I looked forward to composing Sterna Paradisaea, Returning very much. It felt like I was waiting for this piece for a very long time. I was expecting a conclusion of a very long journey and personal experience through the compositional process. At the same time, I had so many things in my mind and heart. How does it feel to remember something you once meant to forget? Can I tell a true story through music to myself? Will I like it and be moved by it? I was also seeking the answers to my questions and perhaps the challenges to my fears. Sterna Paradisaea, Returning is an important piece for me. Yet the expected conclusion didn’t happen and it has become a new memorable and inspirational experience that keeps surprising me till today. I guess that is the transformative power of music and joy of making music.
It was not easy to find the right expression for this piece. The first workshop didn't go so well for me. I was lost in the shadow of culture cliché, my granted expectation of sound, the story I wanted to portray, and perhaps my fears. I sometimes used to stay in “silence”- a break from writing, and allowed myself to try to find a path to get out. My project mentor, composer Richard Baker, supported me with enormous amounts of patience and understanding during this seeking process. I felt a strong trust between us and was very much encouraged by him. Eventually, I decided to take a fresh approach to the work, and I think I got it! I may not be able to answer all my questions through this piece, but I was truly moved by it. I am happy to overcome some of my fears and be honest to myself.
I felt very lucky to be one of the twelve composers selected to take part in the Next Wave project. It was wonderful to meet all the mentor composers during the workshops. I was so inspired from their attitude towards music as real artists. I was deeply impressed by their passion and love for music, their care and support for the young composers and their visions. I have learned not only to compose, but also something far beyond. It was really beautiful to be able to express myself and communicate to others in every sense.
I’d like to express my thanks to the composer workshops. I had the great opportunity to spend time and meet other selected young composers, with whom I shared music, laughs and all things we enjoy. I also want to express my gratitude to: Hannah Bujic and Richard Whitelaw from Sound and Music, my supervisor Simon Emmerson, conductor Garry Walker, soloists Sarah Nicolls and Loré Lixenberg, the fantastic musicians from London Sinfonietta, as well as producer David Lefeber from NMC Recordings and to everyone I have met and talked to during the project. I felt that I had a team that provided the best support and guidance a young composer could ever get. I was not alone. I was really happy that I have made some friends too.
Listen to an extract from Weiwei's Sterna Paradisaea, Returning
Interview with Weiwei
Weiwei's Top 10 Playlist
1. Karin Rehnqvist: Who's That Calling? (happening for a concert hall, two sopranos and instrumental ensemble)
Karin was one of my composition teachers at the Royal College of Music in Stockholm. But I just had two lessons with her as I was in the transition from composing instrumental music to electroacoustic music. I caught Who’s That Calling in London at the Southbank Centre’s Music of Today. I loved it. I loved the pure and honesty of this piece. This piece is such a fantastic mixture of folk element with cutting-edge contemporary ensemble music.
2. Kaija Saariaho: NoaNoa (for solo flute and live electronics)
Kaija Saariaho’s music is magic, elegant and natural. Her sonic world and sonic images are so powerful and I often find myself melt in between my darkest and most dazzling dimensions of my subconscious. I spend lots of time listening to NoaNoa and lots of her other music. NoaNoa was definitely the entrance path for me to Saariaho’s music. I studied the Max/MSP path of NoaNoa for a long time and I was worshiping the live electronics part of this piece.
3. Jonathan Harvey: Speakings (for large Orchestra and electronics)
Speakings by Jonathan Harvey was the very first inspiration of my piece Sterna Paradisaea, Returning. I was very fascinated by this work of how Harvey transforms and sonifys the human speaking sonic materials into a full orchestral sound. The orchestra then “speaks” back to us.
4. Trevor Wishart: Imago (acousmatic music)
Trevor Wishart is one of my favorite acousmatic music composers. He is the pioneer in sound design and I mostly admire his artistic “logic” – his way of combining sonic elements, full of improvised yet poetic beauties, full of surprises.
5. Karin Rehnqvist: Beginning (for piano trio)
Another Karin’s piece I loved. I was so impressed by her effortless transition between wildest brutalities to the most exquisite simplicity. I also enjoy Karin’s music, as it is always something unique and different in each of her piece. Her music can be in very contrasting styles and that is what I am attracted to.
6. Simon Emmerson: Ophelia’s Dream (for voices and live electronics)
I am currently doing a Ph.D. in Music under the supervision of Prof. Simon Emmerson. I really enjoy all his vocal and electronics work. Especially the way he handles text through vocal writing. Of course, the electronics part of his music is always very stylish, subtle and seamless.
7. William Brunson: Creature Comforts (acousmatic music)
I meet Prof. Brunson when I was 17 years old and was studying at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After I moved to Sweden, Prof. Brunson was my teacher and I have studied composition with him for over a decade. His influence to me is definitely beyond music. He supported and encouraged all my choices of changes in my music career and guided me through lots of difficulties. His music is so different from mine and it is so cool the way it is.
8. Colin Matthews: Oboe Quartet (for oboe, violin, viola and cello)
This piece is very interesting as the oboe substituted for the first violin of the standard string quartet. This has added the vibrant colour and unique texture of wind instrument to the string texture. The way of writing is very collaborative and intimacy in this piece and it is very inspiring.
9. Richard Baker: Los Rabanos (for clarinet, violin and percussion)
Richard Baker was my composition mentor at the Next Wave project. I have had the most inspiring lessons with him. He supported my project with enormous amount of patience, understanding, trust and encouragement, as well as detailed guidance and care. I really enjoy Richard’s composition Los Rabanos. In one of the lessons, we were looking into heterophony as a method to develop my piece. I think I have found a beautiful example of heterophony in Richard’s Los Rabanos.
10. Anna Meredith: Axeman (for electronic bassoon)
I came across this piece very recently as my next project is to compose a piece for solo bassoon with electronics. This is a very cool piece and I really enjoy it. Never heard anything like that before. What if play bassoons in this set but with baroque music?