Huijuan Ling is a Cincinnati composer who writes music that radiates with frenetic energy and vibrant colors. Soprano Jackie Stevens, flautist Kenneth Cox, and pianist Ivan Moscotta will give the world premiere of her song cycle Palindrome (2015/16) on our February 4th concert.
CSB: Could you tell us a little about the poetry you’ve chosen for this work? What compelled you to set it?
HL: The poem I chose is Hiking [by Kendall A.]. I think my program note explained the reason why well:
I first saw Hiking on poet Kendall A.’s Facebook page in April 2015. Amazingly, I couldn’t stop thinking of it after nearly half a year and, for this reason, I knew I had to set it. This piece is written for her: my neighbor, my landlord, my friend.
Maybe this comes across as a bit gushing, but, yes, it’s the truth…!
CSB: What is the relationship between the two movements in this work?
HL: The second movement is more like an echo or reflection of the first movement. It captures only one line, which is the most important scene in the whole poem: Finally, you see the vista with all understanding laid out around you. In comparison to the first movement [a full setting of the poem], it’s more introspective. The last sonority in the first movement is also the first chord in the second movement; likewise, the second movement ends with the beginning of the first movement. For this reason, I named the piece Palindrome.
CSB: What role does narrative play in these songs and in your work in general?
HL: My motivation behind picking Hiking was largely because I felt such a strong sense of imagery when I first read the poem. As a result, the first movement [Hiking] is more narrative than the second [Gnikih]. Gnikih is based on one frozen picture and the mood in that exact period of time.
In my music in general, the way I usually work is by coming up with an idea, effect, or event that I feel is interesting, and then try to find the sound to go along with it. So sometimes my works can be fairly narrative in nature, if my inspiration for that work happens to come from an event or story.
CSB: What led you to come to Cincinnati? Could you tell us a little about your experiences here as a composer and member of the artistic community?
HL: I was planning to enter grad school in China in summer 2014, but then something unexpected happened: there was an opening for one more visiting student from Shanghai to go abroad that year. My school had no idea who was available and so I got a phone call one night asking if I would be interested. Thanks to Dr. Roig-Francoli, I ended up here.
The artistic community here is really friendly! My musical activities began with student composer concerts, with performances of works on the [College-Conservatory of Music] series A View From the Edge and other events like the annual 24-hour Composers’ Challenge. The first regional event I participated in was the 2015 Composers’ Midwest Symposium at Indiana University, where I performed in the premiere of the first movement of my work, Hiking. This encouraged me to begin seeking broader opportunities. My new erhu and marimba piece Trigger (2016) will be featured together with Rachel Walker’s new work Windows, Willows (2016) on the Wood/Silk Project: A Collaboration of Chinese and American Music and Musicians concert in Cincinnati in February at the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.
CSB: Who are other Cincinnati artists and composers whose work inspires and interests you? Are there specific works you could point our readers to?
HL: The work of my peers as well as the composition faculty at CCM always interests and inspires me! You always have a lot of access to great new music. For a specific piece, I’d like to name Jennifer Jolley’s Flight 710 to Cabo San Lucas from the last Cincinnati Soundbox concert. I still have it stuck in my head sometimes!