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07 Aug 2022

Composer of the Month for August 2022: OH Jin Yong Derek

Since 2020, the Composers Society of Singapore (CSS) has been releasing a monthly series for our Musings section, Composer of the Month! The CSS Composer of the Month for August 2022 is OH Jin Yong Derek! He is a Singaporean composer currently pursuing his study in composition at the Sibelius Academy in Finland.

OH Jin Yong Derek 

Interviewer: NG Yu Hng 

Could you tell us about yourself and your musical background? How did you get into music composition?

I first started my music journey through school bands and it slowly blossomed over time. While I was in band, I was also concurrently practising 相声 (xiàng shēng) during my formative years. I first got into composition via an intensive crash course of music theory with Dr Zechariah Goh which quickly led to doing folk song arrangement with him. Soon after, composition became part of I do. It was indeed a series of coincidences.

Share with us your experience studying at the Sibelius Academy! Do you have any advice for young composers who may desire to study in Finland?

Having a rather long hiatus, being away from music during and post-NS (National Service), I must say I am really fortunate to be able to study composition in Sibelius Academy. There are simply enormous amounts of resources poured into composition and many exciting projects with external performers to work with. The best part is the flexibility of studies where I can easily take courses from outside of my major.

For anyone that is interested in taking courses in other art forms to inspire their composition, this could be a fantastic place. My advice is to pick up piano if you don’t play it, because it is a requirement for entrance examinations.

How would you describe your music? Who are your chief musical influences?

As I have mentioned earlier about 相声, it was mostly irrelevant to my journey in composition until my time in Finland. Somehow, it took me thousands of kilometres away from home to appreciate the art forms from home. Hence, I do at times incorporate Chinese poetry in my works with mild resemblance to theatre. Moreover, while growing up, I was also positively exposed to the passive eavesdropping of my family’s frequently available Chinese opera and that certainly influenced the music I write.

Tell us about any upcoming works, commissions or projects you are up to! 

I will be having a work premiere in a festival in Iceland this month as well as a short film coming out at the end of the year and two dance projects by spring and summer next year! I will be happy to share links to them when they are up!