I most often still catch myself calling it electronic music, even as that term has been appropriated by popular music. But I find the term electroacoustic music works best. It distinguishes what we do from “other” music, while attempting to encompass many modes of production and performance. The term has also come into wide and less controversial usage over the past twenty years (though not without some continued confusion).
I get a rush when I perform, especially premiering a new piece in front of an audience, or when the musicians that I’m playing with sound exceptionally good—when we are all gelling, the stars align and we’re breathing together, and that exact moment is the only moment and it is perfect. It’s a different feeling than when I’m in the audience, listening to others play the music I write down on paper. My heart races. Time slows down and I hold my breath. I am merely a witness to the music.
Creation is messy. Artistic inspiration without the mess (and an incredible amount of work and planning) will never see the light of day. Our finished work is only as good as it is because of the untidy part. Art needs us to bravely embrace our inner slob, even though most of us prefer a little primping before going outside.
In my opinion, the most exciting new music being composed and performed in East Asia is for traditional Asian instruments. I’m particularly intrigued by the new music people are writing for Chinese instruments. The best works engage with these instruments’ cultural associations as well as contemporary thinking.
From ancient stone idiophones to singing kites, Cambodian traditional music offers tons of fascinating possibilities for contemporary composers. But the music is no longer developing and now more closely resembles a museum rather than a living art. Chinary Ung hopes to change that through several initiatives he has organized there.
Why vinyl? Commitment. In this mid-second decade of the 21st century, music is being taken for granted on a collective scale. An entire generation of music listeners will never pay for music, nor do they believe that they should. The long form music medium has taken a back seat to song culture, yet the average person only listens to a song for approximately 24 seconds before deciding if it’s worth their time to continue to listen.
As a composer, I consider myself lucky to have had the opportunity to live in and personally get to know many different musical cultures and communities. Eight years ago I met two people who have given me a personal connection to the broader new music community in Asia. I have now been living in Taiwan since last August, teaching composition and music technology at National Chiao Tung University.