what’s up ?

Over the summer of 2013, I have had a calming period of time for writing.  Approaching to the fifth year at my Ph.D. program at University of Chicago, the academia experience has its kind of reward.  Writing about the subject gives me a different kind of joy.  So far, I just realize that ‘vocal composition’ seems to be a center piece of my interest, although I rarely compose for voice but mostly for instrument – with the ‘voice’ in mind: a phonetically appealing kind of vocal technique in Chinese/Taiwan Nanquan music (南管).  This was a big thing in my master thesis “Intermezzo-Tsan” (間奏曲:參, 2006) and I had a great time rethinking about this work when I wrote a sister work ‘Intermezzo-SHANG’ (間奏曲:商) for orchestra finished two years ago.  At U of Chicago, I don’t study or employ such vocal technique transformed into the instrumental music… wait, maybe I have done so without being aware of it.

Oh haha … yes, I am just rambling.  Trust me, more official to come :)

(teaching, composing, concert/programing, trip, paper, focus of the year)

In recent weeks, I will update my blog.  The concert dates – if you were ever wonder (me too) – are  to be uploaded.  Upon some friendly expectations, I will also make the recording of my music available for download and purchase.  Also, you are very welcome to contact me if you consider to program new work, solo, chamber, or orchestra.   Check out the list of work ! Click here List of Works

Till next post, keep going, my friends.

Keep Walking

Time flies.  I can’t believe that in May we have already premiered two works, one cello and piano duet “Obsidian”, and one chamber “Aldebaran” for eighth blackbird.  Last Friday, I also helped CONTEMPO, the new music collective program, to stage manage for the last concert of the season: chamber works by Francisco Castillo Trigueros  and Andrew Jasinski, and a mini opera “strip-tease” by Dylan Schneider.  Being a composer as well as a stage manager have helped me learn a great deal of programming and the production.  My best moment is to know that composers’ imagination is not only realized by the musicians, but also being put into the context which makes sense to the audience.

NOW – you are sincerely invited to my show!

I would like to let you know that the last premiere of my work in this season will be coming soon this Thursday.  “Fauna Republic” is composed for DePaul wind ensemble, consisted of a wood wind quintet and a percussion quartet (total 9 musicians), and conducted by Cliff Colnot.  If month ago you were in PIANO FORTE, you may actually heard the original model of this work – now being turned over into a fully orchestrated ensemble and full of new characters.  This is the piece I finished pretty much around the same time as I complete “Aldebaran” for eighth blackbird.  The texture and form are however very different though – more likely, i would say, it is quite an elaboration of what I have been doing in Cliff’s orchestration class at U of Chicago years ago where a pitch is enriched, gestured, and texturalized – how? Come to our show !

webpage to the event http://music.depaul.edu/NewsAndEvents/Events/12-13/May_13/23_WindEnsemble.html

DePaul Wind Ensemble

Thursday, May 23, 2013
8:00pm, DePaul Concert Hall, 800 W. Belden Avenue, Chicago, IL 60614

Cliff Colnot, conductor

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Octet in F Major KV App. C 17.05 and B to 370a
Ludwig van Beethoven: Marches and Dances
I.March in F major, WoO 18 (“Yorck’scher Marsch”)
II.March in F major WoO 19
III.March in C major WoO 20 (“Zapfenstreich”)
IV.Ecossaise WoO 22
V.Polonaise WoO 21
Yuan-Chen Li: Fauna Republic [World Premier]

free admission

Winter Notes

Posted: 2013/01/08 in 情報 / What's Happening

Dear Friends,

Happy New Year!

I hope 2012 was a good one for you. I am so happy to write this note because many new forms of art are inspiring me in the current stage of my career.  Aside from three new compositions which will be completed in the Spring, I have begun to play piano more frequently (and sometimes double bass!) for classes as well as for creative projects with new collaborators.  Performing is an immediate way of sharing musical ideas within a community, which for me, who sits at a table writing all day long, provides a very different mode of expressing myself as a composer.

In the first half of the new year my work will be filled with much dynamic interplay.  Other than in the strict sense of composing on the five-line sheet, I will also have the honor to meet artists and programmers from various fields:  Mike Schuh, artist of “all manner of materials” (in our work, he adapts video and installation); Claudia Lavista, chief choreographer of the Delfos Dance Company; Doc Film of UChicago, programming a series of silent films “1928, Or, The Last Great Year of Silent Film”.

The collaborations will be concerned with creative interactions between music and other art forms: choreography, video, silent film, installation, and site-specific projects. Instead of composing, improvisation on the piano is a way for me to keep myself spontaneous and flexible through interactions with other media.  This new collaborative mode of art making allows me to join the work at various stages of the creative process: 1) prior to the decision making, such as for Mike Schuh’s video “The Dead of Winter”, 2) within the process of making art, such as in the site-specific project with Claudia Lavista, and 3) after the finished work of art, such as accompaniment for the silent film.  I am still observing, learning, and sometimes amazed by the freedom for expression this offers.  Yet this certainly doesn’t come about randomly or by mere coincidence, for any moment of projecting, highlighting, and underlining with one or another in a real-time interaction is always based years of training, exercise, and experience in the creation of works of art.

Whenever possible, you are extremely welcome to attend my concerts and my performance/exhibitions.  I sincerely look forward to hearing from you.  Your feedback will be immensely appreciated!

Cheers,

Sincerely,
Yuan
Chicago

TODAY! See you in the hall :)

就在今日!指揮 Nicholas Milton 連日細心的指導,我對這 18 分鐘長的作品 “間奏曲:商” 首演感到非常期待, 請來替 NSO 加油!音樂會尚有鋼琴大師 Garry Graffman 演出拉威爾的左手鋼琴協奏曲, 和俄系蕭斯塔科維契與普羅高非夫的作品, 還用 19 世紀的耳朵聽美美行雲流水的古典音樂嗎? Come to hear our contemporary!
*七點在音樂廳有車炎江講師來導聆, 一起來唷!

購票~http://www.ntch.edu.tw/program/show/2c90813838094ba101380cc94b1e004b?lang=zh

幕後花絮 ~ https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10152267806685084.930205.671990083&type=1&l=c419b54550

November 24 2012. 澳藉指揮 Nicholas Milton 翩翩來台執棒, 與鋼琴家 Garry Graffman 演出拉威爾鋼琴,蕭士塔科維契第六,普羅高菲夫古典交響曲,以及首演中正文化中心的委託創作 “間奏曲:商”.

Australian conductor Nicholas Milton came to Taiwan for the concert on November 24th 2012 with National Symphonic Orchestra and the pianist Garrt Graffman playing Ravel Piano Concerto Piano for the left hand, D major, and Prokofiev Classical Symphony, op.25, and the world premiere of my work “Intermezzo: SHANG”, commissioned by National Cultural Center.

I have been busy for a couple of concert events.  After returning from the Israel premiere of the concerto “Hovering in the Air” 2 weeks ago,  I am about to have the U.S. premiere of “Ice Crackle Glaze” for mixed ensemble on November 10.  In a week, I am flying back to Taiwan to join the rehearsals of the orchestra work “Intermezzo: SHANG” and a twelve-year old work “Zang” (meaning  funeral) for mixed ensemble.
Today there was something exceptionally special to me.  I received an e-mail from Kung-Ling Liang, the director of the ensemble Counterpoint.  Her string players have just performed my another 12-year old work on October 20th.  The letter was full of excitement and joy. I began to wonder who was the composer twelve years ago.

I began to listen to my recording from the playlist.  There were some wonderful moments that I knew I began to recognize myself as someone able to make the ensemble sounding.  During the years at the high school, I was the only one major in composition.  One kind of assignment I received from the office is to write something for those who were less-star students in the class for the annual concert.  It usually turned out to be a chamber ensemble of strange numbers of instrumentation for me to use.  I arranged “The Beauty and the Beast”, “Aladdin”, or occasionally my compositions.  This was later expanded to a chamber orchestra when enrolled in the senior high school.  Our class adviser was also a choral conductor, playing many songs from the American musicals.  Sitting at his class was probably a benefit to both us, he got me to write the orchestral accompaniment for his female choir, I was lucky to experiment with the musicians around me.  The end of my years at the school, I wrote a 16-minute long full score of “Les Miserable” .
Without formal training in orchestration , I orchestrated by ears, transcribing the orchestration from the recording or from my own imagination.  Being as a bassist standing at the corner of the orchestra also helped,  I loved to be easy and watched everybody play.   After experimenting with the ensemble and orchestra with the school kids, my orchestration during the high school finally came out with ordinary doubling.  Although nothing fancy, it was the only way I learn what make the ensemble sound “right” (or say, balanced).  I also love the moment especially when the harmony is able to structure the orchestra, or, vise versa.

The “Les Miserable” was really a hit of my high school year.   I finished the score in two to three weeks when waiting for the result of my college entrance exam (which I eventually entered Taipei National University of the Arts).  The concert was full of enthusiastic young musicians and loving parents.  “Les Miserable” was sung and played with the great passion – it meant a lot to play together with many of the graduate at that age.   After two or three years later, the recording of “Les Miserable” and many other arrangements for my advisor were put together in an album.  This has been one of the many precious recordings I have ever had.  When the musicians sing and play by heart, that was the best orchestra in the world to me.

《飛天》給古箏與弦樂團之協奏曲 (2011) – 寫在以色列首演之行前

《飛天》的創作背景說來複雜,最早可追究到作者的第一首為古箏寫的獨奏曲《貓嬉》(2003)。當時受到古箏演奏家賴宜絜的邀請,寫了俏皮而具劇場性的古箏獨奏,一方面是呼應當時台灣樂壇風氣盛行樂器音響開發與陌生化,二來是作者當時對於「韻」這重要的審美和創作技術還尚無有足夠的經驗來處理,古箏名家黃好吟評 “把椅子挪開” … 將箏樂的歷史包袱放一旁。《貓嬉》發表沒多久就受到古箏演奏家葉娟礽和十方樂集音樂總監徐伯年的注意,分別出版了樂譜和有聲 CD。葉娟礽後來在她的六首箏樂現代音樂 (包括《貓嬉》) 的研究《論台灣現代箏樂作品演奏技法與記譜之傳統與變遷》(2004) 指出一些現象:

現代箏樂作品,大多能將改變音高類表韻技法的音高、音長完全的紀錄下來,給予演奏者更多音樂上的提示。唯一還值得關注的是,作品中按、放音的「速度」與「節奏」,目前未有多變化的編寫,尚未能發揮古箏富有趣味的表韻特色。相較於表聲技法大量的創新,表韻技法仍是現代箏樂創作亟需加以發揮與表現的部分。

「韻」是稍縱即逝的一段音樂現象,是琴弦震動後的殘響,在古箏上,由於可以繼續對琴弦施壓力,而有「吟、猱、按、放」等表現。2011 年,受到樂興之時音樂總監江靖波指揮的委託,讓我能再度替古箏寫新作,並藉此加強「韻」的特色。樂譜的謄稿和管弦樂法在創作期間受到我的導師 Cliff Colnot (芝加哥交響樂團新音樂系列 MusicNOW 的首席指揮) 的指導,為了讓作品的記譜能夠完全被西方訓練的指揮和音樂家所接受,並且解決獨奏者與我分住兩地而不方便口語上討論音韻和演奏的問題,所有的吟猱按放和各式各樣的琶音都得在以音高與節奏之精確爲圭臬的西方記譜法給呈現出來。「吟」成為了 poco vibrato, 「顫」爲 molto vibrato,  「按」、「放」等上下鄰音的裝飾則爲 bend 並明確標上音高。如此一來,西方訓練的指揮家依然可借用豎琴來想像古箏的音色,不必事先知道古箏的樂器法就可揣摩出音樂中的「韻」。在總譜與獨奏者使用的分譜上,除了西文的標示以外,也均附上中文的「吟、猱、按、放」等表韻的註釋; 除了記譜常用的 ” > ” 來表示重音以外,也用「托、頓」等較有中樂演奏特色的力度和咬字的註釋,同時也標上一般表聲的「花指、搖指、琶音、掃、拂、亂音」等等演奏技術。*

但精確的記譜是不是就此讓「韻」給寫死了呢?我認為,在中樂器獨奏與西樂器協奏這樣的製作,是有必要提供雙方一定程度的的指示。中樂演奏者可以依中文的演奏法來使得「韻音」的彈性和品味更趨近於演奏者的喜好,使得音高的微調和音高滑動的緩急更個人化,並同時能在記譜所提供的節奏的框架下,與樂團有緊湊的互動。而西方訓練的指揮也不會因為是非西方的傳統樂器而有認知的差異,或者得受限有聲資料的限制而能自由想像與讀譜的準備工作,在排練與演出時能精確地掌握「韻音」的動態,配合獨奏者而達到更諧和的互動。

《飛天》在2011年由葉娟礽協同樂興之時管弦樂團 (樂興青年團) 與指揮江靖波在台灣台北舉行世界首演後,也由旅美箏樂家王于真介紹給當時駐校的捷克藉指揮 Bohuslav Rattay 領 Ball State University 在美國印第安納州舉行美國首演。兩位獨奏者的詮釋和音色的特色不同,韻音的頻率與動態,和音色的喜好各有千秋,而不同的指揮,以及樂團中的弦樂獨奏群的樂者的經驗不同,使得作品的原創性和音響不僅都完好保留,兩場演出展現出演奏家們個別的特色,

這次特別感謝台灣亞洲作曲家聯盟 (台灣作曲家協會) 的推薦,《飛天》能在第三十屆亞洲作曲家聯盟的大會演出。今年由以色列作曲家聯盟主持,交由 Beer Sheva Sinfonietta 來準備弦樂團的部份,由該樂團的總監 Doron Salomon 來指揮,再度邀請葉娟礽演出古箏獨奏,訂於10月18日在 Beer Sheva Center of the Arts 晚間演出。作者也會前去大會,觀摩其他亞州作曲家的作品,以及參加排練。前去以色列相信是一生難得的經驗,此行特別感謝台灣作曲家協會的籌劃,以及國家文藝基金會的補助。在此亦順道感謝台北市文化局給與獨奏者葉娟礽豐厚的補助,讓這場中與西樂器之樂音,能夠在中東之境飛揚。

第三十屆亞洲作曲家聯盟的大會 “Asian Music Festival in Israel, 30th Asian Composers League Conference and Festival Israel” 詳細的行程請見以色列作曲家聯盟的網頁:http://www.israelcomposers.org

李元貞
寫於行前, 十月10日, 芝加哥

*獨奏譜歡迎下載參考,按此連結:李元貞《飛天》協奏曲古箏分譜

Keywords: vibrato, pitch bend, notation, decay, Hovering in the Air, guzheng, instrumentation, performance practice, Taiwan, Israel.

Autumn Note

Posted: 2012/09/22 in 情報 / What's Happening

         The 2011-2012 academic year was a productive one for me as a composer.  Aside from receiving a generous invitation from the international online collector/ distributor group Alexander Street Press, I have been really fortunate to work with a fantastic cast of collaborators in the professional realm, such as conductor Cliff Colnot, and music groups such as Imani Winds (New York), Enclave Contemporary (Thailand), and Ensemble Counterpoint (Taiwan).  Their musicianship and outlook have nourished my scope and experience in many aspects of music-making.  Upcoming collaborations include a wider range of musicians in different countries: the Israeli premiere of my concerto “Hovering in the Air” by the Beer Sheva Sinfonietta, the world premiere of my orchestral work “Intermezzo: SHANG” by the National Symphony Orchestra (Taiwan) with the guest conductor Nicholas Milton (Australia and Europe), and the U.S. premiere of my mixed ensemble “Ice Crackle Glaze” by the University of Chicago-based New Music Ensemble, all taking place in Autumn, 2012.  My continued interaction with international collaborators, access to new audiences and reflection on the general aesthetic response to my compositions have prompted me to re-think aesthetic education, and the academic constructs in the current era of globalization.  Through more research into composing and my creative work, I hope to delve more deeply into these matters !  If you are around (Chicago, Tel’ Aviv, Taipei or elsewhere), be my guest! Check out the event calender for the concert location and venue.

2012 Thailand International Composition Festival (July 9-14, 2012). From left to Right: with composer Thomas Hyuk Cha, Dylan Schneider, Me (Yuan-Chen Li), conductor Gregg Gausline, and composers Alexander Sigman and Nicholas Omiccioli. At Mahidol University, photo thanks to Jonghee Kang.

 
2012 Imani Winds Chamber Music Festival (July 29 – August 7). Awesome group. The first fellows of the Emerging Composers Program. Not pictured, @sam parilla. — with Molly Joyce, Phil Taylor, Joelle Zigman, Alex Weston, Matt Siffert, Yuan-Chen Li and Sam Parrilla at The Juilliard School.