Painting with Music Notes: Stories of the three commissioned pieces for Yunjia Liu’s Graduation Recital
Yunjia Liu studies classical guitar at the University of Melbourne under Mx. Tonié Field. She will finish her Bachelor’s degree in December this year. Unlike her colleagues, Yunjia spent seven years studying Chinese medicine in China before she came to Melbourne to study music in 2013. Here she shares with us the stories behind three new pieces of music, commissioned for her upcoming graduation recital.
Music in China is not seen as a good career. It is much more secure to study something which can provide you with a stable income and a respectful social status, such as medicine. But I felt the passion and the calling of music stronger and stronger while I was in medicine school. I was always thinking about how to play a guitar piece better, how to compose a piece based on how I feel, and how to give a good show with my friends, rather than how to become a successful doctor.
I really enjoy absorbing music knowledge and immersing myself in the music world, and I feel like I’m improving every day. I have asked my talented composer friends to compose for my graduation recital and I have already received three pieces. Two of them are from You Yue in China, and one from Federico Favali in Italy. Each piece is like a painting with a unique story behind it.
1. Mayfly (蜉蝣) by You Yue
You Yue is an old friend in China. As a composer, his way of writing music is very interesting. He says that he usually has an image in his mind before he starts one piece, and then he tries to describe the image with music notes. I received the piece in late October last year, and I was fascinated by the peaceful and beautiful atmosphere in it. This is what You Yue says about the inspiration:
“The lifespan of many insects is very short. They come and go silently, as their body movements become slower and slower. In the end they may find an invisible spot, a piece of branch, a gap between the rocks, or a hole, and leave the world naturally and quietly. This piece of music is trying to express the indescribable “calmness” of mayflies’ lives. They don’t have to worry about finding the meaning of life, and they don’t have to cheat themselves or others, but just accept the nature and life itself, calmly, peacefully, and somehow a bit pitiful.”
2. Flourishing Age (盛世遗墨绘昔尘) by You Yue
The title of this piece is difficult to translate accurately from Chinese to English. The original title is very poetic, and it is about painting the flourishing age with vestigial ink and immemorial dusk. I received this piece in February this year, when You Yue asked if it would be good to have someChinese style in the graduation recital. I feel so appreciated and I can really feel magic in the piece – it brings me to the old time I have never been to. You Yue’s description is like this:
“Imagine one day after you wake up, you realise you have passed through time and gone back to the Tang Dynasty in China. You see all the prosperous streets and towns, the wine shops and teahouses, the poems on the wall – but there is nobody around you. Yes, you’ve come back to a flourishing age, but it is not exactly real because you cannot see anyone. So you wander in the surroundings, and feel the atmosphere by yourself.”
3. Transcendent Shines (超然.照耀) by Federico Favali
I met Federico in England, when I was on exchange studying at the University of Birmingham earlier this year. I directly asked him if he could write a piece for guitar when we met for the first time. He agreed very generously, and he said this piece was for free, but I needed to promise that I would perform this piece all over the world. He asked me if I could provide some stories as the inspiration, and I told him my music journey. Then he decided to write a piece based on the Chinese characters of my name. I was so surprised that one can be that creative, and dedicate themselves so much in writing music! We are also discussing a photography plan and stage design, so hopefully this piece can be the starting point of an operetta for the near future.
It has been such an honour for me to receive special gifts like these pieces. The world of music is always full of fantasies, and we are painting a fascinating world together with music notes. I love the communication of souls, and I always believe that music has the power of going through time and space, and thus, can be immortal.
Yunjia’s graduation recital will be in late November this year, and more details can be found on her website: http://YunjiaLiuGuitarist.com.au