Creation is Messy

Record release show for Gretta Harley's Element 115 (Uup) featuring Mettle. (Photo by ML Naden)

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.

New Music for Chinese Instruments

A quartet from Little Giant Chinese Chamber Orchestra, a Taiwanese group performing on traditional Chinese instruments. Photo by Chen-Hui Jen.

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.

I don’t have to choose, do I?

A guitar surrounded by a pile of leadsheets and scores

Professionally, I identify as both composer and songwriter. I don’t have to choose, do I? I can have both, yes? What is the difference between songwriting and composing anyway? When does a songwriter call herself a composer, or the other way around?

Classical and Contemporary Cambodian Music and Dance

A group of traditional Cambodian sculptures.

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.

The Slow Listening Revolution

Gretta Harley sitting on the floor examining the cover of a Bill Withers LP (with a David Bowie's LP Hunky Dory nearby) and listening on headphones attached to a turntable in back of her. (Near the turntable is an LP of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.)

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.

Classical and New Music Culture in Taiwan

A view of Taipei

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.

After One Ear

Person Trying To Hear With Hand Over Ear

Suffering a severe ear infection and terrified that his livelihood as a teacher, composer, and performer might come to an end, Chris began fretting over the seemingly small losses. “I adapted neither brilliantly nor heroically. Retreating, I made no music.”

Winning the Lottery

Man Plays Lottery

Not everyone should be in “the business.” If rejection really hurts, opt out. I did for a few years when I started taking this all too seriously. Now I savor every application.

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