This week, let's take a look at some videos featuring composer, singer, and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu, who's performing here in St. Louis in a concert presented by New Music Circle next Friday, November 11 at the Kranzberg Arts Center.
Shyu, who's now in her late 30s, was born in Peoria, IL to parents who immigrated to the US from Taiwan and East Timor. She was something of a child prodigy, winning many piano competitions and performing a Tchaikovsky piano concerto with the Peoria Symphony Orchestra when she was just 13.
After graduating from Stanford University, Shyu first gained wide attention in the jazz world in the early 2000s for her singing with saxophonist Steve Coleman's band. She also has worked collaboratively with jazz and creative musicians such as Anthony Braxton, Mark Dresser, Bobby Previte, Chris Potter, Michael Formanek, and more.
Currently based in New York City, Shyu has recorded six albums as a leader, the most recent being the critically acclaimed Sounds and Cries of the World, which came out in 2015 and showed up on a number of critics' "best album" lists for the year.
Her compositions reflect her studies of regional music, languages, literature and dance in countries including Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, China, South Korea, East Timor, and Indonesia. Much of this research was incorporated into her extended 2014 work "Solo Rites: Seven Breaths," which, according to New Music Circle's publicity, will be what she'll perform here in St. Louis.
In the first video up above, you can see Shyu doing a shorter piece called "Song for Naldo," recorded in 2014 in the New York City studios of radio station WNYC. After the jump, there's another track from the same session, Shyu's arrangement of "Qemaiaqaiam: Taiwanese Women's Song of the Pinuyumayan people."
Below that, there's a recording from March of this year featuring Shyu performing music from Sounds and Cries of the World and "Solo Rites: Seven Breaths" at NYC's Rubin Museum, with some help from violist Mat Maneri, drummer Dan Weiss, and dancer Satoshi Haga,
That's followed by an another, earlier version of "Solo Rites," recorded in 2014 at the 1816 House Gallery in Philadelphia, and then a more recent solo performance, captured on video this year at Judson Memorial Church in NYC.
The final video clip is an interview with NewMusicBox editor Molly Sheridan, in which Shyu talks about how her studies overseas have influenced her music. You can read the full version of Shyu's interview with NMB's Frank Oteri here.