The Night When You See Again
Commissioned by the Apollo Chamber Players
September 10th 2022
Daryl Robinson, Organ
The Apollo Chamber Players:
Matthew J. Detrick, Founder, Artistic & Executive Director, violinist Anabel Ramirez Detrick, violin Matthew Dudzik, cello
Guest artist: Tonya Burton, viola
I still remember the first time my 5-year-old self laid eyes on a “foreigner” during a Shanghai-style heat wave. I was in a situation where the adults were talking, and I was to play with this boy from Moscow. He didn’t have brown eyes and black hair. I couldn’t understand a word he was saying. But we became inseparable within the hour because I could play Russian folk songs on the piano and he had a lot of them coming out of his weird looking head. His melodies are both familiar and new. His musical flavor was familiar. His face new.
It wasn’t long until I became a foreigner in America. The same story played out. My eyes were too busy to catch up to the ears. I looked around and few people looked like me. My eyes produced words such as “We are different people. Here’s how we are different.” I wrote music that matched my face. I tugged away my ears in the closet and showcased musical flavors from Chinese places even I had never been to. I needed to go through that. Because it had to begin with my eyes. I didn’t question it until I started to feel the divisive effect of this approach. I was losing audiences, particularly the ones who cared about me as a human being. In retrospect, I could only express differences because I felt like an outsider. I was yet to discover how we were the same. And our shared value does not take away from how we are different. Once I felt the capacity of my audiences to hear the music beyond the notes, I too, began to hear music beyond the notes. When I was ready to know the people behind their facade, I trusted that my audiences were also ready to know the me beyond the color of my face, and that I’m a woman. I’d like to think, with each piece I create, I’m getting better at shifting out of my comfort zone, into a space that is me with them. It’s the difference in me being a Chinese woman and me being human.
I believe we are all here tonight because some parts of us care deeply about these musicians on stage and by extension, their love and dedication to classical music. That’s being a human. For me, the last 23 years of living and working in the United States meant that I became part of a collective consciousness that could not have formed if the world is still separated by geography and language. To be a living composer in 21st century is like being the united nation of all the music from all over the world all the time. It’s invisible but can be heard by us all.
This is music from my home. My real home. I invite you in and I’ve made a big fuss to show you my proudest creative labor. When the eyes are lost in the dark at night, can we connect better?