Within EarShot Part 2: Sam Wu & "Wind Map"

Music

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY MAR 8, 2019

Four select composers come to Sarasota this month for a musical milestone, as the EarShot initiative, dedicated to identifying and promoting promising musical talent, teams up with the Sarasota Orchestra. Chosen from 127 applicants, Krists Auznieks, Nicky Sohn, Sam Wu and Kitty Xiao will spend a week in workshop with the musicians of Sarasota Orchestra, as well as three visiting mentor composers and LA-based conductor Christopher Rountree, all leading to a concert on March 16, where the young composers will hear their music performed by a full orchestra for the first time. In this four-part series, SRQ meets the minds behind the music.

A Chinese composer currently attending The Juilliard School, Sam Wu counts Mongolian traditional music, particularly that of the moorin khuur (horse-head fiddle), among his chief inspirations, as well as film and video game scores. His composition is entitled Wind Map.

What was the inspiration for your composition? Wu: Wind Map is inspired by global wind patterns. Specifically, I was fascinated by this rendition of an Earth wind map—large amounts of weather data are fed into a supercomputer, which then generates Van Gogh-esque swirls, swoops and streams.

What was your biggest challenge in this piece? Hearing the piece in my head. While I use the piano as a composition tool, it cannot magically re-create an entire orchestra’s colors. Thus, I worked hard on my “internal hearing” of all the instruments I’m working with.

Do you have a favorite instrument to write for? Probably the cello, because of its inherent voice-like quality.

What does it mean for you, to take part in the EarShot initiative? My mentor Tan Dun tells me that composers only truly “practice” when they hear their music played live. I take this advice to heart, and cherish any chance that I can hear my own music being performed. Orchestral opportunities for young composers, particularly with such an esteemed ensemble, are rare.

Where do you hope to take your art in the future?
 My dream concert would be some sort of collaboration with the Silk Road Project. At Harvard, I took an ethnomusicology class with them as visiting faculty—definitely a highlight of my college experience.

Pictured: Sam Wu.

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