Kenny Kwan is currently a Masters student at York University studying composition, with a focus on the concept of silence. He completed his undergraduate degree at Wilfrid Laurier university in 2016, specializing in contemporary composition-improvisation on the piano.
With an interest in improvisation and traditional Chinese instruments, Kenny was a finalist in NUMUS’s Student Curator Contest proposing an East-West improvisational concert where musicians from both cultures can collaborate and explore new possibilities. He hopes to develop an environment in Canada that would nurture these two scenes and potentially open them into a wider range of audiences in the future. However, Kenny is currently focused on exploring how the concept of silence fluctuates in relation to the environment in which the listener is expecting to perceive sound. Other than music, Kenny enjoys reading, helping others, and daydreaming. 🙂
The name 1-2-3 was inspired by the opening motif of this piece. I wrote 1-2-3 thinking about what people associate with Chinese music. Two associations that instantly came up were the pentatonic scale and a preference towards melodies. I decided to intentionally oppose these two associations as the basis, using an altered scale (1-b2-b3-#4-5-b6-#7, D=1) focusing on rhythm. I hope this intentional opposition will be refreshing for those who are acquainted to listening to these instruments and open ideas for exploration into what can be considered “Chinese music”.
The piece is in ABA form. The A section builds itself upon several ostinati, or repeated rhythms before introducing an energetic rhythmic melody. It quickly transitions into the B section, a mini palindrome that interweaves the timbre of instruments while the yangqin accents their changes, creating a disjunct but lyrical melody. It settles quietly before returning to A section, slightly altered with a small surprise before ending. 1-2-3 has the idea of “1-2-3” imbedded throughout the piece in various ways and forms, such as in its melody, rhythm, or texture. Let’s see if you can spot them all?