Q&A with Composer SiHyun Uhm

Composer SiHyun Uhm in a white dress, looking at the camera
Photo credit: Kyong Hee Choi

Composer SiHyun Uhm’s piece Ladybug in the Room was selected for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings, where it will be rehearsed and performed under the direction of conductor Bradley Thachuk, with mentorship from composers Robert Beaser, Chen Yi, and Jerod Impichchaachaaha’ Tate. Reading sessions are free and open to the public on January 28, 2020 at 10am and January 29, 2020 at 7pm at Kleinhans Music Hall. Click here for more information.

SiHyun Uhm is a composer, pianist, and multimedia producer currently based in Rochester, NY. She has been a Composer Fellow with Nashville Symphony Composer Lab, Universal Artists Festival, Daegu MBC Orchestra, Intimacy of Creativity, and the Red Note Workshop. Notable performances have taken place at Graz Hall (Vienna), YEORO, Hong Kong City Hall, New England Conservatory, Seoul Art Center, and more. She is currently attending the Eastman School of Music in NY, studying with Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon, David Liptak, Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez, and Vincent Lenti. She graduated from Walnut Hill School for the Arts in MA, where she studied composition with Whitman Brown and piano with Mana Tokuno from New England Conservatory. SiHyun was born in Seoul, Korea, where she went to Yewon School.

We spoke with SiHyun about her piece and the EarShot program.

American Composers Orchestra: What was your reaction to finding out your piece had been selected?

SiHyun Uhm: I was initially surprised that my piece had been picked for the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings. The program is something I have always wanted to be part of and I was so excited and humbled to find out that my piece had been chosen. I am currently living in Rochester, NY, and a few months ago, the conductor of the Buffalo Philharmonic came to Rochester to conduct Symphonie Fantastique with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra. I still can’t believe the same conductor that conducted the RPO will be the one conducting my piece and giving me advice and guidance. I think my ladybug piece will be able to fly with the Buffalo Philharmonic playing it.

ACO: Can you talk about your compositional process for your selected work, Ladybug in the Room? Does anything stand out, like mentorship from another composer or inspiration from music you were listening to at the time, as a strong influence on the piece?

SU: I actually wrote this piece about a story that happened to me personally. A ladybug got into my room in August and was crazily flying around my room. I kept hearing buzzing noises but didn’t know where it was coming from, and I later found out it was from a ladybug. It kept flying around and crawling on my floor, so I tried to catch it. I ended up catching it and kept it in a bottle, and the ladybug lived with me for several months as my pet. I wanted to write a piece for the ladybug and to capture the first moment the ladybug got into my room.

The piece is a story between the ladybug and myself. There is also a small motif that is segmented between instruments in which I wanted to portray the dots on the ladybug, all disconnected. This occurs throughout the piece.

Image for post
Photo credit: Kyong Hee Choi

ACO: Your bio states your interest in “interactive” music. Can you talk about the ways, if any, in which your selected piece does this?

SU: It’s like telling a story to my close friend, only without words. Every time I hear this piece myself, my mind immediately goes back to a page of my memory scrapbook. However, reactions to music is different for everyone. We often have different responses to a story we hear from our friends, which is an exciting aspect of interactive music. These different responses allow everyone to interpret stories in their own unique musical space.

ACO: What are you doing to prepare for the readings? Are there any changes you have made to your piece before this performance?

SU: I made quite a few changes to notations and dynamics. Right after the acceptance for the reading, I received a comment sheet from copyist, Bill Holab, about beaming, stemming, and page turns. It was extremely helpful to have a professional look at my piece. I proofread my piece countless times, printed the parts and scores, and mailed them to the Buffalo Philharmonic. Right now I am preparing some questions for mentor composers and some answers for possible questions I might receive.

ACO: What are you looking forward to about the workshops and readings? What do you hope to learn from the experience?

SU: First and foremost, I am looking forward to having the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra play my piece, and to get input from the BPO conductor and musicians, other mentors, and my colleagues. I hope this opportunity will challenge my way of thinking and expand my musical vocabulary. Also, I am really excited about workshops on copyrights, publishing, and advice for concert programming, as I believe that these workshops will provide knowledge that is essential for 21st-century musicians.

Without opportunities like the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings that are geared towards young and emerging composers, they would not have the opportunity to grow, and the public would not have a chance to hear their music. I think this program is great because it showcases emerging composers from all different backgrounds, and it serves as a medium to transform our society and give others the opportunity to hear new music.

Hear SiHyun Uhm’s Ladybug in the Room at the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra EarShot New Music Readings. Reading sessions are free and open to the public on January 28, 2020 at 10am and January 29, 2020 at 7pm at Kleinhans Music Hall. Click here for more information.

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