Since 2020, the Composers Society of Singapore (CSS) has been releasing a monthly series for our Musings section, Composer of the Month! The Composer of the Month for Dec 2023 is Rebecca TAN. She is a passionate composer in Singapore and holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Music (Composition) from the esteemed Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA).
Interviewer: Ng Yu Hng
What led you to pursue composition as a craft?
I was intrigued by the diversity of music since I was young, and when I discovered that it was something that I could do in Singapore I started opting for many composition-related opportunities in my academic life. Pushing my wagon through this path consistently led to my pursuit of Music Studies full time in Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) in 2018. I'm now a fresh graduate as of end-2023.
Your music engages with both Western and Chinese musical traditions, please share how these two rich musical traditions intersect in your musical life!
Because I grew up learning both concurrently, they exist as involuntary tools in my brain. I would say learning two different modes of understanding has allowed me a wider vocabulary since a younger age and a quicker switch of perspective when going into a new musical venture. It has allowed me to enjoy music with different lens and informs my practice of music when I do actually interact as a performer. Knowing that I can deep dive into two different musical traditions has also given me the intrigue to find more and learn about others that are out there!
According to your website biography, you also enjoy pursuing multidisciplinary collaborations, do tell us more?
I have had the pleasure and honour of being involved in multidisciplinary collaborations such as 'The Rattle King', 'If Now', 'Kotak Foto' as a Music Editor/Assistant. Being in that position allowed me to learn a lot from local Composer Phang Kok Jun while also contributing my skills and immersing in the different artistic landscapes we have in Singapore. I had a bitesize version of that in my first year in NAFA when I created music for a Dance student's video. All these experiences that involved other disciplines really opened my eyes to how music can exist both independently as well as infused into a production. Something about this infusion really stirs up an innate excitement within me that can totally compete with my desire to write music purely for music's sake. The connections formed within the production itself is a spectacle to witness (and sometimes experience myself) and it warms my heart to be able to contribute to such productions.
As a teacher at Music Academics, could you tell us a bit more about how you relate teaching to composition?
By understanding the pieces I have to teach using knowledge of its traditions, and also going through the physical motions of practicing the piece and therefore passing these things down to my student, I retain a lot of empathy towards both the work and the performer. These two things are also obtained by conversations with peers and other fellow teachers, and they change my mindset and direction when I compose. Composition is my exploration of the knowledge I teach (or don't teach), and the things I teach stay with me much longer than the things I don't teach.
Tell us about any current or upcoming projects you are engaged in! (share links if you want!)
I actually just finished up a triple production as part of the NYT x NAFA Theatre Sound Design Team! I am currently involved in two other theatre productions lined up for the first quarter of 2024, but I do not have links for those yet as they're in their preliminary stages.
Another project I'm involved in is a game called 'SEDAP!', designed by local Artists and programmers Jay Wong, Nadia Toi and Wong Jing Ting. I'm producing the music and sound effects for it, you can find all their details at their instagram page (@playsedapgame) where you can also find this linktree: https://linktr.ee/playsedap?fbclid=PAAab0Ylj3P-zu-Dw2TCKU0IQM2m99z1eHopzcR60USzZfmZJdLeu-lXn1fas_aem_ATDWaYHhOLxFvHItTTCgsh9gIAIPgwPmuMjIF3-d0d8JrVsvnFMgWOkbOtMIyj4mVLQ
I have also accepted some performances for Chinese New Year next year, so I'm excited for those too!