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Read Alexina's biography

Alexina Louie

NAC Award Composer

The Interview

  1. What is it about Mozart's music that inspires you as a composer?
    It is eloquent, beautiful, moving and human.
  2. Do you have a special musical memory from when you were very young?
    They are too numerous to mention. Among my memories is the time I was taken to a concert of Artur Rubenstein by my piano teacher, Jean Lyons in Vancouver, BC. Such passion in the music he performed and in the way he played. He gave so much to his audience and he transmitted such joy.
  3. When did you first start composing music?
    I probably wrote my first little piano piece at about 12, but it was not until university (second year UBC) that I actually attempted to really compose...and was it hard!
  4. How long does it take you to compose a work? Do you have a favourite place to compose your music?
    An orchestra piece takes me at least a year. Most other works take at least 6 months. I write every note at a grand piano. Writing music is a very visceral and tactile experience for me.
  5. What instruments can you play? Do you need to play all the instruments you compose for? Does your music sound particularly "Canadian / Mexican / American"? If so, why?
    I play only the piano (although in earlier times I taught the ukelele and recorder at university!) I fully admit to being only one lesson ahead of my students which was cause for great hilarity for all concerned!)

    No, You don't need to play all the instruments, but I do wish I had taken those ubiquitous "class" music courses at university where you had to learn how to play all the instruments (usually poorly--that's why I couldn't bear to take them).

    I don't believe I write music that is particularly "Canadian", but I do have my own particular "voice".
  6. What is the source of inspiration for your compositions?
    While outwardly it could be anything from a glimpse into the starry night to a falling gesture to poetry or a letter by Monet to his gardener, it really is desire that motivates me.
  7. What advice would you give a student who would like to compose?
    Love music. Study. Find a good teacher. Be open. Have courage. Experiment. Challenge yourself. Acquire technique. Be self-critical. Listen to a lot. Go to many concerts. Be a sponge. Experience life.
  8. Which of your compositions is your favorite? What should I, as a student, listen for?
    I don't have a favourite, but I might suggest a few: O Magnum Mysterium: In Memoriam Glenn Gould (44 divisi strings). Afterimages (two pianos). Neon (clarinet, cello, piano). Scenes From A Jade Terrace (piano). Dénouement (string quartet). My friend, composer John Rea, once told me that my music is filled with longing. This is true to varying degrees in all these pieces, and perhaps in everything that I write. While I could go into detail about the techniques that I explore (strong form and structure are essential in most well-written compositions), or the influences one might hear, or my musical language and choices of harmony, it is the expressive, communicative, and emotional power of my music that supercedes (yet is dependent upon) the technique.