BEHIND THE SCENES
Explore what goes on behind all of Zong Chiang's projects with exclusive Q&A interviews.
How do you feel about your project "Natural Bound”?
Ou : I think this is my first time attempting such a piece, as there are a lot of different layers of sound waves that stack up the stereo sound, which is both very shocking and moving
Chia : This piece is very special. This is my first time playing Zong’s work, especially this type of multimedia synthesis of music. In the piece, thee piano no longer is the protagonist, but it’s just one of the mediums of sound. I think the most valuable thing about this song is that Zong went to Sun Moon Lake to collect all kinds of soundscapes; he took sound and regarded it as a scene and then used it as a medium to synthesize it into a great piece of art.
Zong : When I first composed this piece, I was influenced by biological music, because I think that human beings have the role of animals in the entire universe. The music we play belongs to a kind of biological music.
Because of the pandemic, this theme is used to inspire human beings to rethink about nature; and then adjust themselves. It has also been an honor to cooperate with all the teachers for the first time, and I am very happy that our teamwork was so smooth.
We all know that the two teachers are masters. What are your thoughts on working with Zong for the first time?
Ou : In the past, I was usually the one who said to Zong, "Oh, this is how you play it.“ But this was the first time I discussed a piece with him, and he this time would tell me, "Eh, teacher, what do you think about this? How about this part?” We had an interactive discussion and after learning more about his music ideas, the piece ended up having more colors, which I think is excellent!
Chia : I think this experience of working with Zong is very valuable, because I really saw him grow up like since he was a kid. He actually is very independent, and he is a very good and outstanding musician. He is on the same level as a musician. For a young man like Zong, he is actually very gentle and has a very humble attitude. I think it means that when we work together, I feel very comfortable, very satisfied, and very fulfilled!
Zong : This was my first time working with these three teachers. I felt very strange actually, because I saw these teachers as master performers ever since I was a child. And now, I am able to tell them what my thoughts are about the interpretation and color of my song; I just feel so honored!
We all know teacher Ou basically raised Zong from when he was a kid. Do you now think: "Hey, Zong is already standing by the side performing with me”? Does it feel like a sort of symbol of inheritance?
Ou : Yes of course, Zong has actually been a very musically gifted child since he was a child. Zong's sensitivity to sound is also very good. I have been there with him throughout his studies and music studies.
Later, I learned that when he was going USC to study music, I was really very happy for him! I’m glad lad that he saw USC as a goal in life and worked really hard for it. Later he came back and I listened to his work for the first time.
This work is the design of two pianos and one harp: in fact, the piano and the harp are two kinds of musical instruments that are not easy to match together. Through such multimedia cooperation, these two instruments were able to be in harmony with each other, which resulted in a very good sound! At the same time, this was the first time I matched his soundstage design, and during the whole collaboration I thought:
"Wow! It turns out that classical music composition can also produce a work that is very desirable or easy to appreciate"; I think this is all so amazing!
Maya & the Monster
Director Vanessa Prathab
What is your vision of the relationship between Maya and the monster?
The monster is a guardian spirit of the forest who helps guide lost children home. I see the monster as a protector, a parental figure, and a secret hero to Maya and other children as he cares for them, keeps them safe from danger, and returns them home safely. The monster is a misunderstood character who actually has kind intentions of helping others. The story teaches us not to fall for rumors and stereotypes, but rather make our own judgements.
During the process of communication with composer Zong, what you think is the most favorite part?
Zong is one of my closest friends and I’ve worked with him on other projects before. Every time, I’ve had a fun and great experience. For this project, Zong was in Taiwan and I was in LA so we would be video chatting back and forth late at night. A funny moment I remember was when Zong was working on the score one night while I was editing the film, and we were calling each other back and forth after I sent a new part of the cut or after Zong sent a new part of the music. We spent many hours discussing the emotion of the film and how to make the style of the music match. It was really so much fun that I didn’t feel tired at all.
In term of the music taste and the reason you reach out to Zong and hire him to compose the soundtrack, what would you like to try differently next time?
I think this film was a hard piece to compose music for because the mood and tone changes drastically throughout. There is a horror and suspenseful element surrounding the monster, while more of a whimsical, comedic and light-hearted tone with Maya. And then when they’re both together, that’s different too. So the music needs to keep up with all these changes while blending together seamlessly. And Zong did a remarkable job with this. The music perfectly enlivens the different emotional arcs, so I wouldn’t change anything about the music. I only hope to work on many more projects with Zong in the future.
Composer Zong Chiang
From having previously worked with director Vanessa multiple times, what kind of of story or inspiration did Maya & The Monster have that were different from other projects?
It was a pleasure to work with Director Vanessa again. What was different about this project from previous short film productions, this time we worked on an animation work. In many of my collaborations with director Vanessa, I’ve found that she loves piano; before the production period, she would ask for the soundtrack of just the piano. It's a very unique request. She often listens to the piano works of composer Joe Hisaishi, and also likes to play music and play the piano by herself. I even invited her to co-create with me for her animation work! Of course, due to time constraints and her tight schedule with having to draw the animations, the music was all handed over to me!
Director Vanessa is a creative creator who is very thoughtful and has a very subtle sense of musical emotion. She often does detailed discussions and revisions with me because of several tones and several stacked tone layers. I love our discussion process because she makes it clear what she likes and what she doesn't like. Because of this, we were able survive the jet lag in just a few days and complete the entire animation work together!
Art of Balancing: Director Awu Chen
What was the most rewarding aspect of this project?
Our collaboration with Zong is many years in the making. This is the first project we collaborated on where the narrative is not the main driver of the experience. Instead, we've designed the interaction to be the main focus.
Instead of composing soundtracks to the story beat, we are now composing around the player's interactions which can be quite unpredictable. The addition of the player's own recorded Voice Over brings an additional challenge to the music composition.
How did you see yourself being challenged musically in this project?
The biggest challenge in developing the Art of Balancing was 'balancing' the rocks' realistic physics behavior with the rocks' puzzle-like mechanic. For the player to be in a state of mindfulness, we needed the rock balancing to be both challenging and fulfilling.
Never Liked Yogurt: Director Tim Pattinson
What gave you motivation when animating this film? And what are your favorite animation scores?
My motivation for this film were my co-directors! The film is based on a true story that happened to me as a child, and I always thought it was a funny anecdote (because luckily I survived) - but when I share this story with people, people are always horrified! So I wanted to explore the story in a film, to finally discover its genre: Comedy or Horror? In the end, it’s a little of everything, a slice of life.
Trying to think of a favorite animated film score is a tricky thing. There are many that I love! Usually it’s whichever is my latest, which would be “Never Liked Yogurt” by Zong! Some personal favorites include the scores from many of Fleischer Bros shorts, including the incredible “Popeye The Sailor Meets Sinbad The Sailor.” You can watch it here. This score offers exposition, backstory, and conflict - and it’s super catchy! In a similar vein to the Fleischers, Studio MDHR’s “Cuphead” score is a work of art. Of course, I’ll always have a particular soft spot for the score to my own Academy Award-shortlisted film, “Lion Dance”. You can watch it here.
What is a special story/behind the scene during your collaboration with Zong?
The crew of “Never Liked Yogurt” are based in many different countries around the world, so a lot of Zoom meetings were needed! When collaborating with Zong, it was unfortunate that we needed to take this route too because of COVID restrictions - it would have been great to spend time at his studio in Taipei, or at mine here in Hong Kong. Having worked in both virtual and physical studios, I definitely see the benefits of each, but I believe that creative collaboration thrives when we occupy the same physical space. I’m hopeful that we get the opportunity for more collaboration, in-person, with future projects.