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Composer releases first album

Dr. Chia-Yu Hsu, an active composer of contemporary concert music and an assistant professor of music at UW-Eau Claire, will release her first album this month. 

The album, titled "Journeys," includes two solo and four chamber works. It's being released by Naxos Records. Born in Taiwan, Hsu combines Chinese elements and western techniques into her music.

Her music has been recognized with awards from national and international competitions, and has been performed by orchestras and at festivals throughout the U.S. and the world. 

As she prepares for her first album's release, Chia-Yu Hsu took some time to talk about her music and her experiences at UW-Eau Claire.

Where do you find your inspirations for your music?

I have been interested in deriving inspiration from a variety of sources, including poems, myths and images. For example, "Shui Diao Ge To" for double chorus and piano four hands (2004) and "Hard Roads in Shu" for orchestra (2005) both incorporate lyrics and images depicted in ancient Chinese poetry; rhythmic patterns from temple festivals are used in "Zhi" for violin and piano (2005), and Chinese myths are evoked in "Moods" for oboe and string quartet (2004). 

Some compositions are purely abstract. I've even experimented with algorithms. For example, the Farey Sequence in my recent piece for bass and piano, "Serenity and Agility."

What are some of the elements or techniques in your music that make it so unique? 

Counterpoint is essential in my music and the employment of Chinese elements using western techniques also is important. 

You've received many honors and awards. Are there one or two that you are especially proud of?

I found that the experience I had at the Seventh USA International Harp Competition is quite special. My work, "Huan" for solo harp, was the winner of the composition contest that year and was included in the repertoire for the harp competition.

I heard several different interpretations of my piece in one single day, and some are quite interesting. I was also interviewed there and later the interview, along with my piece, was included in the documentary, "Harp Dreams," which was televised on PBS in June 2010.

Tell us about teaching at UW-Eau Claire.

I enjoy teaching students at UW-Eau Claire. They are often polite and joyful. Some of them work really hard to achieve higher standards and some of them are willing to take on my challenges.

I'm lucky to have the opportunity to teach a diversity of composition-related courses and lead the contemporary music ensemble. I can apply my knowledge and research to these courses. 

Your research focuses on the concept of cultural fusion. Tell us a little about your work in this area.

My recent research deals primarily with Asian composers, focusing especially on the concept of cultural fusion — a phenomenon that incorporates synthesis and syncretism of musical influences from different cultures. Fusion can also be seen as "a process of cultural transformation marked by the influx of new culture elements and the loss or alteration of existing ones."

Based on this concept, I examine different compositional styles that synthesize Chinese and western elements to create a new musical aesthetic.