Student virtuoso gives insight into his passions

After a long trek through what I would like to call unfamiliar territory, the Conservatory, the talented Ruo Huang and I reached an empty practice room. We made ourselves comfortable and prepared for the interview of the millennium. Yes, the Interview of the Millennium. Read this carefully, you may actually learn something for once: a little bit about music, life, art, 5 billion year old lizards, and the infamous 4/4 time.
Daniel G.Romano: What do you do at Oberlin?
Ruo Huang: I'm a senior comosition major in the conservatory, and so... [pause]
DGR: Is that it? How do you feel about this being your last year at Oberlin?
Huang: I feel that I have so many things to do, but do not have time.
DGR: Are you excited?
Huang: Mostly I feel that I will miss this place, because it is something very special. I am very excited about going further with my education.
Huang: [he laughs]
DGR: How did you get to Oberlin?
Huang: Basically I won an award in 1995, the Oberlin competition for high school students. I won the first prize and I came to Obelrin for the premiere of my piece which was being performed by the Contemporary Music Ensemble. I spoke with several professors and got to see Oberlin and I really liked it, so I decided to stay here for my undergraduate education.
DGR: How do you feel about being at Oberlin?
DGR: Could you describe your passion for music?
Huang: Passion for music?
DGR: Can you rate how passionate you are about your music?
Huang: I think music is similar to life, so music can describe many things, happiness, sadness, many things. A composer is someone who experiences life and then transforms his experiences into the language of music to share with other people. So music can be passionate.
DGR: Where do you feel that you create your best work? Is there a place you go, either here at Oberlin or otherwise?
Huang: I like to travel to different places. Each place gives me different life experiences, which I think is very important. The sources for the music is from the world. The farther you can go the more places you can reach, the more different your music can be.
DGR: How did you get into music? Was there a first instrument?
Huang: I studied piano when I was very young. My father is a composer, so he influenced me very much. I listened to his music and his songs. From that I loved to write songs, all kinds of songs. I wrote more and more, and I went to the pre-college program Shanghai conservatory when I was twelve. Then I came here.
DGR: So you where young when you decided that you wanted to be a composer?
Huang: I like composing music, I don't know what is means to be a composer. I just want to write music.
DGR: And you decided this when you were very young?
Huang: Yes, basically I was just doing what I liked to do. The more I wrote the deeper it felt, so I became more serious.
DGR: Besides your father, who were your influences in the classical genre?
Huang: My first teacher. Deng Erbo was my teacher for six years. He taught me not only music but also many things. He taught me how to get into life, how to make a life as a musician. Not just making a living, but making a life; it's very important. Another influence has ben my current professor Randolph Coleman.
DGR: Who are your influences outside the classical genre? Pop music, or even outside of music?
Huang: It's hard to say, I don't have anyone in the visual arts that influenced me a lot, but I like to read many different books. I like to go to museums to see different types of art. I think that is part of a real life and that is great to educate yourself.
DGR: Do you have a favorite time signature?
Huang: Favorite time signature? My favorite time signature is 4/4.
DGR: 4/4.
Huang: 4/4?
DGR: Do you or have you ever wanted to be a rock star?
Huang: I would love to be a rock, but not a star.
DGR: What are your future ambitions? Do you want to teach music?
Huang: I don't really know yet. I want to be a freelance composer. I just want to wite music as much as possible, but I also think it is very good to educate people about music. So I want to be a composer and a teacher.
DGR: And for my final question: If you were a dinosaur what kind of dinosaur would you be?
Huang: I don't know any kinds of dinosaurs, but I'd like to be the kind that flies, because I can't. [Pause] About the time signature thingŠI like any time signature which can make music timeless.
DGR: Well one more question. Do you have anything exciting coming up in the near future that you would like to share with us?
Huang: I recently released a CD recording of nine original works written from 1991-1999. The CD, titled Music of Ruo Huang which features Oberlin student performers, will be available at the Co-op Bookstore. I will have a piece performed by the University of Michigan contemporary Directions Ensemble at Ann Arbor this weekend for the Mid-west Composers' Symposium. And next April, I will have two pieces presented at the 4th Chinese Composers' Conference at Boston. I am also writing a piece for Claire Chase's commission project and it will be premiered next April as well.

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Copyright © 1999, The Oberlin Review.
Volume 128, Number 7, October 29, 1999

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