Compositions by Bree Zhang
This song addresses the joy, sadness, and beauty of growing up. It begins with a prelude of introspection and then transitions to the main melody filled with fun and playfulness, representing the innocence and unreserved happiness of our childhood. The melody gets faster and faster, just as we barrel through life faster and faster from crawling to walking, to running, to sprinting, but then…
Suddenly, our childhood is shattered. Suspended in uncertainty, we glance around, realizing that the world as we know it isn’t the same. Moving forward, the song takes a deeper tune, one that may be filled with shades of sadness, guilt, heartbreak, anxiety, fear. Yet we still advance forward, step-by-step. We grow, finding strength in our weaknesses and fears, learning how to live with our own inner demons, creating beauty from shattered glass: that's what’s called maturation. And, sometimes, we may look back to our old childhood memories with a bittersweet yet hopeful smile. It’s never the same but we can reminisce and appreciate our old memories.
Just as a caterpillar transforms to a butterfly, this piece describes my metamorphosis from a fumbling young girl into a determined young woman. I used to have confidence issues and always felt like a secondary character. However, music, art, story-writing, and my interactions with my culture helped to provide stepping stones which I slowly climbed until I gathered enough “nutrients'' to crystallize and form a cocoon of confidence.
In this song, my moment of “metamorphosis” begins (2:08 to 3:14) when I realize how far I’ve come. It’s like an awakening, building to a point where I break free from my chrysalis with newfound wings, flying through the world with speed, energy, and power (represented by the song’s sudden increase in tempo and excitement from 3:16 to 4:13). As I fly, I realize how vast the world is, how many infinite possibilities exist for me to explore. However, the most important part of my metamorphosis (represented by the song’s slower finish 4:38 to end) is remembering to rest my wings at the end of the day so that I have time for reflection and introspection. Thus, as I wrap up my song with a slower yet purposeful finish, I am filled with a satisfaction of how much I’ve grown.
When I was younger, my grandma came all the way from China to help raise me. Not only did she ensure I was healthy and happy growing up, she also taught me about my Chinese culture and heritage, instilling in me values of gratitude, patience, and resilience.When I was 10, however, my grandmother had to return to China due to her declining health, and she never came back to America again. I missed her very much for several years, wishing I could see her again and show her how much I’d grown since she left. And in 2017, I was given the perfect chance: I found out I was returning to China for a guzheng talent competition and that I would be able to reunite with my grandmother before the competition. I was so elated and excited that I decided to write a song dedicated to my grandmother called “Returning Home.” The first section of my song (0:00 to 2:39) symbolizes my longing for my grandma. The allegro portion (2:39-4:00), which features my technical skills, symbolizes my excitement and anticipation of meeting her after so many years of separation. I also paired artwork with this piece. The first three works in this sequence show key points of my relationship with her, whether it was feeding fish above a pond in my hometown, blowing candles during my birthday, or simply laughing together. The last work features my happy reunion with her. That day, I was able to perform the song for her in person, and the smile on her face was another moment that I wanted to capture in memory forever.
Guzheng with Vocals
It was very difficult writing, singing, and making art for this song because it brings me back to a time filled with insecurities, fears, loneliness, and self-loathing, a time when I didn’t know who I was, when I pretended to be someone I wasn’t, floundering in search of an identity, surrounding myself with people but feeling quite lonely, chipping away at myself with sweet lies until I almost believed them.
However, I’m really glad I finally finished it because now I’m able to look back and confront it. To the girl in this song (Me Of the Past), she would’ve never imagined herself living the life featured at the end of this song (artwork which I paint in saturated beautiful colors), so it’s just yet another “daydream,” a beautiful lie she repeats to herself in hopes of seeing change. But someday, it will come true, someday :)
In Ten Years
“In Ten Years” is about facing rejection, standing up from it, and moving forward with no regrets. I was inspired by the many college rejections I received over the course of December to early March my senior year (prior to getting into Brown, which I honestly never expected to get into given my college track record). Each result I received was a blow to my confidence, and I started to question whether I was really capable or talented or intelligent. However, I eventually knew I needed a change, and instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to channel my feelings into an actual song and do something productive with it. This song, “In Ten Years,” was born as a result. It was my first time composing a song that included vocals, singing while playing the guzheng, and shooting and editing the film. In the end, I was able to learn many new things, and I will continue to move forward with my head held high.
A Mother's Love
🥰This music composition and series of 12 art pieces (titled “A Mother’s Love”) is a tribute to my mother and all the other beautiful mothers in this world who have given us irreplaceable support, wisdom, care, and love since the day we were born, from changing our diapers, to teaching us how to walk, to comforting us when we are sad, to cheering on our successes, to supporting us even when we leave home to explore the world. No matter how old I become, I will always keep my mother in my heart and remember all the sacrifices and hardships she endured to provide me opportunities to grow, learn, and love. I love you 妈妈.
Dancing in Snowflakes
“Dancing in Snowflakes” is written for my chinese orchestra, Music From China Youth Orchestra. It describes the care, grace, and empathy we must have to interact with snow without breaking its purity—whether we are in elation and power or in stillness and quietude. Although the song does have western elements, it takes on a predominantly ethnic theme from the pentatonic scale. Furthermore, it features several individual solos, from Hulusi to Erhu to Liuqin to Guzheng, and these instruments build on each other in layers and layers, accumulating in volume and power just as snowflakes quietly and seamlessly decorate a landscape in their beautiful coldness. A main melody is integrated 5 times throughout the song, but it is rendered differently each time, sometimes appearing as a solo, other times being played by the whole entire orchestra. Regardless, the last melody (m. 60) is played by all the instruments that complement and support each other as one unit—just as snow sticks together and embraces the world in a single color of white.
When I began this piece, I was also inspired by one of my favorite figure skaters, Evgenia Medvedeva, so I created an artwork that goes with it. See here for the time lapse drawing of the piece.
A Journey in Retrospect
“A Journey in Retrospect” was my first attempt at composition. I wrote it December 2016 for my orchestra (Music From China Youth Orchestra), and it was performed on June 3rd, 2017 at Drew University. Mixing elements of western and traditional pentatonic music, this song reflects the journey of a person’s life—and my own journey through composing.
It begins with a prelude that introduces the central motif to set the mood and pace of the song, in the same manner an author would preface his story with some background. The prelude is followed by a jumpy innocent melody first played by plucked instruments—representing our shaky little steps at the beginning of a journey (m. 9). The melody is then repeated more richly and melodically by string instruments—representing out gradual maturation and development in our journeys (m. 17). Eventually, the song changes into a more powerful theme (m. 33) that is characterized by strength and willpower in the face of trial and tribulations- the melody builds in momentum until it reaches a climatic direct modulation key change (m. 44). Following the key change is a rich intersection of three different melody lines, and the song slowly falls in power until it repeats the prelude (m. 53), returning full circle, but this time, the prelude sounds different: it is deeper, more experienced, more reflective tone- just as we when we look back at the end of our journeys.
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