Describing her music as "a colorful texture...like a rivulet, flowing eternally naturally", composer Anqi Liu's electroacoustic avant-garde soundscapes are immersive and strangely comforting experiences. Originally from Inner Mongolia and currently making her home in Kansas City, Liu's music is a fusion of Chinese and the West, of folk tradition and abstract experimentation. The result is a deeply beautiful and adventurous listening experience. In this interview, Anqi describes her creative process, how her parents encouraged her, and how her studies at UMKC have helped shape her work.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work?
I am Anqi Liu, a native Chinese composer. I was born in Inner Mongolia, the autonomous region in the north of China, populated by ethnic minorities. After I finished my master degree at Rutgers University, I held and performed some projects with my friends in NYC as a freelance musician. I am now working with Dr. Zhou Long, Dr. Chen Yi at UMKC Conservatory as a doctor candidate. At UMKC, I am also working with Dr. Paul Rudy on electroacoustic music. I began piano training at age four but arrived late to composition, mostly teaching myself to compose at age eighteen, with an even later start in formal compositional studies at the age of twenty- three. I got bachelor's degree of law and music performance at Xiamen University. Without formal compositional training, my music degree included extensive travels throughout the Chinese hinterlands to study the folk music of Chinese minority groups. During my time in Rutgers University, close to Manhattan, I focused on avant-garde acoustic experiments and the fusing Chinese and Western classical musical sensibilities into a personal compositional style. As the first composer from the area to pursue a graduate degree in the U.S., I am committed to serving as an ambassador for my culture, and for empowering minorities through my work.
Describe your music for new listeners
My compositions come from a wide variety range of inspirations through my everyday life and my dreams. Instead of thinking too much on compositional techniques and forms, I believe the real creations must come from the innermost impulse of the creator. My hometown is famous for its beautiful folk music and its unique singing type. At the beginning, I didn’t realize this birthmark in my music, however, through time goes by, I start to see those ancient voice lines from my birthplace were embedded pervasively and silently in my piece. With a colorful texture, it’s like a rivulet, flowing eternally naturally.
How long have you been a composer? Who were your earliest influences?
I taught myself composing when I was eighteen but I see myself as a real composer since I came to the U.S. at 2013. The earliest influence is my parents. It was really tough if someone wants to be a creative artist in my hometown. A barrier to learning was the lack of educational resources in my hometown, which was isolated from modern civilization even though it has developed much better in recent years. People even have no idea about what is a composer and it was actually the same with my parents. But after I explained what I was going to do, they said: go for what you really want to be. They are the wisest parents in the world. If without them, I couldn’t start composing at all. It’s just no way
What brought you to study composition at UMKC’s Conservatory? How has your work grown since you started the program?
I went a concert of Dr. Zhou Long and Dr. Chen Yi on Nov. 21st, 2014, at Carnegie. So specific, yes….I wrote the diary at the day: "I want to be their student one day." That was an unforgettable night that I was so impressed and inspired by their music. Since I came to UMKC Conservatory, Dr. Chen Yi has helped me to evoke my consciousness of timbrel structure in orchestral pieces and encouraged me on exploring my inner voice deeply. With my electronic music teacher, Dr. Paul Rudy, I started to explore the nuances and subtleties in the world of sound. I learned and grew a lot when I came to here. All significantly contribute to my life as a composer that I appreciate a lot.
What inspires you the most about the Kansas City classical music community?
Classical musicians here are so supportive to new music with all the passions. They are very eager to play music and are so humble to learn things from composers. As a composer, I think I could do some entire experimental staff here with those musicians.
Anqi Liu's recommendations from the Johnson Country Library catalog:
Resurrection by Leo Tolstoy
The Moon and Sixpence by W. Somerset Maugham
The Rest is Noise by Alex Ross
Frida, A Novel by Barbara Louise Mujica
The Thorn Birds by Colleen McCullough
The John Lennon Letters by John Lennon
The Ligeti Project by György Ligeti
Water by Hélène Grimaud
Ancestors call by Huun-Huur-Tu