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03 Sep 2019

Lianhe Zaobao, 3 Sep 2019, Exploring Chinese orchestral music with physics (translation)
SUTD Lecturer Tan Da Yang (32) has found resonance in music and physics for many years.
While in secondary school, he joined the Chinese Orchestra and played the erhu. Later, he became the school’s student conductor. Even after graduating, he continued with his passion for Chinese music in the community.
Tan Da Yang is currently serving as the conductor of the Bukit Batok Chinese Orchestra. In his spare time, he still plays the erhu, and he even played for his own university’s Chinese Orchestra performance.
As a conductor, one thing he has always cherished is the ability to work with musicians to create different melodies. “If one is limited to a single instrument, it becomes difficult to feel the joy of composing new melodies comprising different instruments.”
Compared to Western orchestras, he believes Chinese orchestra is a type of music that has no rigid requirements for its structure and there will always be new works produced.
As such, he has many opportunities to explore and experiment in the world of Chinese music, such as the style and structure of the orchestra, the control of the sounds of different instruments, and even the small details such as the musician's position. “Perhaps it can be said that this stems from the scientific spirit in me, where I always enjoy exploring and trying different things, propelling me forward.”

Having a physics background, Tan Da Yang also recently joined in his fellow colleague, Assistant Professor Chen Jer-Ming’s research in the acoustics of Chinese orchestra music.
For Tan Da Yang, music seems to be emotional, while physics is rational, yet in many ways, they complement each other.
For example, he said that if the orchestra's instruments are not in tune, it is impossible to achieve the resounding harmony of an orchestra, no matter how hard the musicians play their instruments. “In this case, I will try to create resonance in various instruments, and this can only be achieved after the instruments have been adjusted.”