Me: "Hi, I'm Ji Heng, I'm doing my Masters in Composition right now at RCM."
New acquaintance: "Oh, composition! What kind of music do you write?"
Not sure about other composers, but I've always found it especially tricky to describe the 'kind of music' I write. On one hand I don't want to start blabbing away about the compositional concepts I'm interested in, but on the other hand I also hope to give my new acquaintance an accurate yet understandable description of my music. Consequently, I find myself at best vaguely tongue-tied, at worst just dismissing my work (on which I do spend considerable time and effort) as 'music without key signatures', 'bleep-blob-bleep music', or even 'music you wouldn't listen to' (which, I've realised, sounds more condescending than self-effacing).
Two weeks ago, while reflecting on this circumstance, it struck me that I was facing this problem precisely because I was trying to describe my music. Indeed, in the social context of a conversation, this would be the 'right' thing to do as it provides information for the new acquaintance to carry on the chit-chat meaningfully. However, I realised that offering an audio CD of my pieces would be a helpful way of giving the acquaintance a way of experiencing my music in his or her leisure and form impressions of it (that is, if the acquaintance is genuinely interested), without being influenced too much by my descriptions of it. This would in turn generate further conversation topics if we were to cross paths again subsequently, allowing the friendship to progress beyond the superficial. It also takes the pressure off me, from having to manage the acquaintance's expectations of my music, if it were to be based solely upon my self-description. Instead, I am freed with the emotional capacity to advance the conversation away from me, myself, and my music, towards finding out about the acquaintance's work and hobbies. Put colloquially: "You interested in my music? Nah, here's a CD for you, go listen on your own, and tell me what you think. Now let's talk about your hobbies."
So then, I've homemade a CD album, some recent stuff, comprising recordings of five recent pieces I've written. The tracks presently included are repose I, pe_ple_sc_ns, EXCITATIONS, The Ocean Breathes, and deca-, although they can be regularly updated as new pieces are being performed and recorded. I also realised that the most sincere way of expressing myself through the medium of a CD album is to make my own CD label sticker and sleeve, and completely handwrite all my sleeve notes—this should increase the value of this keepsake, and hopefully also make the acquaintance less inclined to dump the disc HAHA. Amidst all these, I am perfectly aware that laptop computers have long been manufactured without internal CD drives, in the interest of reducing their sizes and weight. After all, all the tracks I have put on the CD are also available on this website, and on my SoundCloud. I am nonetheless doing this partly for sentimental value, partly for tactility (something of my music which I can hand to an acquaintance), and partly for acquaintances who might be sufficiently interested in my pieces yet are not as tech-savvy, and would thus appreciate being able to experience them on their CD players. In a sense, the CD album serves as a more elaborate business card which embodies the medium of transmission adopted by music since the late twentieth-century.
If it vaguely interests you to get hold of a copy of some recent stuff, drop me a quick email, or leave a comment below so I can get in touch. While I do not intend to make a profit from this, I would appreciate being covered for any postage costs incurred, as well as the base cost of £2 per disc.
Update (as of Dec 2021): I am not producing this CD album presently, but feel free to browse around this online portfolio, which features my most recent endeavours.