June 03, 2015

A New Chapter: Life After University

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Tell us a little about yourself.

My name is Remy Siu and I’m a composer and new media artist. I am currently the Emerging Composer in Residence with the Turning Point Ensemble and Co-Artistic Director of an interdisciplinary arts company called Hong Kong Exile. I was trained in music composition at SFU's School for the Contemporary Arts, but in the last couple of years, I have expanded my practice to involve new media.

How do you feel your education from SFU prepared you or helped you secure a job upon graduating?

I made a last minute decision to study music at SFU (I was originally going to study film at UBC). In retrospect, I couldn’t be happier about it. As a composer, I feel very lucky to have studied at SFU Contemporary Arts. The music program, in particular, is very open to all kinds of students from different backgrounds. This allows for a great diversity. Many of my friends who have graduated from the composition program do not have a traditional background in music. This allows us the distance to recognize and identify certain aspects of music that we’d like to address in our own work.

SFU Contemporary Arts also encourages cross-discipline collaboration and knowledge of other mediums and their history. I was encouraged to learn more about dance, theatre, film, and the visual arts. This allowed me to look at my work with a broader perspective.

What was life like upon graduation?

Scary.

As a graduate of the Contemporary Arts, can you give any advice or tips to students who will soon be entering the arts community?

I believe it is important to study outside your medium and build community with your peers. Build an artistic practice that allows you to explore materials that you are interested in, even if it sometimes falls outside your original training. Maybe there are certain interests that you set aside while training that still deeply speak to you. It could be a great time to go back and re- engage with those interests. Colin Browne, a former film professor, once told me to “include all your obsessions” into your work.

What do you love most about music composition?

My training in music composition and music notation has allowed me to practice crafting form through time. Music’s approach to form on a time scale can be quite sophisticated and is one of the strengths of the medium. This training has been very useful as I begin to explore other mediums, such as new media, and in my collaborations with dance and theatre.

What was a highlight of your time at SFU?

In my fourth and fifth year of study, there really was a great community of students studying at SFU Woodwards. Those were really great times to start building your practice. There was a lot of support. Many of these people I still work with and see on a regular basis.

Career wise, what have you been up to since graduating from SFU?

I have been working as freelance composer, doing website and film documentation gigs on the side for arts organizations and individuals. I’ve also been spending a lot of time teaching myself how to use visual programming environments like VVVV, TouchDesigner, Isadora, and simpler programs for live video like Modul8, Resolume, and Madmapper. Pretty much whatever I can get my hands on that can do interesting things with live video or generative video content.

A lot of my practice also involves dance and theatre collaborations. Hong Kong Exile has been working hard to make tour-able work in both those mediums.

Looking on your website, your background is certainly impressive, and I see that your work has been preformed in many different works. What can we see next from you?

I am working on a couple of pieces for 2015. I am writing a chamber orchestra piece for the Turning Point Ensemble, a piece for the Vancouver Chinese Music Ensemble, and a disklavier piece for the Western Front. With Hong Kong Exile, I’ll be working on creating a full length version of a piece called NINEEIGHT.

For a while now, I’ve been working on creating an audio/visual work for multiple projectors and live electronics for myself to perform. This is still in the early stages, but it is my goal to eventually self-produce this show. So far, most my of work with light and projection has existed within a dance and theatre context. I am excited to make something that allows me to focus on light, projection, and sound; to let those materials lead the way in the creation of the piece.

Where or who do you draw inspiration from?

I draw a lot of inspiration from work outside of music. I am obsessed with video games and video game history and try to read anything I can get my hands on about video games. There are many small independent games that are trying to push the medium right now and it’s exciting. I also read about architecture and digital media. I am a Ryoji Ikeda and Ryoichi Kurokawa fanboy. 

If you want to learn more about Remy, check out his website!