Buffalo Philharmonic EarShot New Music Readings: Composer Q&A – Yuan-Chen Li

Yuan-Chen Li is one of the composers selected to participate in ACO’s Buffalo Philharmonic EarShot New Music Readings on February 10 and 11. For her piece, On Aldebaran, Yuan imagines a journey under the celestial sky. Read the full program note for On Aldebaran here.

SoundAdvice is posting a running Q&A with Yuan to share her EarShot experience.
composer Yuan-Chen Li

American Composers Orchestra: What preparations are you making ahead of the readings with the Buffalo Philharmonic?
Yuan-Chen Li: I have thought about the EarShot program as a reality check.  One of the most valuable experiences for a composer is to to hear the music interpreted by professional musicians for the first time. When I compose, I never like to use notation software to create midi playback sound as it distracts me from the physics and the acoustics of the sound, the nuance and the expression created by the musicians. To me, it is important to acknowledge the gap between the score and the interpretation, and to learn how to foster positive interpretation effectively resulting in a very expressive performance. The workshop is therefore a great opportunity to learn and to investigate such a gap. Therefore, at the readings I will at first try to hold a completely objective view of my score. My music tends to have a few of layers to form foreground, backgrounds, or something else in between played simultaneously.  And the harmony is often orchestrated and spaced in a special way. Such orchestration requires the orchestra to balance among many instruments with different dynamic markings.

So my preparation was to study my score again, highlighting different layers with different colors, and outlining the dynamics. I also read my score along with a metronome many times in order to be mindful that the momentum and the character of my piece may be changed by the tempo, which in turn needs to be suitable for the physics of the sound and the interpretation. I can improve my writing from here.

ACO: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected for the Buffalo Philharmonic EarShot New Music Readings?
YL: My reaction was feeling so thrilled! It means a lot to me for many reasons. Many thanks to the most prestigious program ACO and to the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.  This is my third time submitting music to EarShot, and my selected piece On Aldebaran is my fifth orchestral work.  It is my hope that the spirit of my composition will no only engage with the musicians, but also be accessible to the audience. I don’t mean that it is technically easy to play or stylistically easy to listen to, but something about the kind of collective voice in On Aldebaran should be felt communally.  I was really pleased that my work, for whatever reason, was recognized by ACO and thought to be worthy of performance. I want to thank ACO for selecting my work, and for enabling such a collective voice be brought to the reality. I especially thank them for matching my composition with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra.  I have heard a lot wonderful things about this orchestra, and look forward to hearing them soon.

Listen to samples of Yuan’s work here.

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