A practical on viable ways of using indeterminacy in repose III (2018)

This essay was written earlier this year for a module (Context, Materials and Repertoire) of my Masters Composition Course at the Royal College of Music. I am posting it here since it is a product of self-reflection in my compositional practice.

A significant part of the research discussed in this essay has been born of practical necessity from my[1] recent involvement in an ongoing College project, in which composition students are invited to write new pieces for our peers in Consort 21, a Historical Performance (H.P.) chamber ensemble. I had already written a piece (repose I) in dialogue with my coursemate’s (repose II), when there came a request for more pieces for an unfixed number of performers. Continue reading “A practical on viable ways of using indeterminacy in repose III (2018)”

On Approaches to text


Finally, some breathing space after an orchestral workshop submission deadline yesterday, which also means it’s time to get my desk organised. As I was rearranging my printed scores and manuscripts, my handwritten notes for an RCM composition faculty class presentation in January popped out. After reviewing it, I thought it’d be relevant to share the ‘script’ here, since it reflects my continuous journey of compositional self-discovery.

A bit of context: Over the duration of two faculty classes, the first-year Masters Composition students were each given twenty minutes of airtime to discuss their music, recent projects, interests, influences, etc. For my presentation, I talked about my exploration of various approaches to using text in my recent pieces—a ‘come-listen-to-what-I’ve-discovered-so-far’ kind of talk.  Continue reading “On Approaches to text”

What next?

For the past seven years I’ve been composing, searching for my ‘own voice’ (or compositional language, whatever it is called) has been an ongoing aspiration. I have, however, never sincerely considered how to achieve a ‘voice’ as such. I thought that as long as I kept myself open to exploring new techniques and a variety of musics, I would eventually muster sufficient ‘essence’ (or experience) to forge a unique identify in my own pieces. At this point of writing, I still agree there is truth in a thought as such, but with the awareness that the extent of my ‘openness’ (the size and shape of my ‘fishing net’) is influenced by my aesthetic predilections.

There is nothing objectively wrong with predilections. (Is there ever any, in the realm of musical subjectivity?) They are very much reflections of one’s personal background (familial upbringing, living conditions, etc.), musical training, listening habits, … One’s self, really. What is crucial, I realised, is that one (especially a composer) not only consciously acknowledges predilections, but seeks to broaden their scopes beyond one’s comfort. In other words, it is possible for one to constantly grow to discover new likings, particularly those significantly different from previous likings. It might seem contrived to force oneself to like things that one evidently doesn’t. Yes, it feels all the more ironic when we view our musicking as a way and source of enjoyment and fulfilment (again, whatever those mean). Yet if one sees things through the perspective of time, and considers one’s non-likings as indicators in the mere present, then one has to confront the possibility of changes to one’s predilections in the future. This is a helpful mental corrective at times when I feel ‘enslaved’ to my predilections in an a priori manner: “I don’t know if I’d come to like this thing I don’t like. I might, eventually. So why not confront it and try liking it now?”

Continue reading “What next?”

On 黑光 Dark Light and beyond

Last year, I took part in the Singapore International Competition for Chinese Orchestral Composition (SICCOC) with an entry entitled 黑光 Dark Light. It was my first attempt at orchestration. To be honest, I felt rather daunted initially with the mammoth task of scoring for so many instruments. Nonetheless I kept to my usual working style — think of a strong idea on which the work could be based, develop a neat structure, then begin the actual writing phase.

Continue reading “On 黑光 Dark Light and beyond”