This past season of life has been an interesting one to say the least. There’s been a collective overwhelming uncertainty that has consumed many of us over these past few months. For me it was curiously filled with both great loss and confusion as well as the time and space to foster hope and vision for the future. Somehow all of these coexisted amidst a constant barrage of change and transition.
Much of my time and thought space over this past season has been occupied with two predominant subjects: The decline of my grandfather’s health and a sudden revelation that I wanted to create music of my own. I spent many hours wrestling with these topics and grappling with the contrast of the two, often on short walks in my family’s neighborhood. One moment I would be thinking about the limitations of life and in the next I would be bursting with joy at the thought of creating something of my own. It was both death and life. Oddly it never felt jarring, but seemed like analyzing two sides of the same coin.
In honor of AAPI Heritage Month the E58 team asked me to write a song and I took this as my opportunity to begin my journey of crafting music born from this dream space. This composition is my attempt to musically express what it has felt like to dream over the past year. The initial flurry of scattered impressions. The yearning for something new and fresh. The slow but steady solidifying of ideas. The imagination running wild with what is possible. The reminders of past experiences that have been carried thus far. The mind’s attempt to conceptualize and the heart’s attempt to express itself. The uncertainty stemmed from brazen thought. The contrast of deep stirring excitement and overwhelming fear. And the striking pain from what is not yet but the electrifying excitement of what can be.
The title “dreamers.” refers to myself as a dreamer and also to my grandfather who passed away last month. Growing up my grandfather didn’t engage much with me so I never knew much of his story. His lack of interaction didn’t bother me then, but now I feel I missed out on knowing a bold, courageous man. As my family members came and went as we mourned the loss of my grandfather is when I began to get a small glimpse into the incredible life he lived. He escaped from the North during the Korean war. He became a doctor before immigrating to America. His life was a whole K-drama worthy story which involved him connecting with family members that he didn’t even know existed when he fled from the war! His decisions not only impacted his immediate world but forever altered the lives of his children and grandchildren creating a legacy that will continue to live on through generations. Although I didn’t know him when I was young, I can confidently assume that he must have been a dreamer like me. I imagine years ago, he too was pacing around his neighborhood dreaming of the endless possibilities of what his life could look like.
I created this musical piece in recognition of AAPI heritage, but more importantly to honor the legend that my grandfather was. These are my first steps in pursuing a dream that I have been fostering for months and really unknowingly for many years now. This is one of the best ways I can honor his memory and that we, the descendents of these pioneers, can honor the generations before us. Although their dreams often looked quite different from ours, we owe a debt of gratitude to them for creating the space for us to dream in the way that we do.
To my fellow AAPI brothers and sisters, especially those who have felt misunderstood or felt you weren’t capable, I hope that this song inspires you to dream bigger and wilder than you ever have and that when the moment comes you’ll pause. and take a deep breath… and plunge deep into the unknown.
Behind The Song:
- The birds that you hear in the introduction are from a recording taken during a walk around my family’s neighborhood. I would often wake up in the morning to go on these walks and would be daydreaming before I would wake up my grandpa to bathe and feed him. I used them on another project but I felt it was so fitting to use for this context
- I wanted to recreate the feeling of my dreaming so the first long build you hear is the gathering of thoughts and the playing around of ideas in my mind. I’ve been wanting to explore electronic music which is why most of what you hear is electronic based. But you’ll hear very organic instruments (violin, acoustic guitar) because I spent a lot of time imagining what it would be like to find a hybrid balance between the two.
- Throughout the first section there are many many subtle references to past musical experiences that have shaped me throughout my life. I roughly laid them out in chronological order starting with the violin because it was the first instrument I learned to play. The rest are from musical stylings that I’ve tended to lean on, other instruments that I play, or references to musical artist that have inspired me, or bands I’ve played in, or songs I’ve written. I don’t think anyone will really pick up on them but I felt it was important to pay homage to the experiences that have built up to this time.
- The final section I wanted to feel like acceptance and release. Like the peak of a dive or the top of the first drop on a rollercoaster. Beyond that point there is no turning back just downward momentum.
Thank you to Caleb Zook for so brilliantly visualizing this concept. Your creative eye is a gift and I’m so honored that you lent your skills to this. Looking forward to partnering with you on many more projects.
Thank you to Leanne Aranador for proposing this idea. It has been one of the most fulfilling experiences in my life and you were the catalyst for it! You are a pioneer through and through.
And thank you to E58 for creating the space for me to commemorate, to grieve, and to honor my grandpa in this way.