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Interview with Shirley Ly, a Rising Star in Classical Music – ‘The Representation of Female Composers Needs to Be Improved’



Shirley Ly is a rising star in classical music. Her music has been played around a million times in over 100 countries around the world, which is rather rare for a modern-day female composer. When listening to her music, we feel emotions spanning a very wide spectrum – her pieces are deep and thought-provoking featuring heart-warming melodies and harmonies. We recently discovered her music when we attended her wonderful performance at the Westminster Music Library on International Women’s Day this year, where we also heard other works by female composers, Louise Farrenc and Clara Schumann. We caught up with Shirley to find out more.

To listen to Shirley’s music, please click here.

It would be interesting to find out how and when you got into composing classical music.

Creating classical music developed into a passion of mine since I was a teen. I remember listening to the soundtracks in one of my favourite films, Amélie and being immediately transported to the enchanting, cobbled streets of Paris. I remember feeling so stunned when listening to Chopin’s Ballade No. 1 in G minor in the very heartfelt movie scene in the Pianist, when the German army officer Hosenfeld discovers Polish pianist Szpilmanthe in his hiding place. I love the purity and unity of Bach’s violin sonatas, the classical symmetry in Mozart’s concertos, the heart-wrenching phrases in Ennio Morricone’s scores. Classical music makes me feel a certain way that no other genre of music does… immeasurable amounts of emotion. Being able to reflect on my own emotions through creating music in this genre brings me great fulfilment – this is how I got into composing classical music!

What are your key inspirations? Would you say that they’re mostly from nature?

Nature is a huge inspiration of mine. My latest album, Paradise is inspired by my experiences of being in the ocean. I feel so lucky to have dived in some of the most beautiful places in the world, such as the Red Sea and Barbados, where I was able to come face to face with extraordinary, colourful creatures and stunning scenery. When I compose, I think back to those experiences and just try to create music which describes my visions and feelings in those moments. Other pieces I have composed inspired by nature include those in my albums, Blossom and Impetus. Vagabond’s Tale is a piece inspired by when I was walking through the Cotswolds (beautiful English countryside) in England. Swallows’ Silhouette is a piece inspired by swallows travelling through different weather to find their nests. Amber Leaves is a piece inspired by Autumn’s rich flora and fauna.

Other inspirations stem from relationships i.e., being heartbroken, experiencing unconditional love from family, my time spent with my beloved grandfather, as well as travel and dreams.

We really enjoyed your performance on International Women’s Day and find you very inspiring as we don’t often come across many female composers. What do you feel about the representation of female composers in the modern world?

Thank you. I feel that the representation of female composers in today’s world needs to be improved. I go to many classical music concerts, and still find that it is rare to hear any works by female composers, whether concerts are large-scale i.e., the BBC Proms, or not. Not only in relation to concerts, but also in relation to media broadcasts i.e., TV and radio. If I do want to hear works by female composers, I would need to actively search for performances as they remain a niche. I hope that more female composers’ works will be performed in the future, but this can only happen if female composers are given good opportunities to.

From my own personal experience when asking for opportunities to perform my own classical music at various venues which typically do showcase classical music, I frequently get rejection without any solid reasons. A common response is that me being a composer and playing my own compositions, would not be in line with the concert requirements. Another common response is that my compositions do not fit into the type of classical music which would usually be played i.e., it’s not from the classical or romantic era. Whenever I get these responses, I just feel that the world of classical music is still a very exclusive and cordoned off world. It really shouldn’t be like this. Luckily, the internet and social media improves accessibility, and allows me to communicate with audiences without such barriers.  

Why do you feel that it is important for female composers to have representation?

I think that it is critical for female composers to be represented simply because there are not many of us out there. By not representing us, our voices become unheard. Music is a form of expression of our identities. I would say that my gender as a female and my heritage, where my parents are from China and Vietnam, have influenced my music – people have commented that some of my melodies sound more feminine, and Eastern for example compared to other composers.

In general, I think people’s understanding of music will be more enriched and enlarged if people listened to works composed by female composers too. Female composers have had to endure many challenges particularly from society – for example, many careers in composition and professional musicianship were generally closed to women through much of European history. As I have mentioned previously, I still get a lot of push back from music venues when I ask to perform my compositions there, compared to if I propose playing more famous works by Beethoven, Chopin etc.

We understand that you are an independent artist. What are some of the key challenges you face as an independent artist compared to an artist who is supported by a record label?

As an independent artist, I am more limited by resources. I don’t have a great budget when it comes to recording, so my recordings may not sound as professional compared to those which are recorded in a renowned studio. However, I don’t let a lack of budget stop me from making sure I deliver the best possible quality of music – I work with extremely talented musicians and engineers as part of the process.

Further, as an independent artist, I do more in terms of promoting myself. I contact music venues directly to arrange concerts. I reach out to radio stations directly to play my works. I have to build my own contacts book effectively.

However, I do love the creative control that I retain as an independent artist. Whatever I want to create, I can create without restrictions and pressure.

What are your future plans in music?

I have just released my new album, Paradise, inspired by the ocean, marine ecosystems and marine species. I hope that you enjoy it! The album features compositions for piano, violin and cello, where many of the compositions are actually solo pieces. I find that it is quite rare for solo compositions to be performed, and I really want to emphasise the beauty and power which can be created through these instruments alone.

I will also shortly be releasing an album featuring 9 pieces inspired by my playful and mischievous cats. I live with 3 cats – sadly 1 is missing, which has caused me great anxiety.

In terms of future plans, I plan to compose orchestral as well as electronic works inspired by my travels in Southeast Asia.

Throughout, I will be performing at various concerts and gigs. Keep your eyes peeled!

Thank you very much for your time in this interview. We wish you all of the best.

Thanks for having me. All the very best to you and the readers.

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Hip-Hop Meets Indie Pop in Quavo and Lana Del Rey’s New Single



Quavo and Lana Del Rey, photo by Wyatt Spain Winfrey

The music world received a jolt of excitement with the release of “Tough,” an unexpected collaboration between rap artist Quavo and indie-pop darling Lana Del Rey. Dropping on June 3rd, the track has set tongues wagging and ears perking across fan bases.

Rumors of this unlikely pairing first surfaced when eagle-eyed fans spotted the duo at Quavo’s Atlanta hotspot, V12. Whispers turned to shouts when Quavo crashed Del Rey’s Boston gig, treating concertgoers to a sneak peek of their joint venture.

“Tough” defies easy categorization, blending Quavo’s street-smart flow with Del Rey’s haunting croon. The result? A genre-bending tune that’s equal parts grit and gossamer. Del Rey’s chorus paints a vivid picture: “Tough like the scarf on a pair of old leather boots/ Like the blue-collar, red-dirt attitude/ Like a .38 made out of brass…” It’s a lyrical landscape that feels both familiar and fresh.

Accompanying the track is a visually arresting music video. Co-helmed by the artists themselves and filmmaker Wyatt Spain Winfrey, the clip transports viewers to a pastoral dreamscape. Gone are the glitzy trappings of fame, replaced by sun-dappled fields and weathered porches. Quavo and Del Rey share intimate moments, from slow dances to guitar strumming sessions. In one eyebrow-raising scene, Quavo even gives Del Rey a crash course in marksmanship.

For Del Rey, “Tough” marks a return to hip-hop-tinged territory, echoing her earlier work. It’s been a minute since she’s shared the mic with a rapper, her last such collaboration appearing on 2017’s “Lust for Life.” The track also serves as an appetizer for her upcoming country-flavored album “Lasso,” slated for a fall release.

Quavo, meanwhile, continues to carve out his solo identity post-Migos. “Tough” follows his 2023 album “Rocket Power” and a string of recent singles, including the buzz-worthy “Mink.”

The song’s production, helmed by hitmakers Andrew Watt and Cirkut, provides a lush backdrop for the artists’ contrasting styles. It’s a sonic tapestry that weaves trap beats with twangy guitars, creating a sound that’s both of-the-moment and timeless.

As “Tough” makes its way up the charts, industry watchers are keen to see how this bold experiment lands. Will it open doors for more cross-genre pollination? Or will it remain a fascinating one-off?

Regardless of its commercial fate, “Tough” stands as a testament to the power of musical risk-taking. It’s a reminder that in an era of algorithm-driven playlists, there’s still room for genuine surprise and innovation.

The collaboration also speaks to the evolving nature of artistic partnerships in the digital age. Gone are the days when genre lines were firmly drawn in the sand. Today’s musicians are more willing than ever to step outside their comfort zones, resulting in unexpected pairings that push the boundaries of what’s possible.

As fans digest this new offering, one thing is clear: Quavo and Lana Del Rey have created something that demands attention. Whether you’re a hip-hop head, an indie aficionado, or somewhere in between, “Tough” offers something to chew on.

In a music landscape often criticized for playing it safe, “Tough” stands out as a bold statement. It’s a reminder that when artists follow their instincts rather than market trends, magic can happen. As the song says, “Whenever you’re ready, call on me.” It seems Quavo and Del Rey were ready to answer that call, and music lovers are all the richer for it.

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Tamar Sagiv Redefines Classical Music with Upcoming Debut Album



Tamar Sagiv / NYC-Based Cellist and Composer

In the competitive classical music scene of New York City, cellist and composer Tamar Sagiv is making waves with her unique blend of traditional techniques and contemporary flair. As she gears up for the release of her debut album this October, Sagiv’s journey from budding cellist to innovative composer-performer is turning heads in the industry.

Sagiv’s journey in music kicked off at age eight when she first picked up a cello. While she’s been in the music game professionally since then, it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that she took the plunge into composing her own pieces. This bold move has paid off, landing her gigs at some pretty impressive venues – we’re talking Carnegie Hall, WQXR, and even the Amsterdam Cello Biennale Festival.

But it wasn’t all smooth sailing. The real game-changer for Sagiv came during a tough personal moment. Sitting by her grandmother’s hospital bed, she penned “Shades of Mourning,” which is set to be her debut single dropping on July 26, 2024. This heart-wrenching experience became the spark for her upcoming album.

Sagiv shared, “My debut album explores the many forms and shades of grief, from mourning loved ones to grieving friendships and ideas. Through my music, I aim to convey these complex emotions while also advocating for the importance of peace.”

The album, slated for an October 2024 release, dives deep into the murky waters of loss and grief. However, it’s not all somber reflection – Sagiv’s compositions offer a glimmer of hope, a musical light at the end of the tunnel. To build anticipation, she plans to release a single each month leading up to the album launch, giving listeners a taste of what’s to come.

What sets Sagiv apart is her ability to bridge classical traditions and contemporary audiences. Her compositions weave together traditional elements with modern sensibilities, drawing from personal experiences and cultural heritage. This unique approach creates emotionally resonant pieces that speak to listeners across generations, positioning Sagiv as an emerging voice to watch in the contemporary music scene.

Sagiv’s rise in the industry has been marked by significant milestones. Last year, she made her solo debut at Carnegie Hall, performing her original piece “Roots” – a powerful statement of her artistic vision.

For those interested in following Sagiv, you can explore her official website and connect with her on Instagram, YouTube, TikTok, and Spotify.

As “Shades of Mourning” nears release, anticipation builds for Sagiv’s deeply moving experience. Representing a new generation of classical musicians, her work showcases music’s power to process complex emotions and connect diverse audiences. Sagiv’s journey from young cellist to innovative composer serves as an inspiration, proving that personal experiences can be transformed into resonant art. Her debut album promises not just technical prowess, but a fresh perspective on contemporary classical music, solidifying Sagiv’s role in shaping the genre’s future. In the end, Sagiv’s music reminds us that in the quiet spaces between notes, we often find our shared humanity – a universal language that transcends all boundaries.

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Josi C Brings Dominican Heat to New York’s Music Scene



Josi C

A sweltering New York summer night hangs heavy in the air. The crowd’s chatter fades as the first notes of “Una Noche Mas” ripple through the venue. Josi C steps into the spotlight, and just like that, you’re whisked away to a beachside party in the Dominican Republic.

That’s the magic of Josi C, folks. Born Jose Cabrera, this rising star is shaking up the Latin music scene with a sound that’s as diverse as the city he calls home. But let’s rewind a bit, shall we?

Long before he was packing venues, little Jose was belting out tunes in his family’s living room. “I was obsessed with Jose Jose,” he laughs, recalling those Saturday morning cleaning sessions soundtracked by classic Latin ballads. But it wasn’t until he found himself, at just four years old, holding a candle and singing in Juan Luis Guerra’s children’s choir that the spark truly ignited.

“I knew right there and then that this is what I wanted to do,” Josi reminisces. But life, as it often does, had other plans first.

As the oldest child of Dominican immigrants, Josi felt the weight of his family’s sacrifices. “I had to focus on making sure my mother’s sacrifices were well invested,” he explains. So, he hit the books, learned English (and a few other languages for good measure), and eventually landed at Penn State.

Fast forward through a successful stint in project management, and Josi found himself at a crossroads. The 9-to-5 grind was stable, sure, but that childhood dream kept calling. “It was just the sign I needed,” he says of his unexpected foray into the music industry.

Now, Josi C is making waves with tracks like “PDR” and “Luna y Mar.” His sound? Imagine if a Caribbean breeze could sing, then throw in some New York swagger for good measure. “I like to inject my Dominican culture and vibes into my sounds,” he grins.

But don’t mistake Josi for just another Latin pop star. This guy’s got layers. One minute he’s crooning about lost love, the next he’s dropping projects that’ll have you dancing till dawn. Take his latest single, “PDR.” It’s all about being hopelessly drawn to someone, even when you know you should walk away. Sound familiar? Yeah, we’ve all been there.

Looking ahead, Josi’s got big plans. There’s a new track called “Otra Dimension” in the works, which he describes as having “galactic, chill, sexy, dance vibes.” (Is it too early to line up for tickets?)

He’s also gearing up for his first live shows. “They’re scaring the bejeezus out of me,” he admits with a chuckle. “But a good scary, like ‘I can’t believe this is happening’ type of scary.”

As for dream collabs? Josi’s got a wish list longer than a New York minute. “FEID, Karol G, Chris Brown, Justin Timberlake, Usher…” he rattles off, before adding with a grin, “Honestly, I’m writing a song with an Indian writer right now! I just love beautiful music.”

At the end of the day, what drives Josi C isn’t fame or fortune. It’s the connection. “I want to create memorable sounds that tie with people’s present moments,” he muses. “When that song comes on and things just ‘click’.”

So, the next time you’re scrolling through Spotify and come across a track that makes you feel like you’re sipping a piña colada on a Dominican beach (while somehow simultaneously strutting down a New York street), chances are you’ve stumbled upon Josi C. Give him a listen. Your ears – and your ‘liked’ playlist – will thank you.

Catch Josi C on Spotify, Apple Music, and Tidal. Follow him on Instagram and TikTok, check out his website, and subscribe on YouTube.

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