[Creative Fridays] #15: Dylan Lee

This week, let’s get to know about cellist Dylan Lee!

I first met Dylan via our performance together with Valtinho Anastacio at No Black Tie years ago as we played Brazilian music together. Over the years, I’ve really enjoyed watching Dylan’s musical development including his explorations into jazz harmony and improvisational music. I also love Dylan’s Facebook updates which are often funny observations on life. Here’s more info about the very cool Dylan Lee:

Dylan Lee’s engaging performances have made him a growing presence in the Malaysian and Singaporean classical music scene. He is currently a student of Professor Julius Berger at the Leopold Mozart Zentrum in Augsburg, and previously graduated from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music in Singapore, where he studied under full scholarship with Ng Pei-Sian. He won 2nd place in the 2018 Johann Andreas Stein Wettbewerb in 2018 and won 3rd prize in the Lower Strings Category of the 2018 Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Concerto Competition. Alongside members of the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, he was a founding member of the KL String Project, a chamber orchestra based in the Dewan Filharmonik Petronas.

In the world of contemporary music, Dylan has premiered chamber music works by young composers from the Asia Pacific region, performing in Singapore, Japan and Hong Kong as a founding member of the contemporary music quintet, Ensemble GO. He has also performed in Singapore and Malaysia as part of the Asian Contemporary Ensemble. In December, he premiered six chamber works by asian composers as part of the Singapore Asian Composer’s Forum.

Dylan also has a passion for historically informed performance of baroque music. In Malaysia, he frequently plays solo basso continuo in major works by Bach and Handel. While studying in YSTCM, Dylan was chosen to play lead basso continuo in a concert of Bach cantatas under the baton of Masaaki Suzuki, founder of the Bach Collegium in Japan.
Solo  masterclasses include those with artists such as Gavriel Lipkind, Niall Brown, Norman Fischer, Natalie Clein, Johannes Moser and Sebastian Comberti. As a chamber musician, he has played in masterclasses by the Julliard String Quartet, Belcea Quartet, Shanghai String Quartet, and Fournier Piano Trio. In 2014, he was invited to and attended the Seiji Ozawa Chamber Music Academy held in Japan.

And now, here’s the interview!

1. What’s your latest project?
I’ve been practising the Ravel Sonata for Violin and Cello pretty intensely as I’ll be performing it this July in Salzburg with a Violin Professor based in Vienna, Christian Altenburger… yeah it’s a pretty big deal hahahah

2. What inspires your music?
I’m currently studying in Germany under Julius Berger who is an endless source of inspiration as a teacher and musician! Other than that…I don’t know if there’s really a direct influence on my music, but here in Germany I like to visit art galleries.. Degas, Caspar David Friedrich and Max Beckmann are some of my favourite painters. I’m also a big fan of the poetry of Yeats, Rilke and… Kerouac to a degree (Hey there’s no questioning the immediacy and doobydoo-rhythm of Kerouac!).

Then there are also the everyday things like watching anime; looking out train windows; and walking around with my headphones on all day to avoid unplanned human contact… Those things are important, too.

3. What are your 5 Desert Island Albums?

  1. Bringing it All Back Home by Bob Dylan

  1. Heinrich Schiff’s CD of the Cello Concerto and Works for Cello and Piano by Schumann

  1. Nikolaus Harnoncourt’s 2016 Recording of Beethoven 4th and 5th Symphonies

  1. GO! by Dexter Gordon

  1. The Unauthorized Biography of Reinhold Messner by Ben Folds Five

Honourable mention:  I’ve got a private playlist on Spotify for my eventual funeral that I add to and delete from every so often called the FUN(eral) playlist. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t survive on the desert island for very long and would like for it to be played at my funeral back home to make everyone cry ugly tears. It would also be nice to have that playlist on me on the desert island, I guess…

4. Who’s one artist/musician that you love but most people probably don’t know of?

A non musician answer… but I bet you didn’t know that there’s a professional Violin maker in Bandar Sri Damansara! His name is Tan Chin Seng and he runs the Deciso Music Studio. He really makes wonderful instruments and pays amazing attention to detail when he services string instruments. He’s really someone worth taking note of and supporting!

If you really pushed me for a musical answer, then…I don’t know if it’s really unknown, but a piece that I wish everyone listened to more often is Schumann’s 5 Gesänge der Frühe Op. 133 for solo piano. It’s said to be Schumann’s “last coherent” work…(it’s a worn cliché in the classical world, the story that Schumann went mad, flung himself into the Rhein to try and kill himself, then checked into an asylum after surviving the ordeal). In my opinion, however, Schumann’s last few works are of such clear musical intention, and his fascination with the five movement structure as seen through some of his late works hints at an attempt toward a radical reimagination of the prevailing forms in classical music – the furthest you can get from insane! But really, Schumann doesn’t need my defending.. Andras Schiff’s recording is really beautiful… So is Eric Le Sage’s, but on Schiff’s you get to also hear a set of variations on a theme that Schumann composed which was published posthumously.

OH and there’s this one painting hanging in the art gallery in Frankfurt by Helene Schjerfbeck titled “Mädchen mit blondem Haar” (“Girl with Blonde Hair”) that is, to me at least, spontaneous and decisive yet graceful and composed as though Schjerfbeck was privy to some vantage eternal.

5. What’s an advice you wish someone told you when you started in the arts?
Increasingly I am realising that it’s okay and, moreover, important to express the dreams, emotions, and aspects of yourself that you are either afraid of or really dislike through your music….that, and don’t be afraid to invest in a good pair of headphones because you’re going to use them a LOT.

6. As a cellist, what has been your biggest challenge in your work? How did you overcome it?
The “why” was always a tough question. Then I realised that music has really been one of the big things keeping me going, and helping me up when I fall down. I guess I realised that if I kept going with the dream of making something good and something real, I might positively affect the lives more people with my music than I ever would otherwise.

7. How do we reach you?
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dylancello/
Instagram: dylslan

Read the recent [Creative Fridays] interview:
[Creative Fridays] #14 : Taylor Roberts
7-String Solo Guitarist

Next week: [Creative Fridays] #16 with jazz saxophonist Scott Murphy!

[About Creative Fridays]

The original Creative Fridays was an interview series I did back in 2012. Published on my website, www.azsamad.com, it explored the musical influences of various musicians from all over the world. Relaunching this now in 2018, there are some cool add-ons. For a super obvious one, we’ve now added Spotify and YouTube links whenever possible for the Desert Island Albums list.

This to me is amazing because you can actually immediately listen to the recommended albums. Coming from a generation that used to make trips to the record store to check out new music, it still boggles my mind that we can immediately listen to the records that is recommended here. Imagine if you listened to the 5 suggested albums – how much could you learn from it?

Also, in addition to the original questions from the series, I’ve added a new question into the mix asking about the biggest challenge each individual has faced in their work. I’ve found that we all can benefit by learning from one another. Let’s share and grow together!

If you know a musician who you think could be a good fit to be featured in Creative Fridays, please contact me with your ideas. The focus is in diversity for music, cultural background, geography, age and experience. It doesn’t matter where you are around the world, if you’re a creative making interesting music on an interesting journey and have something to share, please reach out to me. Please do note, due to this being a weekly series, the interview may be featured later in the year depending scheduling.

Thank you! 🙂

[The Original Series]
Season 1: Every week for 13 weeks, published from Feb 2012 to April 2012.

[Creative Fridays] #1  : Kevin Broken Scar
(Melbourne Singer-Songwriter/Sound Engineer)

[Creative Fridays] #2  : Deborah Crooks
(SF Bay Area Singer-Songwriter)

[Creative Fridays] #3  : Dylan Kay
(UK/Auckland Jazz Guitarist)

[Creative Fridays] #4  : Azmyl Yunor
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter/College Lecturer)

[Creative Fridays] #5  : Gustavo Assis-Brasil
(Boston Jazz Guitarist/Educator)

[Creative Fridays] #6  : TragiComedy
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter)

[Creative Fridays] #7  : Candelaria
(Oakland Cumbia-Dub Band)

[Creative Fridays] #8  : Pete Teo
(Malaysian Singer-Songwriter/Filmmaker)

[Creative Fridays] #9  : Lori McKinney
(West Virginia Bandleader/Festival Organizer)

[Creative Fridays] #10: Helen Sherrah-Davies
(UK/Boston Violinist-Composer & Berklee faculty)

[Creative Fridays] #11: Adam Everett
(SF Bay Area Drummer-Composer)

[Creative Fridays] #12: Julian Chan
(Malaysian Jazz Saxophonist)

[Creative Fridays] #13: Sharon Chong
(Malaysian Keyboardist and Vocalist]

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