EarShot Fort Wayne Philharmonic Readings: Composer Spotlight – Sohwa Lee

Korean-born composer and theorist Sohwa Lee (b. 1987) received Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in composition at Sungshin Women’s University in Seoul. She currently studies music composition and theory at Mannes School of Music in New York City.

Sohwa was selected for the EarShot Fort Wayne Philharmonic Readings for her piece Palindrome, which will be workshopped and conducted by Music Director Andrew Constantine in a final read-through on Wednesday, February 7, 2018. Details here.

Sohwa spoke with us about the piece and what she looks forward to at the readings.

Composer Sohwa Lee

American Composers Orchestra: Your biography says that you strongly embrace a sense of humor in your approach to music. Can you talk about the ways that this manifests itself? What specific musical elements might the audience recognize as humorous? Is humor a feature of your selected piece Palindrome?

Sohwa Lee: Shortly after moving to New York, I had a big realization about myself. I used to work alone and I think I made myself pretty isolated. It was bringing a sense of inflexibility to my music, almost like a textbook. Now, I have come to realize the importance of interacting and being inspired by other people and with that, how humor is always a good way to break the ice. Music is one of the languages that I can speak, so as a composer, I have found that humor is an important tool in that language as well. I want people to feel happy and to have fun when they listen to my music. In the middle of Palindrome, there is a moment to me evokes the image of toy soldiers, almost like video game music. Overall, it is a serious piece of music – a palindrome is a complex form to write a piece based on – but I wanted to include some fun and relaxed moments.

ACO: You have created a new arrangement of Palindrome for the Fort Wayne Philharmonic Orchestra EarShot Readings from the original version premiered by the Mannes School of Music Orchestra. Can you talk about some of the orchestration decisions you had to make? Is there anything that you are particularly excited (or nervous) to hear when FW Phil performs this version for the first time?

SL: The new arrangement was created just for a practical reason: FW Phil has no piano (which is common) so I had to change that part of the piece. Other than that it’s not very different than the version Mannes Orchestra premiered. I’m sure that FW Phil will perform it wonderfully.

ACO: Can you talk about the Gamelan music and Asian themes you use in Palindrome?

SL: I used these elements to make a contrast with the first section. I get a lot of inspiration from music from the early 1900s, when a lot of composers were being influenced by music from Asia.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What aspects of Palindrome do you hope to improve or fine tune?

I look forward to seeing the other composers in the workshops. Meeting other composers always give me inspiration and motivation because composers always work hard.

I know my strengths and weaknesses in music. Palindrome is the first symphony piece that I’ve written so far. My process for composing Palindrome was meticulous and thorough, but there are always areas you know could be better. I wish I had more clear score for performers. I think that’s the most important job as a composer in my side.

The EarShot Fort Wayne Philharmonic Readings culminate in a final read-through which is free and open to the public — Wednesday, February 7, 2018 at 7:30pm. Details here.

Follow Sohwa on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Soundcloud.

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