Yuan-Chen Li’s musical style and language is cultivated through a sensitivity to human expression. Her Taiwanese upbringing, a Buddhist spirit, Western musical knowledge, and the symbolic aspects of nature and art, have inspired her work. The sense of time and momentum in her music is not easily categorized as purely classical or contemporary. Her appreciation of principles about transformation, often found in classical Chinese poetry, brings an inclusiveness to modern music valuing both discipline and emancipation.
The range of Li’s repertoire extends from large-scale force, such as orchestra and concerto to more sensitive chamber and solo music. Western and Chinese instruments have been used in selected pieces: “Awakening” premiered by Tokyo Philharmonia Orchestra (2003), “Intermezzo: SHANG” commissioned by National Symphony Orchestra (Taiwan) premiered by Maestro Nicholas Milton (2012), the Guzheng concerto “Hovering in the Air” receiving an Israeli premiere during the conference and festival of Asian Composers’ League (2012), and “Spell” for solo saxophone performed by acclaimed saxophonist Timothy McAllister at Northwestern University New Music Conference (2014). Digitally cataloged in the classical score library by Alexander Street Press, Li’s works have been programmed and researched by musicians and musicologists around the world.
Li holds a B.A. and M.A. in music composition and theory from the Taipei National University of the Arts (Taiwan) and an Artist Diploma from the Yale University School of Music. She is completing a Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, studying composition with Marta Ptaszynska and orchestration with conductor Cliff Colnot. Relevant honors, awards, and grants include Artist Residency at Cite Internationale des Arts, Jacob Druckman Scholarship, University of Chicago Scholarship, and National Culture and Arts Foundation (Taiwan).
The composer imagines a journey under the celestial sky. The reddish star of Aldebaran, among many, symbolizes eternity. The traveler follows it, but depending on the altitude and the latitude, the traveler’s viewpoint during his ongoing journey in relation to the star has never been the same. Ever changing is therefore the nature of unchanging.
The focal pitch of On Aldebaran is F#. Its pitch identity is ambiguous and arbitrary, implied by the constant conflict among multiple sets of harmonic patterns in different rhythms moving alongside. The tone color of F# is composed by mixed ensemble, either well blended or extremely contrasted. The form of the piece is also open to interpretation, not limited to be perceived as a composed-through movement or multiple sections. On Aldebaran draws from the composer’s memory of the tune from Nan-quan music and tributes to Japanese Gagaku. The orchestration grants the harmony a greater role to form stratum, eventually becomes a confluence of everything without boundaries.