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Yiran Zhao

What makes artistic collaboration work?

For me personally, there’s a distinction between one’s aesthetic and one’s interests. The former can be understood as a general set of beliefs and values regarding one’s creative work. This need not be within the same area of the arts: My collaborator Kai Chun Chuang is a dancer, but his aesthetic view about physical performance encompass a similar set of values as my own in my field. By contrast, interests are the specific ways in which these aesthetic views are put into my work in practice. In my case, I’m interested specifically in using visual elements in my compositions, as a musical medium. So for me, having similar aesthetic positions is very important, but the interests I personally have need not have anything in common with those of my collaborators, and this, in fact, makes for the most exciting exchange I’ve had with other artists.

Would you write for an ensemble that consists only of men / women / queer people? Why (not)?

First of all, I don’t have any problems about working with different genders (aside perhaps from a political or cultural interest in seeing more underrepresented genders in new music). I do, however, have pieces written for specific genders of performer. I am presently precomposing an opera in which the roles each have different identities along the gender spectrum (male, female, trans, intersex, undetermined, etc.), and I also have written pieces previously for female performers (voice). Obviously, voice is a special case in which the voice type is traditionally tied to a specific gender, but there are even now transgender singers that have voice types outside of the conventional ones. As for sexual orientation, I’m likewise very interested in working with people from different orientations (and as the arts have a generally higher expression of non-heterosexual orientations anyway, I already work with many performers and friends from the gay community).

How important is the context, in which your work is performed, to you? 

„Context“ is far too broad a term; I have no idea how to respond. I will say, however, that along with the performers and the other usual contextual factors in a performance, the physical space and the performance situation are very important factors for me, both when composing and when organizing the performance.


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