I grew up loving Classical music, from Mozart to Tchaikovsky to Mahler. The more majestic a piece, the better! Then in 5th grade, I discovered pop music and that captured another part of my musical attention. To this day, these are my preferences of music to listen to for leisure. I am a self-professed pop hook fan – don’t judge me!
When I first started my job as a Music Designer, my first assignment was to put together a program from a traditional Chinese music catalog. Although this is my ethnic background, it proved to be a challenge – as I wasn’t as familiar with it as classical and pop. Of course, I had been exposed to some traditional Chinese music growing up – around my grandparents, watching Chinese-language television – but this was another animal altogether. In this project, I had the chance to dig deeper and understand what instruments make up traditional Chinese music – erhu, pipa, guqin, guzheng, and many more. Eventually, I tuned my ear to understand how to distinguish the differences between the instruments and learned much more than I ever needed to know about traditional Chinese music.
Through the experience of this first major project and many projects since, I came to the realization that a large part of Music Design is the research that goes into understanding all facets and aspects of music. From the construction of individual songs to the background information on a writer/composer of a song, any piece of knowledge gathered about the music ends up being helpful with creating the sonic story told by a music program.
I have also learned that you cannot count any song out when designing a program. Just because I don’t enjoy listening to a song in my leisure time, doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be perfect for a particular store setting or environment.
The key to this job is openness to all types of music. Sometimes it may be uncomfortable to sit through some music – but I look at it as an opportunity to understand more about the music landscape and possibly have the chance connect with the audience of that type of music.
– Submitted by Janica Chang, Music Design