The Band Post speaks to Singaporean composer Lee Jinjun, whose two modular wind band works ‘Festival on Earth’ and ‘Party in Space’ will be the set pieces for the Singapore Youth Festival 2019 Arts Presentations for Concert Bands.
What’s it like to be able to write for 2019’s SYF set piece?
It is a pretty surreal experience, yet at the same time quite a challenge. There were technical limits to adhere to, as well as certain adjudication.
I had to seek a balance between allowing students to showcase some fundamentals as a band member (e.g. different types of passages to allow bands to show their ensemble playing skills) while allowing for essential learning to take place.
Can you briefly talk about the inspirations behind the two pieces?
Both pieces are related to the commemoration of Singapore’s Bicentennial. Festival on Earth celebrates the past 200 years of a culturally diverse society building up our home. To me, Singapore feels more like a festival where people from different cultures come together and make things happen.
What do you expect students to learn from both pieces?
Students will learn that fundamental techniques are essentially built into music all the time, and I tried to build that deliberately into the set pieces. Hence they will also discover that should they practice their fundamentals, music naturally becomes easier to play!
Through this work, they’ll also learn the application of some skills to help play together and in time, such as subdivision and the importance of developing listening skills in the band.
Why have you structured it in the way so that bands are able to decide on the ending of both pieces?
The whole idea of having both pieces being modular is to allow students to think a little bit more about decision making as a team. Each school can craft their own version of the piece, giving them a possibly unique identity during their presentation, so that they can take more ownership in the performance and truly call it their own.
This also serves to reduce competitiveness between schools, and on the flip side, could also increase curiosity among the students to hear what other possibilities and choices other bands have made.
What advice would you give to students participating in SYF this year?
Practice your fundamentals…daily!!!
Scales, arpeggios, lip slurs, interval studies. It might sound like a lot but all you really need is 15-20 minutes every day, diligently with a metronome and a tuner, and you’ll find yourself improving your fundamental playing capability like never before!
And you will find the set piece AND your choice piece much much much easier and more enjoyable to play!