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Guest of the Month August 2013: Liz Liew

Liz Chi Yen Liew is a musician and composer whose music blends rhythms and melodies inspired by her Chinese roots on Chinese instruments with electric violins and electronics. As one half of violin duo Chi2 she performed and co-wrote Monkey King – A Modern Beijing Opera a brand new spin on the classic Chinese tale which they toured in the UK in 2008-9. Other commissions include co-writing the soundtrack to Time is Like Water Flowing a poetic evocation of the four seasons collaborating with French aerial acrobatic group Les Passagers and Chinese visual artists for Greenwich and Docklands International Festival with performances in London’s O2 Arena. As one of PRS for Music Foundation’s selected composers for New Music 20×12 (part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad) her piece XX/XY premiered to 12,000 people at Trafalgar Square in January 2012, was featured on BBC2’s Review Show and broadcast on BBC Radio 3.

As a session musician she has toured/recorded/performed with Moby, Lamb, Gnarls Barkley, Asian Dub Foundation, Goldfrapp, Jerry Dammers Spatial AKA Orchestra amongst others.

Liz was recently funded through our Women Make Music programme for the live music and dance piece ‘Snapshots’. She told us:

I wanted to musically explore key moments in my life including the sudden passing of my father, the birth of my first child and childhood memories. I explore my British Chinese cultural heritage in my music so my challenge this time was how to blend the Western soundscapes of the piano and violin with the tuning and tonality of traditional Chinese instruments xiao (flute) and guzheng (zither). Coupled with these I wanted to introduce some electronics into the mix to give it a modern twist. My aim is to write an immersive evocative soundtrack that moves audiences and takes them on their own reflective journeys. So far we’ve performed at The Place (Resolution!) and at Bedford Fringe and we’re planning a UK tour in March 2014.

What music has inspired Liz recently, that she would tip as one-to-watch?

I studied Suite Bergamasque (which of course includes the famous Clair de Lune) for my Guildhall School of Music piano performance diploma and since then I’ve fallen in love with all things Debussy. His pianist style inspired ‘Snapshots’, coupled with the South-East Asian influence in his music.

I first met Svein and Torbjørn back in 2002 when I was on tour with Moby where they were the opening act. Every night myself and the string section did a little backstage warm-up dance to their tunes and it got us in the mood for our show. Melody A.M. is one of my all time favourite classic albums. Whenever I hear ‘Eple’ I have to get up and dance! I last saw them play at the Royal Festival Hall 2 days before my first baby was due. I think all my jigging brought on the labour!

Tan Dun
He’s written scores for movies including ‘House of the Flying Daggers’ and ‘Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon’ and he’s an inspiration because he effortlessly weaves Eastern and western traditions in his music.

She’s a real innovator, she constantly re-invents herself and she’s completely off-the-wall!

I like to keep an eye out for new talent and I would tip Benedict as an up-and-coming artist. His amazing voice and talent belies his teenage years. I’ve just heard some tracks he’s co-written with Norwegian producer Øyvind Aamli (aka OY) and they’re spine-tingling.