Wen Liu

Wen Liu (born 1988) is a Chinese composer and media artist, based in Vienna since 2005. She is recipient of the 2012 ‘Talent Prize’ given by Austria-1/ORF, and since then has work publications by Universal Edition (UE). She is selected for the ‘in Vivo Dance’ together with Alban Richard and Ensemble Intercontemporain at IRCAM in the context of the 2013 ‘ManiFeste’ festival.

She is commissioned by AsianArt ensemble(Berlin),composition premier in Konzerthaus Berlin 2015, by Steirischer Herbst Musikprotokoll 2015 to write a new piece for Ensemble Recherche, by Biennal Taschenopernfestival Salzburg to write a mini opera piece for the premier running in September 2015, by China Radio Symphony Orchestra for Wen Liu portrait concert 2014, by KRKA Wind Orchestra Slovenia for a double concerto with saxophone soloists Simon Sirec and Danijel Lauko,premiered in December 2013, by Ernst Kovacic and his string trio ‘Zebra’ for a piece to be premiered at the festival ‘Musikprotokoll - Steirischer Herbst’ in 2013.

Wen has won many composition prizes, such as first prize in the 2012 International Composition Competition ‘Francisco Escudero’ – with work publication by Premera Edicion Spain, 2010 Theodor-Körner Fonds, under the Patronage of the Austrian President, 2009 Josef Trattner Composition Competition, 2012 Fidelio Creation Competition.

Wen’s works have been featured at international festivals, such as Wien Modern 2008, Expo Shanghai 2010, International Computer Music Conference 2012, Stockholm Fringe Fest (Stoff) 2012, Dimanche Rouge Paris 2012, Herne Hill Music Festival London 2012, Hörfest - Austrian Festival for Contemporary Art 2010, Music-Festival Grafenegg 2009, with percussion soloist David Cossion, under the conduction of Tan Dun, Jeunesse Austria 2009 ‘Podium young artists’, Jakopičeva dvorana Slovenia 2011, Chamber music Days Germany 2008. She has been invited to attend the contemporary dance/music Festival 'Crossings' in Johannesburg (South Africa) 2010. And as ‘Composer in Residence’ of Atlantic Music Festival 2012 in US, also to give a lecture about Contemporary Art at Universitas Pelita Harapan in Jakarta(Indonesian) August 2010.

Wen’s works have been heard at concert venues around the world, including most major Viennese halls (Konzerthaus, Musikverein, etc), as well as the US, Germany, UK, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Slovenia and China. Her compositions have been broadcasted by radio stations in Austria (Ö1) and South Africa, Finland.

As a media artist, Wen is interested in video, dance, electronics, and other forms of multidisciplinary projects. Her recent prize-winning project ‘Monster’ together with audio-visual artist Marian Weger is a collaboration with dancer, electronics and video projection, which has been performed in Vienna, Paris and Slovenia. In 2013 in conjunction with Phace Ensemble the project will be expanded to a full theatre production. She was also the invited composer for a 2012 Dance Production ‘Risk to fail’, which took place at Theater Reutlingen Die Tonne, Germany. In 2011 she contributed music for a music theatre production ‘Alice Schalek – Die letzten Tage der Menschheit" in Graz, Austria. She is a member of electronic computer music ensemble ICE, which has been active in Austria.

Wen Liu graduated Master of Composition with highest honours at Conservatory Vienna. She is preparing for her composition PhD study in USA 2015.

Mini-interview with Wen Liu

Where are you from? Does that have any influence on your music? If so, how?

China. As a Chinese person, I have always viewed Chinese philosophy as profound and fascinating. The further I go with my music, the stronger I am inspired by my own culture and philosophy. As a composer, I wanted to hear my music reach higher and higher. I hope to one day make my own mark in the world with my music. I draw the inspiration and guidance from my connections with my cultural background, following in the footsteps of the profound Chinese philosophies, which have always inspired my works. Once any strong position is secured, solidifying with the whole becomes important. It is through this relationship that I am able to see the total progress as well as the significance of my work.

When did you start composing and why?

I had my first piano lesson when i was 6. Then with the age of 17, I carried my music dream to Vienna where I started my concert piano studies at Vienna Conservatory.As my comprehension of music grew and developed, I came to realize that my competency for music was developing in other areas; far beyond just that of a performer. I took the opportunity to prove to myself that I was capable of reaching deeper into music. In order to prove this to myself, I started my parallel study in composition. During my bachelor and master studies at Conservatory Vienna University and University for Music and Performing Art Graz in Austria, the area of work in which I felt I excelled in was composition. I also became certain that composition was the area of music in which I was the most enthusiastic.

What, if any, was the most inspirational experience you have had as a composer? (It could be a lesson, a piece, a concert, a sound, a walk, a bus trip, an image, etc.)

I simply like to lock myself in the museums to spend time for myself, while working on a piece. I can't say if there should be one specific inspirational experience I ever had. Briefly it's always depending on each piece.

What is most important to you when writing a piece?

I have always been on the path of to seek and identify my personal music. I regard composition as an adventure for me, and I enjoyed searching deep inside of myself. My work has always been a process in which there is no end. Finishing a piece always leaves me with inspiration for the next one. So the most important for me to write a piece, by knowing what I should improve in this new piece.

What's the title of your new work?

Off the Track

Describe in a few sentences what your new work is about.

The starting point of the composition Off the Track, is that three instruments (oboe, piano and percussion) affect to each other mutually. The three sounds of the instruments react to each other, just like the Chinese Tai Chi. A Chinese composer and musicologist, Zhao Xiaosheng has written a book about the Taiji system for composition, which I have recently begun to study. His theory is based on a very complicated symmetrical scale. His theory is based on a very complicated symmetrical scale. The notes of this Taiji scale form two six-tone rows with characteristic pentatonic intervals, which are exact mirror images of each other. From these rows, tone-groups are selected according to the hexagrams of the ancient Book Yijing, which restricts the number of notes that can be used at any given time. His research opened a new dimension of YiJing, BaGua and Chinese TaiJi for me. They are philosophical ideas that inspire me and so have an impact on my piece. The relationship of Chinese philosophy and the characters of the three instruments are reconsidered musically. The piece is a new experiments for me to explore the interrelation and the relationship of sounds to each other. and the intentionally to break the sounds' connection again, so as to create itself a new form.


Wen Liu's Off the Track along with 8 other works by young composers from around the globe will be premiered by the Trio SurPlus at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory's Orchestra Hall on 12 July 2015 at 7:30pm.

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About the DRK 2015 concert

About the DRK 2015 composers

Getting to Yong Siew Toh Conseratory of Music (YSTCM)