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Tan Yuting
B.Mus, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music

I am currently working on a song cycle with 3 texts selected from 201 poems about the landmarks of Singapore written by Singaporean poet, Dr. Tan Chee Lay. The texts that I have chosen revolve around an iconic location in Singapore - Chinatown. Chinatown has changed drastically over the years as Singapore developed into the modern country it is today. As a result, there is a loss of heritage but also potential for new beginnings. These three poems describe the charm of this historic area and also look forward to the future for Chinatown.


This song cycle is written for a soprano with a chamber ensemble comprising flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano, and percussion. Having previously written a song with a similar instrumentation, I hope to explore linking these three songs, which have the common theme of Chinatown, together in this song cycle. Since this is my first time setting text in Mandarin to music, I am realizing that it is a very different experience from setting an English text to music. Mandarin differs from English in many ways, phonetically and also in terms of word and phrase structure. In addition, the meter and stanza structure of these poems by Dr. Tan were quite irregular, which poses an interesting challenge and gives me the opportunity to be creative with the text-setting. 

Hsu Tzu-Chin
B.Mus, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music

I was commissioned by Ding Yi Music Company to write a musical for Chinese chamber ensemble, voice and dancers. In addition to this exciting project, I will be working together with YST alumnus, Phang Kok Jun, on this piece. This is my first time to compose for Chinese instruments other than guzheng. There are many challenges, such as learning a new musical language for a Chinese ensemble and absorbing the sound colors of these instruments. Although as a contemporary composer, having new ideas or displaying new techniques on instruments are often necessary, but in this case, I will need to understand more of the traditional instruments first.


There are differences between the Chinese ensemble and western ensemble such as limited pitch range, balance, sound quality and others. Therefore, I need to change my perspective of the sound colors that I am used to, in order to write the music that works for these instruments. Furthermore, it is also my first time working with another composer, so that is another new element of composing for me. We have not really started on the work yet, but we have had several discussions. This work is based on a Chinese poem which we divided into a few sections and gave each section a certain atmosphere and tempo. Next, we will be working on it individually and we will discuss on later to have more exchanges on our musical ideas.


My orchestra piece is called Desert Night. The idea came from the situation of our environment where desertification has become more serious now that is adversely affecting our lives. Desertification causes higher threats of malnutrition from reduced food and water supplies, respiratory diseases caused by atmospheric dust from wind erosion and other air pollutants and the spread of infectious diseases as populations migrate. Therefore, I think we should be more conscious about this problem.


Desert Night is the imagination of a day when we might be living in the desert surrounded by lots of sands. The wind blows, the sands moves and the sun shines so strongly that the sunlilght stings our eyes. I try to create the atmosphere and how the desert changes shapes every second since the sands moves to different places when the winds blow. I hope the listeners can feel the passion in the music.

Huang Ding Chao
B.Mus, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music

I was commissioned to write a work for Project Symphony, a special community orchestra with ethnic instruments for their grand concert at the Singapore Conference Hall.


It was a new experience for me because I have never written for any ethnic instruments before.  I have some rudimentary knowledge of traditional Chinese instruments, and that's almost all I know. I don't know anything about Indian classical violin or the Malay kompang that were also part of this orchestra. The tight, one-month timeline meant that I have to be strategic and decisive about my decisions. I guess it helps that I was realistic and practical in laying out my musical thoughts for most of the composition process. I know I won't be able to accomplish any highly complex and intricate style, and I wish to point out that that I am not implying that the work will be anything less profound. I am saying that I am not chasing overly, ambitious ideas that require a greater amount of time to write.


I am thankful that I had friends and mentors who gave valuable feedback and advice that helped me realize things that I overlooked. In the end everything was fine. I delivered my music on time and the orchestra subsequently delivered a wonderful premiere that was beyond my expectations under the baton of Prof. Jason Lai.    

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