Jerry Yue Zhuo
Mar 25, 2020
CoDI Mentors scheme has offered me an opportunity to think seriously about a range of issues that I have not reviewed on for years. Over the past month, my mentor, Matthew Whiteside, and I have had some deep discussions in event organising. Matthew is known for running the wonderful The Night With…, an organisation promoting live contemporary music. His experience and knowledge in this area is excellent without doubt. Therefore, we decided to start the mentoring with this topic, rather than going into composing straightaway, as we both agreed that event organising skill would become very useful for me very soon since I’m close to finishing my PhD studies (hopefully!). I really liked the idea as I had never encountered any other mentoring scheme that could provide me with a chance to talk about this aspect in details. Now, with 3 online meetings done, I must say I am deeply satisfied with the outcome and I can feel my understanding on event organising slowly evolved. When I applied for the Mentors scheme, I had just started planning a new concert event that will take place in my hometown Xiamen, China. I was feeling very unsure about this project because it will be my first time running a public concert from scratch. And the main reason it looks scary is the fact that I have to create a budget and look for fundings. As a matter of fact, I have run countless events in schools/university and a few public charity events. And I also have those marketing and business knowledge that I gained from my BSc Economics which were supposed to make me a professional straightaway. But the truth is that I didn’t have any real experience in the real business. The moment I stepped into this ‘wildness’ on my own, everything started to look intimidating and unfamiliar again. Thankfully, Matthew is the expert on this topic. During the first meeting, he told me that his career started in a similar way by first organising university concerts and gradually expanding his reach. Upon hearing that, I immediately felt encouraged and better connected to him. Matthew was very good at summarising his experience into a language that was easy to follow, and we managed to go through all the fundamentals in event planning in 3 meetings. Of course, the process has been more like a ‘check and fix’ procedure, so I only update those knowledge that was outdated or not applicable for professional use. But, of course, the most important thing was the confidence Matthew gave me through the conversations. This is something that I couldn’t gain elsewhere. There is one practical thing — to write a professional event proposal — that I indeed did not know how to do before meeting Matthew. Before the third meeting, Matthew gave me the task of making an imaginary event proposal, including a budget. I spent an entire day coming up with one, which made me realise the difficulty putting one’s idea into words. However, I would soon know that to make the idea seem plausible and attractive to funding organisations is much more difficult. During the meeting next day, Matthew and I spent much time thinking about the ‘why-question’ on almost every sentence I’ve written. This helped me dig out a better and more appropriate way to describe my true intentions. On the other hand, designing a budget proposal was an easier task, partly because I have always enjoyed playing with all those formulae in Excel. But again, I was quite impressed by the amount of details that I need to consider money-wise. It also made me realise how easily an event plan can become infeasible because of all those costs involved! I’m very looking forward to using all these new skills soon. However, due to the unpredictability of the COVID-19 situation in both China and Europe, the concert I’m planning may have to be postponed from this June to sometime later in the year. Luckily, the lockdown currently in place won’t be able to affect my Skype meetings with Matthew. I really can’t wait to have another conversation with him in many other topics such as the career as a freelance musician and, of course, composing. A screenshot of the proposal, which is way to go from finished!
Jerry Yue Zhuo
Dec 12, 2019
2019 has been a very ‘electronic’ year for me. It started with me attending a concert featuring a piece called Stretches for Gametrak controller and Max MSP electronic software. It was composed and performed by my good friend Poumpak Charuprakorn, one of last year’s CoDI Electronics composers. I was amazed by his use of Max MSP, and it really encouraged me to pick up again the tutorial documents for this software, which had been in my ‘to-read’ folder for-ever (!). Within a month, I was able to understand the potential of Max in helping me realise randomisation of sounds, which has been an important concept in my acoustic compositions. Its ability to react to all kinds of information also opens up new possibilities in ‘dramatising’ the performance with either planned or improvised sounds, actions, and visual materials. In August, I composed my first piece incorporating Max. The piece, named Dream Nostalgic, is scored for solo double bass to improvise and react to the electronic sonic materials. After writing Dream Nostalgic, I started planning another piece, seeking a deeper connection between Max and notated acoustic music. And I was so fortunate to be selected by the CoDI Sound project which allows me to realise this piece. For this project, I am planning to use electronics as the sixth 'player', the sound of which will be triggered all by the keyboard. I have designed more than 10 specific sounds and sonic events. And the challenge of having many digital devices is that one needs to find a way for the computer to understand instructions within the fewest logical steps possible; Otherwise, a super complicated patch will drain the CPU very quickly. The second workshop we had was very useful regarding this challenge, as I was able to test my patches and to see whether there is a way to achieve the same outcome with less complicated design, or simply go for acoustic solutions. Also, it was such a pleasure to work with Professor Andrew Lewis on the day. He is such a knowledgable man and has solved many of my programming issues. After the workshop, I have updated my patch so that different sections can be switched on and off during the performance. In this way, CPU usage will not go over the top even if the design is slightly more complicated. Of course, by the end of the day, I do not want my piece to be overwhelmed by electronic sounds. I tend to think electronic sounds in a spectral way. Similar to other composers doing this project, I am looking for my own method to make a perfect blend between acoustic sounds and the electronic ones. I am also interested in experimenting with the possibility to include vocalisation and some simple actions in the piece, as long as they will not confuse the performers. Having said that, the UPROAR ensemble has been absolutely amazing in realising some of my non-straightforward instructions. For example, I implanted a surprising vocalisation part, which was realised almost perfectly during the first go in the workshop. It may be a good time now to share a piece that has really inspired me for this project. It is Lotófagos written by Beat Furrer, whom I was fortunate enough to meet in Greece this June. As I have become more confident with the electronic side of the new piece, I am now working on the acoustic part to make the ‘conversation’ convincing. I am really looking forward to the concert in February 2020 — and I really hope the weather will be as nice as last time, when I was able to enjoy a great walk around the lovely city of Bangor!