Is It Cold Were You Are?

Is It Cold Where You Are? for guzheng and fixed media is dedicated to my birth mother.

I am Asian American, and I was adopted at birth in 1998. I had pictures and knew the romanized name of my biological mother, but I was too young to remember what she was like. Twenty years later, after watching the movie Crazy Rich Asians, which focuses on how it feels to be Asian American, I was inspired to try and find her. After searching around on Facebook, I came across a particular profile, and I just knew it was her. I was able to talk to her for the first time via text message, which was a meaningful experience.

As a result, I became more interested in connecting with my Asian heritage and decided to start teaching myself the basics of guzheng, which is a traditional Chinese instrument of the zither family. Not having access to a teacher, I tried to learn what I could from YouTube tutorials.

I decided to write this piece to challenge myself to improve my playing. I also wanted to reflect upon how I felt when I was able to have a conversation with my birth mother. The piece incorporates the Chinese folk song “Kangding Love Song,” which is native to the Sichuan province of China, where my birth mother is originally from.

Furthermore, the work focuses on time - how it seems fast but can also pass by slowly. One of the sections features a sample of the guzheng but in reverse, which reminds me of how two people’s lives are suddenly intertwined, the past and present coming together. The question “Is it cold where you are?” is a simple phrase that I feel many people use as a way to reconnect and start a conversation as if they had never lost touch.

A MIDI pedal triggers a sequence of samples in real-time.