Sävellyspaja 2016, Porvoo, Finland. photography : Heikki Tuuli
Spring to Summer 2016 has been an exciting period for me! In addition to performances of my music in the United States and Europe (San Francisco, Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Finland, and Germany), within half a season I have received three highly positive reviews of my music, defended and received my Ph.D. degree from the Brandeis University, and attended two music conferences/festivals and one residency within which I presented my music in all formats.
Reviews for Pale Fire (2015) earlier this year –
Still fresh from the excitement of working with Vicki Ray, the virtuoso pianist and one of the most prominent new music advocates in the United States, on the Piano Spheres commission (with the generous support of Judge Philip Saeta and Judy Saeta), I was happy to receive a highly positive review from the Los Angeles Times (Mark Swed) on my piece Pale Fire (2015) for solo piano and electronics. Being my Los Angeles debut, Pale Fire (2015) and its premiere was described as follows by Mr. Swed :
“The reality of ‘Pale Fire’ was something more akin to John Cage’s ‘Water Music,’ with a pianist up to all kinds of shenanigans on and around the piano. Electronics were employed. It was not easy to tell whether the equipment manipulated the piano, or the pianist manipulated the electronics. Everything was fragmented. Sounds came before or long after Ray’s hands hit the keys or did whatever it was she did to the strings inside the piano or made vocal sounds. The end result, however, was fascinating.”
(Mark Swed, LA Times)
To read the LA Times review in its entirety, please click here.
In addition, the same performance of the piece was also reviewed by author Douglas Messerli, who wrote about the piece as follows :
“Mu-Xuan Lin’s breathtaking electronic and piano duo, Pale Fire ended the evening, evoking the Nabokov fiction through the use of spoken Russian phrases and an almost hallucinatory array of electronic and piano soundings.”
(Douglas Messerli, Ustheater, Opera, and Performance)
To read Messerli’s review in its entirety, please click here.
To listen to the live recording of Pale Fire (2015), please visit the “Music” page on this site here, or visit my SoundCloud page here.
Receiving Ph.D. in Music Composition and Theory, and public reading performance of Bonjour Minuit – a theatre of poetry : Proem and Episodes I:I-I:IV (2014-15) –
In May I returned to Boston and successfully defended my dissertation monograph, titled “On the Epistemological and Methodological Approaches in the Analysis of Contemporary Music and a Synthesized Analysis of Fausto Romitelli’s La Sabbia del Tempo (1991)”, and composition Bonjour Minuit – a theatre of poetry : Proem and Episodes I:I-I:IV (2015). I therefore received the degree Doctor of Philosophy in Music Composition and Theory from the Brandeis University. The dissertation monograph will be available on ProQuest network through general online search next month. The audio recording of the public reading session of Bonjour Minuit – a theatre of poetry : Proem and Episodes I:I-I:IV (2015) can be found at my SoundCloud page here.
Sävellyspaja of Summer Sounds Festival, premiere of Danse, danse… sinon nous sommes perdu! (à la brève) (2016) and the Amfion review –
Rehearsal with the Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, Helsinki.
In June and July I attended the Sävellyspaja of Summer Sounds Festival in Porvoo, Finland. The composition workshop is embedded within the framework of the festival, and each of the young composition fellows was assigned to compose a miniature based on the idea of “Surutanssi” (sorrowful dance) which was to be performed by the renown Avanti! Chamber Orchestra under the baton of Andres Kaljuste. The five-day workshop felt wonderfully productive without the drudgery of exhaustion, and Helsinki and the Finnish countryside along with their cuisine and seafood felt like the natural extension of the esthetic experience, part and parcel of the workshop and the festival. Working with Finnish composers Jukka Tiensuu and Tomi Räisänen was inspiring! On July 1st our miniatures for ensemble were premiered at the Kulttuuritalo Grand in Porvoo, Finland. My miniature Danse, danse… sinon nous sommes perdu! (à la brève) (2016) received glowing review from the magazine Amfion – pro musica classica :
“Illan parasta antia olivat taiwanilais-yhdysvaltalaisen Mu-Xuan Linin, brittiläisen Eugene Birmanin ja japanilaisen Kaito Nakahorin teokset. …. Linille elämä on tanssia eri musiikkien tahtiin – musiikkien joita emme voi aina itse valita. Danse, danse… sinon nous sommes perdus! (Tanssi, tanssi… muuten olemme kadotetut!) punoo kiinnostavia hybridisointivärejä pienestä kamariyhtyeestä. Harvasta tekstuurista kohti tiheämpää poljentoa etenevä teos nytkähtelee liikkeelle kuin oikosulun saanut robotti innoittuen loppua kohti ontuvaan ja epämukavaan tanssinumeroon.”
(A better translation from Finnish to English will be provided later)
“The best of the evening were the pieces by Mu-Xuan Lin (USA/Taiwan), Eugene Birman (USA/UK), and Kaito Nakahori (Japan). …. Lin portrays life as one that dances to different rhythms – music that we can not always choose. Danse, danse … sinon nous sommes perdus! (Dance, dance … otherwise we are lost!) weaves interesting hybrid timbres from a small chamber of the orchestra. The music progresses from a sparse texture towards a higher rhythmic frequency and finally to jerky movements as a short circuit triggers a robot to limp to an awkward dance number.”
(Maija Hynninen, Amfion – pro musica classica)
To read the Amfion (Maija Hynninen, critic) review in its entirety, please click here.
Atlantic Center for the Arts residency, working with Georg Friedrich Haas –
Selected as one of the eight Associate Artists (supported by scholarship), I was honored to be able to attend the Master-in-Residence Program Residency at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in New Smyrna Beach, Florida, this summer, working with Master Artist Georg Friedrich Haas.
Due to my participation in the Sävellyspaja of Summer Sounds in Finland, I was only able to arrive at the ACA one week later than others,
yet within the two-week residency period, I enjoyed an incredible experience interacting with my fellow artists in all three disciplines (music composition, writing, and visual art), conversing with and learning from Mr. Haas who has dedicated a tremendous amount of time and energy to us, and sharing my work with others. Besides, we shared a habitat with the armadillos and tortoises, did yoga every morning (led by the unabashedly candid Porochista Khakpour), and supped on delicious pan-Asian-influenced modern cuisine prepared daily by an amazing l’artiste cuisiniere named Lexa!
Me in front of my residence studio, in the midst of New Smyrna jungle (ACA).
(Photography : Dominique Schafer)
Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik, and the Flute-Composition Workshop with Eva Furrer and Rebecca Saunders –
After Florida I spent two weeks in Switzerland, a short repose from the hectic voyage and projects. With the generous support of the Center for German and European Studies at the Brandeis University, in late July I then traveled to Darmstadt, Germany, a postwar-rebuilt city near Frankfurt that is the hometown for the famous Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik since the 1950s. This edition’s Ferienkurse marked the 70th anniversary of its inception and was organized with great ceremony and attention, comprising a huge program and a roster of super stars within the new music world. The overarching topic of this year’s anniversary edition is “Music in the Expanded Field,” which is manifested by an aesthetically and ontologically diverse body of repertoire and performances along with philosophical/theoretical discussions and multi-disciplinary engagements. The rigorous composition practice represented by Lachenmann, Furrer, Ferneyhough, and Czernowin was paired with works by les enfants terribles of the new musical dialectician like Mahnkopf or new conceptualist Kreidler; music as organic and sensuous expressions such as works by Aperghis and Filidei was next to equally sensuous yet non-directional Klaus Lang or the quiet contemplation of Andre; the grand theatrics of Steen-Andersen and Takasugi stood in curious angle facing the boldly political yet naïvely straight-forward Jennifer Walshe. Workshops and performances range from music journalism to electronics ateliers, as well as composition engaging sites, body, and/or media and the composition-instrument platforms focusing on specific formations and concepts. First week of the Ferienkurse also consisted of a series of panel discussions and lectures, which added to the creativity-centered festival an aspect of discourse that is energetic and constructive.
My reflection on the Ferienkurse will be elaborated and presented in another report later. For now I would describe briefly my involvement in the Ferienkurse. Besides many of the concerts, workshops, and lectures I was able to attend during the festival, I was also quite fortunate to have been chosen to participate actively in the Flute-Composition Workshop supervised by Rebecca Saunders and Eva Furrer. It was an intensive and intense three-day program which was concluded by a public presentation-concert. Two composers were paired with one flutist, and we workshopped together (as a team) for three afternoons. Each composer developed a musical idea based on the sonic materials tried out and experimented within the workshops, and composed a sketch/miniature for the flutist to read and perform at the public presentation-concert at the end of the third day. During the workshop days the two instructors walked through each room to supervise on flute playing techniques and notations. The experience was one of intense stress and great exhilaration, as the limitation of time and the peculiar condition — working within the same room with another fellow composer whom you did not know well — prompted many interesting interactions, difficulties, and inspirations. The final presentation-concert was very well attended, and it was exceedingly fun to observe others’ laboratory results and the audience’s reactions.
Public presentation-concert on August 5th, Darmstadt Ferienkurse. I explained to the audience the particular sound gesture I employed in my miniature – a sweeping air-voice sound traversing from one end of the alto flute to the other end (extended by a paper megaphone), followed by flutist Tamara Kohler’s reading of the project.
During the Ferienkurse, I also had the fortune of working with Beat Furrer, Francesco Filidei, and Claus-Steffen Mahnkopf in group and private lessons. I harvested different knowledge and understandings respectively from these composers who hold very different opinions about composition. Towards the end of my stay, I also gave an Open Space presentation — The Immersive and the Dialectic : Mu-Xuan Lin Presents Recent Works, focusing on works written between year 2013 and 2015, and on my role as a Taiwanese composer in a cultural paradox and what I consider my ultimate aim of music composition.