In Tune with Identity

Four Royal College of Music student-musicians from Singapore explore the idea of Singaporean composition in a Western Classical Music tradition. Through Project IdIOM, they ask whether a collective identity exists in concert music written by Singaporeans, while gaining a new appreciation of our composers. We spoke to the team to find out more.

Bertram, Lynette, Zephany and Wilford met as students at the Royal College of Music in London.

Tell us about yourself. How did you meet and come together as a group?

We all met at the Royal College of Music in London - the four of us are close friends and video game buddies, and on top of that we’ve had the opportunity to work with each other on various other music-related projects. Being musicians from Singapore with a common interest in concert music from back home, we thought that The Future of Our Pasts call for projects was a great opportunity to come together and delve a little deeper into the subject.

"It’s also exciting to look back at all the concert music that has been written by Singaporeans over the last few years and see if a collective identity exists."

How have your experiences abroad influenced your views on music back in Singapore, its history and identity?

Being abroad has been an eye-opening (and ear-opening!) experience for us all, it being a valuable opportunity to experience the music we love a bit closer to its place of origin. It also gives us the opportunity to confront this idea of Singaporean composition in a Western Classical tradition: most of the music that we study and perform are firmly rooted in Eurocentric traditions and customs, and while it’s not unusual at all today to have Asian musicians brought up in this tradition, it raises the question of whether composers from other parts of the world have the potential to contribute something meaningful to this canon of music.


What is your project about, and why are you interested in it?

Our project aims to explore the idea of identity in Singaporean music of this tradition. It seems like a good time to take a look at this issue: there have been Singaporean composers writing pieces for a good number of decades now, and there are a growing number of these composers as well! With this time comes a significant amount of stylistic diversity, which gives a certain amount of richness and depth to the topic.

It’s also exciting to look back at all the concert music that has been written by Singaporeans over the last few years and see if a collective identity exists – of course, our goal is not to force an arbitrary answer to this question, but rather to gain a new appreciation of, and celebrate the music of our composers!
 

What can we look forward to from your project come 2019?

We intend to launch an online resource/documentary on the topic which contains a collection of interviews, recordings and other resources on this music. On top of this, we are curating concerts to celebrate this music. Ideally, this project will not only be useful to musicians and classical music aficionados, but will also create an avenue for new listeners to appreciate the multifaceted work of our local composers.

"With this time comes a significant amount of stylistic diversity, which gives a certain amount of richness and depth to the topic."
 
 

All images courtesy of Project IdIOM