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In dialogue with - composer Shuya Feng

Shu Ya Feng, a post-millennial musician and composer, has embarked on a musical journey filled with surprises and talent.

Music for her is not just a form of expression, but an integral part of life. Mastering various instruments, her skills allow her to blend Eastern and Western instruments in her compositions, creating a unique and diverse musical style. She often incorporates musical elements from different eras and regions into her work, infusing her music with rich layers and emotions, immersing listeners in her vivid imagination and emotional expression. Her symphonic debut, "Mani Stone Memoirs," exemplifies this. Inspired by her travels in Tibet, the piece captivates with its evocative portrayal of the journey, performed by the New York Philharmonic and premiered by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra in 2017.


Feng is also a recipient of multiple awards from WOMCO-affiliated competitions, including the Vivaldi International Music Competition. Her talent and dedication have made her a standout figure in the music world. Her music goes beyond performance; it's a deep exploration of life, culture, and emotions. Let's delve into her unique musical world and be inspired by her journey.

Topic 1: What initially inspired your compositions? Were you influenced by anyone? Have you experienced changes in your musical journey?

Shu Ya: My initial inspiration comes from a passion for exploring the world, contemplating the universe, and expressing thoughts and the beauty I see through music. In this process, I aim to touch myself first with my music, then resonate with others, sharing the beauty and profound ideas. I believe music is a brilliant gem in human civilization, with great music resonating through history and becoming an everlasting part of our cultural legacy.

My creative thinking has been most influenced by my teacher, composer Ju Wenpei. From my enrollment at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music Middle School in 2015 to my graduation in 2021, I studied under Professor Ju. An accomplished composer, she has received numerous prestigious awards, including the Golden Rooster Award and the "Five-One Project" Award. In class, she ignited our passion for creativity and encouraged us to freely explore philosophy, literature, art, and drama. She guided me to use the feelings from these arts in my music, helping me find unique perspectives in my compositions.

In my musical journey, my creative mindset has constantly evolved. Overall, the scope of my work has broadened, and my mindset has become more inclusive and open. From art songs, piano solos, and chamber music to pop, symphonies, concertos, ethnic orchestral music, electronic music, choral, world music, and even to drama and musical theater, I've adjusted my creative approach in each genre, constantly learning new knowledge in various fields.


Topic 2: What elements or experiences inspire your compositions?

Shu Ya: On one hand, my inspiration is endless, as I always look for creative sparks in every moment of life, transforming them into sources for composition. On the other hand, commissioned works, performance invitations, and ideas from musicians provide a continuous stream of inspiration. Projects that culminate in performances often serve as a significant motivation for my creativity.


Topic 3: You've composed music based on ancient poetry. Can you explain how you approach this?

Shu Ya: I have composed a series of ancient poetry songs, performed at platforms like the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra's TRI Third Space, the Nine Trees Future Art Center, and the Beijing International Music Festival. When composing ancient poetry songs, I first resonate deeply with the poet, exploring multi-dimensional expressions through music. The vocal line, as the main thread of the song, is crafted like calligraphy, while instrumental parts convey the qualities and charm of landscape and objects, like in ink and brush paintings.


Topic 4: Have you ever collected field recordings or traditional music/folk song segments in the past? Could you share with us these processes, describe the places you visited, the interesting segments you recorded, and how you incorporated these elements into your music creation?

Shu Ya: I have visited many regions both domestically and internationally for field recordings and collecting traditional music and folk song segments. This includes over 50 cities and counties in Chinese provinces like Tibet, Ningxia, Xinjiang, Hong Kong, Macau, Shanghai, Beijing, Yunnan, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Fujian, Guangdong, Sichuan, Shaanxi, Qinghai, and Gansu. I usually record these materials in video or audio format and engage in repeated study and creation. More importantly, the intuitive understanding and experience of different regional cultures are what truly infuse my creations with soul, guiding me in blending and innovating with ethnic music elements.

Topic 5: How do you utilize these traditional elements in your compositions to express your ideas? How do you balance and adjust the proportion of traditional and innovative elements?

Shu Ya: In my compositions, I believe in first integrating these traditional elements with my own ideas, deeply understanding the essence behind the facade of traditional elements, and then leading the creation process with my thoughts and reflections. The proportion of traditional and innovative elements doesn't need deliberate adjustment; it mainly depends on the core concept of the work to implement the creative plan.






Topic 6: What do you think is the most challenging aspect of music composition, or in your career as a composer?

Feng Shuya: For a composer, understanding each musical instrument is a challenge. We need to learn initially, communicate with musicians, and ideally learn to play some instruments ourselves.

This helps composers more rationally design the details of musical performance. The vast variety of instruments and their rich playing techniques pose a great challenge but also make the process exciting and adventurous, which I thoroughly enjoy.


Topic 7: You have achieved notable successes in competitions like the Vivaldi International Music Competition, European Music Competition, and many other international contests. Could you share your feelings about participating in these competitions and their impact on you?

Shu Ya: I believe competitions provide a valuable platform for young musicians to interact and learn. I am grateful for the opportunities provided by these competitions. They allow countless talented musicians to explore their potential and learn from each other's strengths, positively impacting the overall level of human music.


Topic 8: As a busy musician and creator involved in many projects, how do you manage and allocate your time? Do you have any tips for handling stress or relaxing your mind and body during particularly busy periods?

Shu Ya: Faced with numerous art projects, I list all the tasks with their locations, deadlines, and prioritize them based on urgency. I also choose projects I'm most passionate about first, which helps me focus better and work more efficiently. Efficiency is vital and requires concentrated attention, underpinned by good mental health. Therefore, I ensure sufficient sleep, balance work and rest, and maintain a positive mindset to improve work efficiency. Despite being busy, I always keep in touch with family and friends, often dining, chatting, watching movies, visiting art exhibitions, and traveling together.


Topic 9: Future Outlook: As a musician, what are your expectations and plans for the future inheritance and innovation of music? What aspects of music and cultural propagation do you plan to promote?

Shu Ya: As a musician, I see endless possibilities in the future of music heritage and innovation. Chinese and world traditional music are vast treasures waiting to be explored, inherited, innovated, and propagated.

Currently, I am working on the 'World Wind Music and Electronic Music Original Concert' on multiple platforms, touring the 'Ancient Poetry Song Original Composition Concert', and creating a classical music enlightenment concert. Beyond creation and performance, I believe music academic research is crucial for contemporary music development. Therefore, my team and I in the "Shangyin Dian Music Chamber Orchestra" are advancing research on the art of Guqin and contemporary music.

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