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adventures of a sound.traveller

a space where i hope to share with you the hopefully interesting projects im currently working on / have worked on, the soundscapes all around me that i am constantly discovering and re-discovering (oh, what joys!!!), any other random and delightfully weird thoughts regarding sounds, music and its friends. share with me yours too, please do!

Intangible

Yun Qi Wong

On my dark days where all i see around me is shadows and hope seems like a lifetime away, I doubt my every decision and every move. i question yet again the value of music as a career - am I contributing to society with this, am i making a difference to the lives of others, is this a superficial job?! (I know, shocking that I even entertain such thoughts…)

true, its nothing life-changing. Nor life-saving. and yet, when i truly think about it, it is. so very much.

my very first live-performance was probably when i was four years old. it was “Cats”, and i surprisingly remember the experience (contrary to “remembering” based on my mother´s recollections to me) of sitting in the Victoria Theater in Singapore, all in the dark, and the huge cat figures all around us, the sounds they made. I remember that fascination I had for this fantasy world we lived in, if only for an evening.

ten years ago I experienced my very first Jörg Mannes choreography. It was the production of “Lux” and it was mindblowing. I sat there transfixed, as the entire stage - covered in black sand and underlit with a fiery light - came alive through the dancers’ explosive movements. Tears welled up as my heart opened and a fury of emotions caught me unawares. The next day I bought my very own copy of the music from “Lux” - Giovanni Sollima’s album “We were Trees”. Ten years down the road, I still catch as many productions I can of Mannes' works, some many times over. It is one of my favourite things - the world halts to a standstill for the two hours as I lose myself in the achingly sublime coming together of music and movement, brimming with cheeky humour, grace, a kaleidoscope of emotions, and the wildest of imagination.

There is also the evening I spent in Tunbridge Wells with a dear friend, a glass of wine in hand, listening to her Spotify playlist. Neil Diamond’s “If You Go Away” came on and as he sang: But if you stay I'll make you a day / Like no day has been or will be again / We'll sail on the sun, we'll ride on the rain / We'll talk to the trees and worship the wind”, something about that potent mix of raw emotions in his voice and those words opened the floodgates in me and I grieved, for all the people I’ll never get to have another day with.

I could go on like this for days. There are so many more memories and experiences, like glittering jewels in the treasure chest of my heart that I just keep adding to and which make up the sum of my life. Like the first time I came across a huge Gerhard Richter painting in Köln and it sucked me right into its whirlpool. Like the first time I read the poetry of Alvin Pang and Agnes Chew, and teared right there in the bookstore because there was so much YES! in their writings, speaking right to me. Like the first times I heard Andreas Scholl, Patricia Kopatchinskaja or the Uptown Jazz Orchestra live in concert and my jaw ached afterwards from too much joy.

 Art is everywhere ;) Here, on the streets in Vancouver

Art is everywhere ;) Here, on the streets in Vancouver

So yes, this is a gift. And YES, it is indeed, truly live changing.

The power and the magic of the Arts is something so intangible that we often undermine them. And yet without them our lives, our very being would be so much poorer. They are an outlet for our emotions, the happy ones, the dark ones, and all those in between and beyond; those we have kept pent up and repressed, of which we might or might not be aware of. The Arts provoke us, they comfort, embrace and ignite us.

They awaken our souls and make us alive, rather than just purely existing. If we let them.

on change

Yun Qi Wong

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different” - C.S. Lewis

hello world. its been a long long time. two years to be exact. 

so much has happened in these two years. but perhaps the most important lesson i have learnt is that change happens, all the time, and you can't fight it. Rather than fighting change, let's embrace it with open arms. 

because let's face it: every single day we wake up a new person. Our wants and needs and priorities will always be shifting each day. Our bodies are changing all the time. Our souls, our hearts and our grey matter - they too are constantly growing and shifting. And just like the earth and like how Mother Nature is constantly shifting and changing, we are too. that IS the natural way of life. 

I am taking baby steps each day to acknowledge that and to enjoy this beautiful phenomenon without placing any judgement. Something I have been fighting against so much. Pretty crazy when you think about it, to constantly be comparing our current self against all our older selves. To fight against what our entire being needs at every different moment of our lives.  

Its tough to let go and just BE. but i try. 

 

 

authenticity

Yun Qi Wong

I had the pleasure and honour of co-repetiting a clarinet masterclass of Johannes Peitz in June and one of the conversations that stuck with me was of being real as a musician. A while ago, I stumbled upon an article which reminded me of that, and had to share THIS

“It seems to me that being authentic is being brave enough or just candid enough to be honest about what you are experiencing or who you are, whether it is popular are not. A person gives a gift to other people when they say, ‘This is what happened to me or this is how I truly feel, no matter what the popular belief is about what I should feel.’ Whenever you are honest, you are speaking for a thousand silent people who don’t have the voice to say what they really feel or are really experiencing. So, if you ever talk about [the thing you went through], you will touch a million hearts. Because you are speaking for more than just yourself. You are never alone in what you are feeling. I love you.”

One of the things I enjoy most about being a musician is the entire process. The process of learning a work, taking it apart, getting to know it from the composer's perspective, getting to know it from our own perspectives, developing personal feelings for it, muddling and obsessing over it.

It is an intimate journey. One which takes a whole lot of time to grow and germinate. 

And then we go out there and share it with the world. That's the moment we try to be brave, to strip away our egos and bare ourselves to the world as we are:

This is me, just as I am. With all my strengths, my weaknesses, my heart, my soul. Thank you for sharing with me this music, these emotions, these experiences. 

its the small moments

Yun Qi Wong

 the sight I am treated to daily whilst cycling to work through the Eilenriede

the sight I am treated to daily whilst cycling to work through the Eilenriede

It has been such a good, good week. 

Nothing spectacular happened, but I was able to sit down almost everyday with one or two friends for really share and catch up with a bunch of honest, meaningful talks and belly-aching laughs. Not just a rushed, hurried meetup.  

We might not have been able to save the world with these catchups, but they powered me right through the entire week, charging me up with so much joy and energy and inspiration I was burning to share with all the people I was working with. I did SO much work this week, and at the end of it, I was still ready for more. 

Its the little moments like these that make such a huge difference. And it is these moments which I cherish so much. And I am glad we made time for them despite our crazy schedules. Because ultimately, these are the moments we will carry with us. 

Yesterday I stumbled upon this article which I want to share with you: http://therumpus.net/2011/02/dear-sugar-the-rumpus-advice-column-64/

This is such a good reminder to myself: "Your assumptions about the lives of others are in direct relation to your naïve pomposity. Many people you believe to be rich are not rich. Many people you think have it easy worked hard for what they got. Many people who seem to be gliding right along have suffered and are suffering. Many people who appear to you to be old and stupidly saddled down with kids and cars and houses were once every bit as hip and pompous as you." 

and this, always: "One Christmas at the very beginning of your twenties when your mother gives you a warm coat that she saved for months to buy, don’t look at her skeptically after she tells you she thought the coat was perfect for you. Don’t hold it up and say it’s longer than you like your coats to be and too puffy and possibly even too warm. Your mother will be dead by spring. That coat will be the last gift she gave you. You will regret the small thing you didn’t say for the rest of your life.

Say thank you." 

have a good weekend, folks!

magic.

Yun Qi Wong

magic 

is in the tiny blank spaces between black notes; in what lies behind the blobs and splashes of inks we named staccato, tenuto, marcato, phrasemarks and the likes.

is in the rubber band flexibility of this wondrous concept we call time -  floating about in the air, waiting to be played with, shaped and moulded by us. to be injected with a shot of life. 

is when black and white on stiff paper spring to life in all colours imaginable with every possible shade in between, layered with that play of light and shadow. 

is when the beauty of it all grips you right at your beating heart and you have to gasp for air. when the emotions you forgot hit you with a force from within. it is after you have zoomed in all the way to the microscopic details, then strip them all away to reveal the soul in its barest form. 

is when it is over and you just want to hold on to that moment, just sit there and be still, savouring all that is ringing on in the air, and in you. 

all that is music. music is magic. 

ich liebe mein leben

Yun Qi Wong

2015 was a mad, mad year. I am still digesting all the events that happened and trying to make sense of how they all took place within such a short span of time which ironically, did not feel that way at all. Time is a crazy fellow, playing tricks on us. 

2015 brought me to the U.S. of A for the very first time in my life, and boy, were my expectations met. We lost my father-in-law to cancer. I flew back home for about six times (enough to instil a healthy dose of fear of airports and flights), and in between all that I had a bunch of exciting projects and got to work intensively with a lot of young musicians which brought me much joy.  

this post is definitely a tad too late to be called my new year's post, but seeing as yesterday was the real new year in my culture, i think we can safely say it still counts ;) 

2015 was also filled with great conversations with an inspiring group of beautiful and strong people I am honoured to call my family and friends. C and I walked deeper into the world of Yoga and emerged with better mental and physical strength. ditto to my Atemtherapie and Sprecherziehung lessons! 

I think the greatest lesson i took away from 2015 was learning to honour myself. To recognize that I am worthy of the same kind of respect I want to give unto others - not just from others, but more importantly, from myself. I learnt to respect my needs and to listen to my body more. To stand up for these needs, because like it or not, if even I could not be bothered to, who would? 

That the time I set aside as me-time is every bit important as the time I set aside for others - not honouring that ultimately meant I had nothing left to give to others if I was all burnt out. I learnt to say 'No' more often, and not to be such a pushover. 

These are lessons accumulated over the recent years, but only started crystallising, becoming conscious efforts over the last months. It was, and is still not easy for me. I think many of us were in some way, educated and conditioned in a manner which did not instil this strongly within us. However, it has been liberating, empowering and humbling for me. I also learnt that honouring myself did not have to mean acting arrogantly, nor did it mean I was selfish. 

and so, armed with this bunch of new discoveries, I am looking forward to whatever 2016 throws at me. because: 

 &nbsp; &nbsp; HELL YEAH! and i hope you do too!&nbsp;

    HELL YEAH! and i hope you do too! 


loss and unconditional love

Yun Qi Wong

a while back, we lost someone beloved to a vicious bout of cancer. it happened all too fast, in the space of a mere few months. 

sometimes, I still forget you are gone. i walk in certain places and look around in expectation for you, or pick up the phone to text you and then it hits me again without warning. 

reading this helped me, before you were gone and we knew the end was nearing. it helped in the days after. as with so many friends who hugged and simply let me cry. 

so yes, you might no longer be with us. but the love never dies.

the memories - I hope - will never fade: your quiet strength; the way you smile; us making inside jokes out of the situation you were in; your fascination with light bulbs, good audio equipment, flowers and anything gadgety ;)

I saw how deep and unconditional love can be - despite all the messy and complicated feelings that come with it. to have and experience that is humbling, and to be surrounded by that is truly a gift. And I am reminded again of how lucky I am to have a family like this. 

our journey North

Yun Qi Wong

When you get 200% hands-on with a project - conceptualising it, making your ideas come to life, and obsessing over it - it becomes so much more than just a project. It morphs at some point into the very air you breathe, the first thing you think about the moment you wake up.  And when you have a wonderful partner and team who obsess over it together with you, thats just double the fun, or in our case - 15 times the fun! 

Tee and I finally set foot on our journey North after nearly two years of planning over crazy amounts of Whatsapps, emails and Facebook messages sent from Arizona to Hannover and all the way back. What started out as a supposedly simple Violin-Piano recital transformed into a crazy intricate thing, complete with a 13-member crew no less, including a guest singer, three narrators, a page-turner, lighting coordinator, sound engineer, photographer, two videographers, and three front-of-house friends slash hairstylists. Nothing crazy, I guess? ;) 

We realised (belatedly) that many in the audience would have loved to hear about our process of researching the norwegian folksongs we presented, so I thought I would write about that here: www.yunqiwong/the-way-north

It is incredibly special when you get to collaborate professionally with family members and good friends, just as how it is special to make new friends through these collaborations, and definitely when you get to re-connect with old ones whom you have lost touch with for years, and might have never had a reason to talk to again otherwise! And when everyone meets for the first time and just get along like they´ve known each other for donkey years, thats the magic of music and friendship - here are a few photos which are a reflection of all that. 

Everytime I look at these photos, I am filled with so much joy. And so, to Woon, Haresh, Zheng, Liana, Josh, Guosheng, Melvin, Chun, Weiping, and Terence T...

THANK YOU, we love you! 

Tee and Qi, your 92steelgutters ;) 

 

a love letter to my job

Yun Qi Wong

To my job: I love you. 

Thank you for constantly challenging me and pushing me out of my comfort zone. Everyday is a surprise, a brand new challenge, and it never gets boring with you! You teach me so much - about myself, about this crazy beautiful world of music, about life, and so much more. The list is endless. You then go ahead and provide me with all these opportunities everyday to give back in return, and through them I have experienced some of the greatest joys in my life. 

Yes, you bring me so much joy. JOY, gioia, Freude, joie and joyyyyy - in such abundance that there are days where I just look like a daft woman who lost control of her jaw muscles. There are days my heart feels like it might just burst from all that emotion overload swimming around in it. Sometimes I´m tearing privately during my practice because the music is too beautiful (is that even possible?) Most times I am laughing like a manic hyena - if you know me you probably know what I´m talking about! 

You have showed me that magic does exist, in so many endless shapes and forms.

You have taught me to breathe, to be forgiving, and that the right balance of humility and self-confidence can work wonders. That putting aside our egos is tough and yet so essential to moving forward. You've taught me that we all make mistakes (we're only human, right?), that music (or anything else for that matter) does not need to be perfect. It just needs to be real, and full of life

You have brought me some of the best friends and mentors I will ever have in life, created for me some of the strongest and most inspiring relationships I will know - after we have bitched each other to death during rehearsals ;) These are the people who make it worth it, every single day. 

And for all these, I thank you, dear job. You might involve a huge amount of mundane never-ending score taping. You are kind of like a 24/7 existence in my life and in my head. But I wouldn't change a thing. 

So thank you. I am contented, blessed and grateful everyday with you in my life. 

love, Qi 

 

On Death, and Life

Yun Qi Wong

Seeing as how my life has been filled with death-related music this past month (both concerts in Singapore focus on this topic, purely by chance), I felt inspired today to share some personal thoughts on this. 

Many of us avoid talking openly about Death - some are pantang (Malay for superstitious), some have suppressed all too well their loss and grief, and most of us have an innate fear of our end. 

My mum recently became a volunteer at the Nectar Care Service and the Dover Hospice Park, and that has opened my eyes to so much and helped me a little in accepting and understanding this unknown and yet huge part of our lives. Knowledge and Awareness do help allay fears. And to cut a long story short: Death is inevitable to us all. 

Easy to say. And yet, when that moment arrives, it is never easy letting go. It will never be. 

Which brings me to this important daily reminder: To live every waking moment like it's my last, and to treat every relationship, no matter how brief, with the respect it deserves.

It reminds me not be too proud or ashamed to say (and to mean it!): I'm sorry, I forgive you, and I love you. It reminds me to be grateful, and not to wait till it's too late to thank the people in my life for every little bit of kindness that comes my way. Lastly, it reminds me not to be hurtful or say things I'll regret the next morning. Tough, but I will try my best. For these are what make it so hard for us to leave this world behind - the people, our relationships, and all we have shared. 

i-LBtR3J3-XL.jpg

While in Switzerland, this beautiful butterfly landed on my finger for the longest time - I took it on a walk and it flew back even after I attempted to introduce a plant as an alternative resting pad ;) It was magical. And it made me think of Inger Christensen's Butterfly Valley: 

"that white soul on whose wing-mirror is drawn / the evanescent nature of all things / what is it doing in this gloomy air? / Is it the grief my life has overtaken / concealed by the perfume of mountain brush?" (excerpt) 

The butterfly valley is not just a symbol of life's volatility and fragility, but also its beauty and transformational powers. I like to think of my swiss butterfly as a hello from the loved ones who have left us for another world. You are constantly in my heart. And I will always be grateful for having met you, for the time we spent together, no matter how fleeting. 

Here's to Life - one without regrets.



Die Stille

Yun Qi Wong

Die Stille - A word, an expression I find hard to translate in all its entirety from the german language. It expresses all at once, that exquisite feeling of time standing still, of being encased and cocooned in a rare moment of quiet and solitude, even as the world around you rushes and whooshes by. It could be peaceful, it could also be a little scary. In any case, its a powerful feeling. 

And yet, for all that multitude of 'silence-evoking' words, die Stille is constantly filled with music. Nature's Music. 

 Schynige Platte: ever-changing through those gusts of fog

Schynige Platte: ever-changing through those gusts of fog

I visited the Berner Oberland of the Swiss Alps in July, and the hikes and walks we took whilst there were often filled with such moments. Moments where you are completely alone for hours. When you stop walking to take it all in: the wide open spaces all around, that incredible feeling of being free, and alive. And your ears and soul fill with a kaleidoscope of so many different insect-calls, bird-songs, and wind-whispers (or roars!). It is in such moments that I am completely at peace with myself and with the world. I could stay there forever. Just breathing as one with this raw, untouched Beauty of Mother Earth. 

 The view from our chalet up in the mountains.&nbsp;

The view from our chalet up in the mountains. 

What brings you such peace and quiet in your daily lives? I believe we should try to find such moments within us constantly, regardless of where we currently are and how crowded a place we live in. For these moments give us an inner strength that allows us to continue on in our daily lives, fully recharged and re-inspired. 

I find these moments through the momentum of walking, during my yoga practice, in deep concentration of practicing the piano and drawing, whilst reading, and in the quiet of the early (and late) hours each day. What are your moments? :)

thankful.

Yun Qi Wong

 (C) Kelvin Chua

(C) Kelvin Chua

these are our wedding bands - hammered, soldered and forged together with our very own four hands. we had to keep them safe and sound for more than six months before we could finally put them on.

of course, the unthinkable happened a mere two months later - C lost his band. we were both devastated. I felt hysterical, and all i could think about was: this cannot be bought again, just like that, from the shops. it was a unicum, for goodness sake! what should we do now? typical me. or should i say, the me i have become, over the years. 

C blew his top when I could not stop pushing all the blame on him. I had been the one who had to take the band on and off several times a day whilst practicing the piano, and I thought I would be the first to lose it. I felt like I could not forgive him for this. 

but then, C put it all into perspective for me with these words:

"Hey, it is just a ring. It is just an object, no matter how much it symbolises to us. I am still alive, I am still healthy, and the love between us is still very much present. And these are the Real Important Stuff. They cannot be lost,  just like that. And for that we should be thankful." 

you know what? he is so right. and i am so grateful to have him by my side, reminding me of this. it is so easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we lack and all we have lost. yet it is so much more enriching (and so simple too!) to focus on the other side of things: what we still DO have, what we gain everyday. 

sometimes, our possessions chain us down - to memories, emotions, people, and milestones in our lives. however, all these will always be within us, even when the possessions are gone. they are a part of our being. and no one can take them away from us. 

i am learning every day, to be able to let go - of objects, of the fear of loss (be it money, time, and yes, even lives), and to live fully in each present moment. this simple message from C has allowed me to live with less resentment, fear, and anger. it has helped me channel these into being grateful for the opportunities to learn, to live more freely without self-imposed, unnecessary stress, and to give to others. its amazing how thin the line between these two extreme thought processes is! 

and you know what? i took off my ring after C lost his (did not make much sense to wear mine alone...to me at least!) and it was liberating! one less worry each day! ;) 

 

 

sound.travels

Yun Qi Wong

our sound.travels videos are finally out and that is in a way, the final steps to this indescribable journey we've taken. for now. and it will be a very short now.

when Bert and Ms Tham first invited me to put up a concert - any kind of concert i wished - the possibilities were so endless, i was overwhelmed. but then one fateful day i picked up one of my four Murray Schafer books and it was a lightbulb moment - sound.travels was born.

we were going to show our audience the world (or part of it) through soundscapes, soundmarks, audio-postcards; with their eyes closed, and their ears wide open. 

if you do not know who Murray Schafer is, please please pleaseeee do go check him out. listen to his music on youtube, grab all his books (some are available on Amazon, the rest have to be ordered from Arcana Editions) !!! his writings never cease to inspire me in preparing for my next lesson or pump me full of ideas for life/work in general. they have become my go-to in countless moments of helplessness, they've opened my ears/mind/eyes/heart to this world we live in. it is no longer just about music, its all about life :)

seeing how this blog entry could happily turn into one dedicated to Murray Schafer and his works, i ll move along and do that dedication the next time ;) coming back to the point, sound.travels allowed me to finally collaborate with a bunch of quirky amazing friends i love. we were able to commission Americ to write us music (always a YAY because he is always full of surprises, the good kind). i learnt about so many Singaporean writers i never knew about and fell in love with them. i listened to Tajik music on a weekly basis. we learnt about the existence of e-bows, fooled around with shot glasses, did arts+crafts with our scores. we were able to fly Ruschana to Singapore! and best of all, we got to experiment, experiment, experiment. and oh, what fun we had.

 this is us performing Americ's Void Deck  (C) Hillary Lee

this is us performing Americ's Void Deck

(C) Hillary Lee

this is a pretty cool picture of us. we're usually more often seen dissolving into giggles! and it is to these sound.travellers i say thank you to - Veda, Peixin, Terence and Ruschana. i love our rehearsals - they're packed with intensity, confusion, laughter, screams and stranger sounds. there is also Americ who comes to rehearsals ever so often. Woon who does late night/early morn editing and re-editing of my texts, the 856323 takes of recording and mixing of these texts. Hil who took this picture and many other funky ones. Lu Heng and brother who produced the videos you should watch. the talented Em whose artwork adorns our postcards. and there is Bert and Ms Tham who give me precious opportunities like these, introduced me to the wonders of Murray Schafer, who think of everything we might forget, make sure the show goes on, and make my most demanding requests come true.

thank you. i'm already looking forward to sound.travels II.

love, qi

 

magic.

Yun Qi Wong

what does music do to you? 

i never quite used to grasp that entirely, never quite used to consciously understand the effects of music. i never quite understood that me being able to make music and to appreciate it, is a rather big blessing. enormous, to say the least. 

after years in high school of me trying to be a 'normal' student and NOT wanting to study music (the irony of it, considering not many people have parents who actually WANT them to do that), i am beginning to grasp at the fact that yes, i am blessed. 

for music accompanies us through every single feeling we feel. it releases that surge of emotions and becomes an outlet for them, whether through music making or listening. it helps me begin my day right, lets out the tears i did not know were inside of me, makes my jaw ache from uncontrolled smiling, and brings each day to a good end. 

at times, it gets almost too much, you know? all that emotion. but most of the time, it just makes me marvel at how it is able to touch the coldest of hearts.

re-reading Jojo Moyes' Me before You (a fantastic book. please read it), a certain passage struck me. its what Louisa Clark, protagonist in the book, experienced, while accompanying her charge, Will Traynor to a concert for the very first time in her life, and i'll end off this post with that:

"suddenly the auditorium was filled with a single sound - the most alive, three-dimensional thing I had ever heard. It made the hairs on my skin stand up, my breath catch in my throat...I felt the music like a physical thing; it didn't just sit in my ears, it flowed through me, around me, made my senses vibrate...And it made my imagination do unexpected things; as I sat there, I found myself thinking of things I hadn't thought of years, old emotions washing over me, new thoughts and ideas being pulled from me as if my perception itself were being stretched out of shape. It was almost too much, but I didn't want it to stop. I wanted to sit there forever." 

the first.

Yun Qi Wong

hello world.  

i am sitting at our new work table which faces out onto our lovely neighbourhood (the gorgeous woods! and a collection of charming old houses which we might never be able to afford in this lifetime) for inspiration, and there is this tiny shiver of excitement and apprehension . . .

 

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