It is a great time of the year as well as in my life – I am so happy that we are arriving at a special page of this blog: a milestone of my career and academic life have been met, Yuan is receiving the Ph.D. from U of Chicago this June.  This academic recognition can not come to me without your years of support.  Please accept my sincere gratitude.

—> A quick glance over Yuan’s studies and works in the past years – scroll down this blog to see what we have been doing, and check out Yuan’s C.V. on LinkedIn!

Six years at U of Chicago has proven to be one of the best period of times I could have ever spent on one institution as a Ph.D. student.  In six years, I have been not only able to prepare an amazing catalog of my composition, but also to be able to grasp the technique of critical thinking and the sense of the liberal arts education.  Even while I was focus at my dissertation and paper, and private life at Chicago, the support from Taiwan has been always strong. Connection made in the U.S. also has brought surprise whenever we try.

—> Yuan’s list of work (previewed immediately) LI_List of Works_2015

I wish to use this page to share my thoughts in music or in words which have been so occupied in my mind for years.  As a composer, I care about what I learn from the world and how the music I create sounds to you, and I also care about how we learn from each other.  This is why we are reading this page at this blog because of the dialogs we have made either distantly or collectively.  It has been a load of thoughts constantly about love, wellness, perception, music, art, culture, religion, society, identity, politics, and nationalism that thoughts are finalized in words, and expressed in sound (oh, I also love animals!).  I am very fortunate to be able to accomplish the goal with tremendous support from teachers, friends, and families in the U.S. and Taiwan.  The requirement for my Ph.D. is composed of two parts.  The first part is the creative component that I have developed since 2012.  For this, I wrote a 14-minute chamber concerto “Wandering Viewpoint” and it was subsequently premiered in April 2015 (link to the post to read the review). The second component is an academic paper “The Difficult Voice in Vocal Composition” which addresses a subject that all the generations and musical community are effected and should be concerned – the memory, the music, the aesthetic response about the collective trauma.  I sincerely invite you to be my reader and audience, and let me know how am I doing.  Abstracts and program notes are all imbedded with the files once you are directed to the page by clicking the link listed below:

[1] Wandering Viewpoint, a concerto for solo cello and two ensembles

1. Audio (online streaming):

2. Score (link to issuu online publishing):

[2] The Difficult Voice in Vocal Composition – Composers’ aesthetic responses to secondhand Holocaust experiences (link to page): 

What is the next? I have picked up books like “The Monk and the Philosopher,” reading sincerely about the younger generation’s painful triggers in this post-traumatic culture, and thought about the next project. Stay Connected! I will keep you posted.

—> Link to the contact page with a list of Yuan’s email address and comment form.  We will surely find each other via email, Facebook, LinkedIn, and in person!!

ronkin_sax_rep_cover-detailThank you friends and supporters. I am so happy to learn that “Spell” (aka. Ling), originally composed for Chun-Hao Ku for his alto saxophone in 2009 is included in the saxophone repertoire “Londeix Guide To The Saxophone Repertoire, 1844-2012” edited by Jean-Marie Londeix (2012, Bordeaux, France). Now, should I have a publisher? Feeling really proud with you, our efforts of putting discovery and challenge to notes and performances are recognized. Be the vanguard, and carry on!…/Londeix-Guide-To-The-Saxophone…/


The concerto for solo cello and two ensembles “Wandering Viewpoint” was premiered at U of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts on April 23rd, 2015.  Featuring the cellist Nicholas Photinos, supported by resident ensembles Pacifica String Quartet, the eighth blackbird, and guest musicians Deidre Huckbabay (flute), Susan Warner (clarinet), and Joshua Zajac (cello), the premiere of the evening was successfully led by the conductor Cliff Colnot.  Having been working with some of these artists in the past years, I find this premiere of my latest work, in particular, as one of many meaningful experiences to me that this ensemble of people shows different strengths of the musicianships.  And as the result, it leads to a gratifying performance to the audience.  The critic Tim Sawyier writes:

…, the work was an effective concertante showcase for Photinos. Li’s compositional voice is original and somewhat difficult to describe; texturally the work possesses an Impressionist  surface but its spirit was richly imbued with distinctly 21st-century dissonance, aggression, and volatility. … 

I particularly want to thank Cliff Colnot and Nicholas Photinos for their valuable advices and feedback at different stages of the compositional process, who perfect the realization and enrich the interpretation of this new work. Artistic directors Shulamit Ran and Marta Ptaszynska were also the supporting voice during the production.  I feel very honored that my Wandering Viewpoint is programmed in the Contempo concert series at its 50 anniversary.  It means a lot to be part of it, supported, and allowed the musical idea to share.  Thank you.

The entire review can be found at Chicago Classical Review at 

Dear Friends,
HAPPY CHINESE NEW YEAR! Screen Shot 2015-02-18 at 10.15.51 AM
It’s the year of the sheep/goat – peaceful, calming, and abundant.  The character of the Sheep/Goat, 羊, forms portion of the character 美, meaning “beautiful” (big sheep). I think of the ancient Chinese must be obsessed with the fluffy look of the sheep and adapted the horn as the most characteristic feature of this word. The character of the sheep 羊 is also imbedded within the word 善, meaning “goodness” (sheep and mouth). Together, the sense of the abundance and the goodwill informs the aesthetics of beauty in Chinese culture. 
May the plentiful beauty and the goodness with us throughout the year,
Warmest Regards, 
February 18th, 2015
Chicago, USA

Yuan’s music is recently being released, aired, and played. Stay tuned!

First of all, Kate Dillingham’s beautiful cello playing of “Tian Jin Sha”Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.48.35 PM (Shivering Winds, Serene Sky) blending her voice is so unforgettable.  I remember when I first heard her playing and singing, also her laughing, and charismatic smile when we collaborate.  Most important of all, she is a doer.  The credit of the new album “Crossing” goes to her passion and dedication to the new music.  The New York Public Radio Q2 writes:

One stand-out track on the album is Yuan-Chen Li’s Tiang Jing Sha (Shivering Winds, Serene Sky), in which Dillingham performs a virtuosic and colorful cello line as accompaniment to her own singing. Her airy and melodious voice achieves a ghostly, eerie effect that pairs beautifully with Li’s timbral shifts. 

Full critique and sound streaming can be found here, CD available at Amazon, more about the cellist Kate Dillingham.

Second, many thanks to my friend colleague Andrew McManus. Last year, he
mentioned Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 6.49.27 PMabout the EarShot program by American Composers’ Forum, said, “it is the best orchestra”.  I nodded my head, submitted my work.  The feedback is a heartfelt surprise. My orchestral work “On Aldebaran” is going to be read by Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on February 11th.  See the press released here.  Being one of the four composers, I feel so lucky, looking forward to meeting these composers, BPO associate conductor, Stefan Sanders, mentor composers Robert Beaser of The Juilliard School, Rob Deemer from SUNY Fredonia and Pulitzer Prize winner Melinda Wagner at the event.  Come to hear us at Buffalo!

Page to the concert schedule.

Spell Resounding

Posted: 2015/01/19 in Promotion | 推廣

Thank Timothy McAllister for introducing my “Spell” for solo saxophone to more audience and professionals since last year, we are going to hear “Spell” resounding in The North American Saxophone Alliance Region 5 Conference in North Illinois University. This time, Jessica Maxfield‘s solitary voice in her saxophone can go very wild. Please come to see her play (by the way, she is awesome), and certainly, Tim is also bringing the concerto by John Adam to the stage. Who wouldn’t want to miss it? Come to join with us this weekend. A complete list of performance can be previewed here.

Title of the composition: Spell
Year of Composition: 2009
Instrumentation: Solo Alto Saxophone
Performer: Jessica Maxfield
Time: January 23, Friday, 7:30 pm
Place: Northern Illinois University Boutell Hall

Page to sample of the recording.
Preview the 
Write me a 
note if you wish to purchase the score!


I had a conversation on the title of my new composition “Wandering Viewpoint” in comparison to the word “Wonder” with Linda, a MLA alumni from Graham School that we met after the talk by Professor David Wray at Graham School’s MLA information session.  Her specialty as a translator (spanish & english) and her well-articulate manner made our conversation an enlightened one, starting when we looked into the etymology (see how Linda tracked down the meanings of the words on the sheet in the photo).  It begins to make sense.  I love how “miracle” implied in “wonder,” I also acknowledge how confusing it is to obtain an aimless “viewpoint” (mental position).*  For long, I appreciate the aesthetic “wandering” more than “goal,” or “ideology.” Although, most of the career path or whatever consultants (even Musical form!) would favor one has a “goal,” I ponder, my goal is to wander around? Does it sound alright?

The more I try to investigate my attempt deeper, I argue, it is important to know that the journey itself is more important than the destination.  To lose, or to gain/win, is sometimes so arbitrarily conditioned by whatever circumstances and rules.  Especially in the world of art, objective and subjective perspectives are not impossibly better or worse – a “bad” object might be meaningful for lending itself to exercise critical thinking.  To appreciate an object, is to participate, to give it attention, to explore, and to make dialog with your voice (have fun if you alter your position).  Would it be what “Wandering” might be meant to us during the course of a musical journey? To show my gratitude to the translator, Linda (whom I only know for few hours and promised to meet agin), and wish her the best for discovering beautiful things and miracles after we said goodbye, I wish to think about her a little more, and share a short article on “Wandering” in its German form Wanderlust, and more on the term “Wandering Viewpoint” that I borrow from Wolfgang Iser.

*The term “Wonder” was derived from David Wray’s lecture on Happiness.