Love’ concert, I was approached by one of the co-founders of the Toronto based fusion band Spire to compose an original piece for them.

Spire - Reborn - September 14, 2012

Comprised of both Western and Chinese instruments (dizi, violin, erhu, pipa, cello, piano, and drums), I looked forward to composing a new piece for this unique group. The completed composition, ‘Through Time,’ premiered at Spire’s first concert titled ‘Reborn,’ which was held at the Toronto Modern Art Academy in Richmond Hill on September 14, 2012.

2012-09-14 Reborn

Program Note:

‘Through Time’ is an original composition written specifically for Spire. Effectively blending both Western and Eastern musical styles, each instrument plays a vital role in creating the overall sound of the piece, and their individual lines join together to create multiple simultaneous melodies and harmonies. ‘Through Time’ evokes a sense of timelessness and eternity, and is a musical journey that aims to tell a story without words.

Spire - Reborn - September 14, 2012

Photos: Richard Ng

Toronto2HongKong ~ Music Among Friends

I’m back from Asia!

Well, I’ve actually been back since the end of July. I would like to thank the Toronto Chinese Orchestra for inviting me on the trip to Taipei and Hong Kong. Having my orchestration ‘Guardians of the World’ performed in Hong Kong was a great honour, and a privilege. The concert was on July 26th, and was titled ‘Toronto2HongKong ~ Music Among Friends.’ I was never expecting my orchestration to go this far, and I’m really glad to have worked with both the Toronto Chinese Orchestra and the Hong Kong Juvenile & Youth Chinese Classical Orchestra. Playing with the Hong Kong Juvenile & Youth Chinese Classical Orchestra was a lot of fun, and ‘Guardians of the World’ was received really well. Having never been to Asia, I couldn’t think of a better reason to go than this trip. It was a completely new experience, and I loved it. On this trip I saw many new places and made many new friends, hopefully some of which I can work with in the future. Chinese orchestral music is so different from western orchestral (which I am most familiar with), and I’m happy that I was able to learn about it and grow to love it. I’m looking forward to working more with the Toronto Chinese Orchestra in the future, and other Chinese orchestras abroad.

Taipei / Hong Kong Update

So tonight is finally the Hong Kong premier of my orchestration ‘Guardians of the World.’ It is going to be performed at a joint concert between the Hong Kong Juvenile & Youth Chinese Classical Orchestra and members of the Toronto Chinese Orchestra. The rehearsals thus far have been great, and I’m really happy with the way that the piece is sounding.

We (members of the Toronto Chinese Orchestra) arrived in Hong Kong three days ago just as a major typhoon hit. We should’ve been able to get from the airport to the hotel within an hour, but it ended up taking about three and a half instead. During the night the typhoon reached Level 10, which is the highest level, and hasn’t occurred since 1999. Thus far our time in Hong Kong has been really rainy.

Before we came to Hong Kong we spent a week in Taipei where we did some music and instrument shopping (I bought an erhu), and saw a performance by The Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra at The National Concert Hall in Taipei. The performance was the most amazing performance I have ever been to. The concert hall is the most stunning concert hall I’ve ever seen, and the orchestra was truly awe inspiring. They played contemporary Chinese orchestral music, which is unlike anything I’ve ever heard before. It’s nothing like classical Chinese music, and has no western equivalent (to my knowledge). It’s something that I want to try my hand at, most likely very soon.