The development of human perception in music greatly interests me. For many centuries, it is the general consensus that music, as an expressive tool, is anything but noise or non-organized sounds. This established notion, however, has been challenged by artists such as John Cage (1912-92) and Pierre Schaeffer (1910-95) over the past few decades. Today, the boundary between music and noise is unclear. The inevitable questions thus arise, “What is Music, how do we perceive something as music?” To seek an answer, and to create a new way of musical expression that responds to humanity’s ever-changing musical perception, I have chosen to become a composer.
To me, producing music is an act through which a composer, or “music-maker,” communicates with a listener, or another “music-maker,” with means that express artistry and emotion. If “noise” is used in ways that serve this purpose, it can be regarded as music. Music is expressive because it subjectively transforms concrete ideas into meanings and emotions, hence enabling communications between two or more individuals and the audience. A composer conveys his ideas through specific notations before a performer analyzes and interprets his intentions. To add yet another layer of interpretation, the audience communicates with the music maker through listening to a work. When a recording is concerned, the audio engineer adds his layer of interpretation through mixing and mastering. It is central to my belief that music making is never a lonely process.
Different factors of time and space also contribute to varying one’s perception in music. Two performances of a same piece can never be identical. This notion relates to my own compositional philosophy: I believe in an ongoing process of composition and evolution in music making. No piece is truly “finished” because it will continue to evolve, through time, into something that is beyond the imagination of our generation. This idea of unpredictability in music has truly inspired and influenced my compositional concepts. I am motivated to immerse myself in an ongoing process of music making that can pertain to everyday life and stimulate human communication. The idea of music serving as a tool of communication is central to my belief.
The distinction between music and noise will continue to blur, as we keep exploring the possibilities of sound as a form of art. I feel, as an artist, responsible to help listeners improve their sense of hearing. Perception needs to be developed by conscious effort, by learning to anticipate, to analyze, as well as to listen. Hearing is something we all do unconsciously, like breathing. Everything we hear as is filtered through our experiences, emotional responses, our prejudices and preferences. I became a composer because I want to be perceptive to listen more attentively to music and sound in general, and be able to interpret music intellectually as well as to express my own emotions. I will continue to be a composer for as long as I can find ways to express myself through this medium, and that someone in this universe can perceive my music, or my noise, as music.
– Patrick Chan