2 Feb 2024

Jennifer Yuan: Auckland Philharmonia Young Composer in Residence

From Three to Seven, 4:00 pm on 2 February 2024

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They say music is the food of the soul, but it can also express the soul – communicating to the outside world our innermost thoughts and feelings.

For Jennifer Yuan, Auckland Philharmonia's 2024 Young Composer-in-Residence, it's this wide array of human emotion and ideas that she wishes to express through her compositions this year.

Jennifer and Evie Dwyer-Leech (Auckland Philharmonia’s Tertiary Projects Executive and producer of the programme) spoke to RNZ Concert host Bryan Crump from the Auckland studio.

While Dwyer-Leech was not on the selection panel for the residency, she had worked with Yuan on other projects and knew her to be talented. And she'd heard that Yuan's application had been "really, really impressive".

"Very mature writing, very compelling."

Although only one piece was required in the application, Yuan submitted two: an orchestral piece and a composition for a string quartet.

Jennifer Yuan is Auckland Philharmonia’s 2024 Young Composer-in-Residence.

Jennifer Yuan is Auckland Philharmonia’s 2024 Young Composer-in-Residence. Photo: Thomas Hamill

However, they are far from the first pieces she's written. Yuan told Crump that her first composition was "an assignment" written when she was 14.

At the time she was playing a variety of instruments, including the piano, French horn and clarinet.

"I was definitely improvising in my head. I still do that a lot."

Already, she has an idea for her first orchestral piece – based on a fairytale – which she will write while in residency, in time for a performance in May. A second piece, for a smaller chamber group, is due later in the year.

"I have a starting idea, I just need to develop it more".

"Melodies and chords already exist in my head, and I repeat them constantly until I can write them down."

As for what other music is influencing Yuan, she says she's been listening to a variety of different composers including everyone from to Adrian Peacock and Debussy.

"I find experiencing new music very exciting. I think music an be used to communicate a lot of different emotions."

The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra’s (APO) Connecting: Discovery concert

The Auckland Philharmonia; Jennifer Juan's sonic canvas for 2024. Photo: ©Adrian Malloch

While she still gets nervous when hearing her music performed live (it's an "awesome" experience), she says the best piece of advice she has received is that "no matter what stage of your composing career, there are still a lot of different things that are unknown to you".

The trick, she says, is not to be overwhelmed by what she doesn't know.

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