CD: Time and Tides
Artist: Yu Ya Huang

Time and TidesI really like the title of the third and latest album by pianist/ composer Yu Ya Huang: Time and Tides. But beyond it’s evocative imagery, I was curious as to what it meant to her. In an interview, Yu Ya shared how days and moments fly by so quickly and that if there is something you want to express in life, or share with family, friends, or the world in general, the time is now – don’t hold back. In her words: “Time is very precious. A lot of things happen in life that you can’t plan on. So many unpredictable things occur. You just have to go with the flow and let nature takes its course.” This is certainly wise advice in this rapidly changing world.


Yu Ya Huang has a rich history in music starting from an early age. As she shares: “I remember when I was little, I enjoyed singing a lot. Every time when I saw a pop singer on TV, I would imitate her and put some costumes on to sing and dance along.” At an early age, her teachers recognized Yu Ya’s natural aptitude for music. She goes on to say: “I attended YAMAHA music school since I was young, and found out I have perfect pitch. I started to write short compositions when I was in elementary school.” From this early foundation, which also included playing the cello, she went on to eventually receive a Master’s Degree in piano performance and music education from The Boston Conservatory and has had the opportunity to study under a number of highly respected pianists from the US, Asia, and Europe. Yu Ya also cites the influence of “a few wonderful film music composers” on her writing.


Yu Ya’s professional career has been diverse. As a performer, she has given recitals in Boston, California, and Taiwan, as well as being an accompanist with instrumentalists, choral groups, theater productions, and dance companies. She is also a very experienced early-childhood educator and currently teaches piano at music schools in the Greater Boston area. The desire to help others is a central theme in Yu Ya’s life and she has been involved in charity works, such as giving aid to people in the third world countries, volunteering in different religious groups, and helping seniors in the community, in addition to being interested music therapy, Chinese herbal medicine, and holistic healing.


One of the projects she has participated in that I had the opportunity to write about last year was a compilation of songs from 36 new age recording artists entitled Music That Matters, produced by prominent publicist Kevin Wood who has extensive connections in the music industry. The proceeds from sales of that album went towards helping South African children in need. (See link for more info) Yu Ya’s interest in philosophy and spirituality has been an influence in her life and music.


Although Time and Tides is classified as a new age instrumental album, according to Yu Ya: “I don’t want people to think or categorize me as a new age composer or pianist. I grew up with a serious classical music background and I enjoy playing that. I also like jazz, and Bossa Nova is my favorite. Nowadays when I listen to music, as long as it is good music, there is no boundary of the genres, styles, countries, or languages. I welcome all.” In addition to some of these elements, which are found in Time and Tides, Yu Ya cites abstract art and expressionism as an influence in her music. This intriguing musical melange obviously resonates with listeners as her recordings have earned airplay on Music Choice Soundscapes, Sky FM, Galaxy Cable, and numerous radio outlets around the world.


ar133667207909327The album lifts off with a track called “Kiting,” which draws its inspiration from Yu Ya’s memories of going to the park as a child with her father and watching people’s kites soaring in the summer breeze. The song starts off as a piano solo with a neo-classical air and is eventually joined by the accompaniment of cello and what sounds like a xylophone, before going back to solo piano on the last movement. On “Pearl,” which for Yu Ya represents purity and perfection, the sounds of oboe, strings, and bubbling water compliment her heartfelt piano work.


For a musician, the life of a night owl is not uncommon. On “3 AM” Yu Ya talks of being awake in the middle of the night with this melody going around in her head. The next morning she got up and went straight into composing this lovely piece with its rich orchestral arrangement. I’m sure I would be up in the wee hours if I had such a beautiful song stirring in my mind too. One thing that impressed me with Yu Ya’s composing and piano work is its diversity, both from one song to another, as well as sometimes within a song. A good example is “Mirage” which starts off on an ominous note but quickly evolves into a more hopeful feeling along with the sounds of the sea. A sense of freedom is portrayed in “The Troubadour,” which Yu Ya wrote to express the free-spirited nomadic Gypsy lifestyle. And I particularly liked the light-hearted feel of “Summer In Jeju Island,” with its subtle percussive accents and sounds of nature later in the song.


While it doesn’t exactly evoke images of southern mansions and women in hoop skirts, a track called “Gone With Thepiano-rose Wind,” is nonetheless elegant with its neo-classical influences. Yu Ya describes her inspiration for the song in this way: “When we arrive into the world, we come with nothing, when we leave, we leave with nothing. It feels so light, just gone with the wind.” The album ends on a gentle note with a lovely song called “Waiting,” which featured a beautifully orchestrated middle movement before ending on solo piano. Among the things, which stood out to me on this piece as well as on many of Yu Ya’s compositions, are the unusual chord changes and progressions that pop up unexpectedly and which I found quite intriguing. For Yu Ya, this song represents the patience it takes while waiting for our dreams and goals to manifest.


As a recording artist, Yu Ya certainly has her dreams and goals, and is she off to a good start in reaching them with three albums to her credit, which have received international airplay. One of these goals is to develop greater integration of her spiritual and musical paths, and along these lines, she leaves us with this final thought: “Hopefully, later on my music creation will have something more to explore on this direction. As I always do, I wish the new work will have more impact and will inspire people’s lives bringing joy and happiness.”