Yuan-Chen Li

"Every city needs a festival for new music. I am so thrilled that this is happening in Chicago initiated by Augusta Read Thomas. The diversity, quality, and the depth of this program are truly promising to give the city the best experience of such kind ever."

Yuan-Chen Li (b. 1980, Taiwan) first arrived on the contemporary music scene in Taiwan with her very personal use of instrumentation and style in her chamber music piece Zang (the funeral) in 2000. In 2003, the expression and orchestration of her orchestral work Awakening won the prize at the Asian Music Festival 2003 in Tokyo from the Asian Composers’ League, and was subsequently premiered by the Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra. In recent years, Li’s music reflects her transformation of processes and concepts in Asian traditional arts, literature, and Buddhism into a compositional technique for solo, chamber, and orchestra of both Western and Chinese instruments. With her virtuosity in instrumentation and fluency in converging and synthesizing diverse cultural, musical and conceptual frameworks, her treatment of the space of the sonority, temporality, texture, and syntax have engaged musicians of different practices, critics, researchers, and worldwide listeners. Featuring her distinct artistry in different contexts, Li’s work has been programmed in many concert series and festivals: Asian Composers’ League (Tel-Aviv 2012, Tokyo 2003), 2012 Thailand International Composition Festival, IMANI Winds Chamber Music Festival (New York, 2012), Contempo series (University of Chicago, 2010-), Peace Cross-strait Orchestra Concert (China and Taiwan, 2009), Composers/Pianists concert series (New England, 2008-9), New Music New Haven (Yale, 2006-08), The Female Form: Women Composers (New York, 2008), Listening to the 21Century (Taipei, 2007), Soundbridges (Berlin, 2007), Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (Norfolk, 2007), Tune in to Taiwan 2003 (Taipei, 2003), New Ideal Dance Festival (Taipei, 2003), and Kuan-Du Musical Soiree (Taipei, 2001). 

Committed to cultivate the combination of new music composition, interpretation, and community, she has frequently collaborated with Kong-Ling Liang, artistic director of Counterpoint Ensemble (Taiwan) and Paul Ching-Po Chiang, conductor of Moment Musicaux Philharmonia (Taiwan). Since 2011, Li has been mentored by Maestro Cliff Colnot, from whom she has been introduced to professional notation, rehearsal techniques, and editorial work for orchestra, chamber music and songs. 

Major honors and awards include an Artist Residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris (2010, Taipei Artist Village), grants from the National Culture and Arts Foundation of Taiwan, the Ezra Laderman Prize, the Rena Greenwalk Memorial Prize, First prize of Literature and Art Creation Award (Taiwan), the Chang-Hui Hsu Memorial Prize of Asian Composers League, Study Abroad Scholarship from the Education Minister (Taiwan), and Scholarship of Arts from Tzu Chi Foundation. Recent commissions are from the National Chiang Kai-Shek Cultural Center (Taiwan), the Philharmonic Moment Musicaux, and Counterpoint Ensemble. 

Li received Ph.D. in music composition from the University of Chicago in 2015. Her primary advisors are composers such as Marta Ptaszynska and Shulamit Ran, conductor Cliff Colnot, musicologist Martha Feldman, and theorist Lawrence Zbikowsky. Before her residence in Chicago, Li earned the Artist Diploma from the Yale University Her dissertation “Wandering Viewpoint,” a concerto for solo cello and two ensembles, is about maintaining the freedom and the independence of the soloist in a highly assimilated texture and sound competed by two ensembles of similar instrumentations, which The piece receives review that Li’s compositional voice “original and somewhat difficult do described,” “engaging” (Chicago Classical Review, 2015.4.24).  Accompanied with her Ph.D. degree is a paper entitled “Difficult Voice in Vocal Composition, Composers’ Aesthetic Responses to Secondhand Holocaust Experiences,” featuring three case studies, such as Chaya Czernowin’s opera Pnima…ins innere, Meredith Monk’s theater opera Quarry, and Schoenberg A Survivor from Warsaw, discussing about the repetitive and homophonic phenomenon as the impetus and the musical manifestation of the psychological drive.  Li also holds Artist Diploma from The Yale University School of Music (2008), studying composition with Martin Bresnick.  Before coming to the United States, she has earned M.F.A. (2006) and B.F.A.(2003) from Taipei University of the Arts, having studied composition with Tsung-Hsien Yang and Chung-Kun Hung. Before entering college she studied composition and classical music for ten years with Ting-Lien Wu.