'Not a Chinese Composer'

A woman born in Shanghai resists labels as she explores new musical forms in Germany.
2013-02-15
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Composer Wang Ying in Germany in a photo taken in February 2013.
RFA

Wang Ying is an up-and-coming composer of classical and avant-garde music who was born in Shanghai, China, but whose musical identity was largely formed in Germany. According to her mentors, her style is a well-crafted blend of Chinese sounds and the European avant-garde, creating a unique personal synthesis with passion and dramatic flair.

She spoke to RFA's Mandarin Service recently about her musical career and personal identity:

I started to learn piano at about the age of four. Then, in 1997, I got a place on the composition course at the Shanghai Conservatory, and came to Germany in 2002.

In 2003, I entered the Cologne Conservatory of Music and Dance to study composition with a well-known German composer, Professor York Höller, who is also a winner of the Grawemeyer Award. I spent about seven years taking classes from him, and got my German master's.

Then I went to the Frankfurt University of Music and Performing Arts, which is an international institution. They take in students from all over the world, and it was very hard to get in. I had the honor of being selected to study there for a year.

After that I went to Paris, to study at a research institute for electronic music and did a long period of work there, mostly on the latest studies in electronic music.

Right now I am working as a freelance composer on some projects for Germany, and I am making some plans to use some scholarship funding.

I was a city kid right from a young age. I had the sounds of the city all around me while I was growing up, accompanying me everywhere. So I don't have much of a feel for folk music.

What I would like to do in Germany is avoid getting labeled as a Chinese composer, or someone who can only compose in pentatonic, because a lot of people have done that already, so I don't want to do that sort of thing.

I want to start on the same basis as other German composers. I don't want to make a big deal of my ethnic background ... I want people to see me as a composer who came out of Germany, and not as a Chinese composer.

However, there are already Chinese elements in my music and in my blood. China is at my roots.

Reported by Tian Yi for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated by Luisetta Mudie.