I had the great pleasure of sitting down with New Age & Contemporary Instrumental Composer, Tony Chen.
Rachel Dares: What are your earliest musical memories?
Tony Chen: You’ll probably find this pretty funny, but I would have to say my early musical memories were not my fondest. I felt I was “forced” by my parents to learn to play the piano.
Rachel Dares: What led you to become a composer?
Tony Chen: In middle school, as a teenager, I was selected by my teacher to play a piano duet with another classmate for our school’s art festival event. That was the time when I started becoming a bit more interested in playing music. I discovered that my classmate could play music by ear (a gift of hearing a piece of music and being able to play it on the piano without reading a music sheet), I found this very fascinating and started exploring this technique myself.
During the 90’s, the New Age composer Yanni was very popular in China, his music is a combination of electronic music and a full orchestra. Around this time, I started to explore electronic keyboards, and later connected it to computers. I was about 16 or 17 years of age, when I began composing my own musical pieces using computer technology. It was at this time, that I also became captivated with film soundtracks, especially, Disney films and its musicals.
In 2003, I left China for the UK to study music and ventured in the pursuit of a music career. It’s history ever since.
Rachel Dares: How would you describe your music?
Tony Chen: I would say my overall music styles are that of New Age, Contemporary Instrumental, Chinese/Asian Music, Pop, Classical and a crossover between these styles. My music sounds Like: Yanni, John Tesh, Josh Groban, Enya, Yiruma (Korean Pianist), Kitaro etc …
My music is that of crossover music styles. It varies from an epic soundtrack with energetic beats, and a hint of the elegancy found in classical music to being very serene, like those of new age musical pieces, yet still very dramatic.
I also compose many musical pieces with the traditional Chinese flare that still satisfies most modern people’s taste.
Rachel Dares: What message do you hope to convey through the music you produce?
Tony Chen: I left China in 2003 and started my university studies in music in the UK. Around that time, in 2002 – 2003, I also started to practice Falun Gong, a Chinese meditation practice based on the principle of Truthfulness, Compassion, & Tolerance. From my current level of understanding, this exercise focuses on purifying the mind and cultivating the character by letting go of any bad and selfish attachments. After taking up the practice for several years, I have gotten better health through the exercises, but more importantly, I’ve experienced calmness, peace of mind, happiness and positivity. Moreover, through meditation, I have found it much easier to concentrate and focus. I get inspired and am more open to learning, I find beauty in nature, and I’m not easily triggered by reacting to certain situations, by anger, frustration, complaining, or hate. What’s even better, my state of mind, is reflective in my musical compositions. Falun Gong has inspired me greatly in the kind of music I create.
I’m not one to follow the commercial trends of the industry when composing music, instead my mission is to create music that is beneficial to people’s well-being, and in bringing about positive energy, hope, peace, and in making the world a better place by maintaining moral standards for all.
Rachel Dares: Is there a single piece of music that has inspired you?
Tony Chen: I would have to say, Yanni’s music entitled, “Santorini”. It was the first song that truly inspired me to venture on my own musical journey.
Rachel Dares: What does the life of a musician/artist look like day to day?
Tony Chen: As a music composer and a freelance voice over artist, my time is flexible. I am my own boss, so I have the freedom of managing my own time, without the frustration of working under someone’s administration, haha. It has its advantages, but it can also be challenging. You can choose to be hard working, or to be lazy. Every day is what I choose it to be. For me, I try my best to keep coming up with new music pieces, and I am moved by the comments I get from people from all over the world when they say things like, “Listening to your music inspires me to do better in everything I do! “, “Your music brought me to tears”, “Your music has brought me a sense of peace”, “Your music is so pure”, “Your music has been accompanying my mother who is struggling with cancer”, “Your music is comforting me amidst my failing relationship”.
I am humbled to know that my music is impacting people on a very personal level. So I am motivated to work hard every single day.
Rachel Dares: If you could sit down and chat with anyone, either living or dead, who would it be?
Tony Chen: Actually, I have not just 1 but 2 people that I would love to sit down with.
The first person would have to be Yanni. Again, I credit Yanni as the composer that influenced me tremendously in pursuing this musical career.
The second person is Hans Zimmer. He is a great film music master. I fell in love with his piece, “The Lion King”. I had seen a video of Hans saying that the film’s soundtrack is all about telling stories. That truly resonated with me! Indeed, music tells stories of happiness, anger, sadness, kindness, etc… almost every human emotion, or spiritual elements can be depicted by music. I, personally, use music to tell stories too, so it would be a dream come true to be able to meet him someday and share our ideas with one another.
Rachel Dares: What advice would you give aspiring composers?
Don’t waste opportunities
I wish I could have listened to more music during my time at the university, as this is the opportune time where students have great access to university libraries and have so many resources to gain knowledge, experiences for optimum learning. I should have been as active then, as I am today, being open to listening and learning of great work.
Put others first
In my practice of Falun Gong, it is through selfless acts, “Truthfulness, Compassion, Tolerance”, that make the world a better place. It’s my willingness to put others first when composing my music that has helped in creating a ripple effect of good. And, if it touches, at least, one person…it would have served its purpose. To restore, heal, and give life.
Music is a rational process
Many people think music is purely about emotions, but my experience proves otherwise. Music is a rational process. With everything that is going on in the world, we can get engrossed in reacting, as opposed to letting kindness be our guide. Rather than indulging ourselves with negative or irrational thoughts, we can make music or listen to music that promotes positivity, unity and peace.
Music can both heal or poison
I believe music can affect people’s physical health. We’ve heard that if you use medicine right, it heals, but if you abuse it, medicine could become poison. I strongly believe that music has the same effect. Positive music has a favorable effect in people’s health, and, creating music that heals rather than destroy (through the promotion of violence, drugs, sex, alcohol, and other illicit behaviors) should be our utmost responsibility as artists.
Seek making a difference, and impacting the world for good
I feel that as musicians, artists, influencers — we have a responsibility to uphold core moral values, and in promoting a positive message that moves the world forward; that we not sacrifice what’s right for mere monetary gain, but in building and enhancing our society as a whole.
Rachel Dares: For those that would like to connect with you how are they able to contact you?
Tony Chen: You are welcome to visit my official music website: http://www.tonychenmusic.com
And, also connect me via social media: