Yayun (雅韵)

Commissioned by San Francisco Asian Art Museum for the special exhibition Music for the Afterlife in May, 2017. Composer and pipa performed by Sophia Shen. Bronze Bells performed by Stephen Parris and David Samas from Gamelan Encinal.

Waking Dream (梦魇)

for solo pipa

performed by Sophia Shen at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville, VA, 10/12/2014.  

Rite of The Elves

William Winant Percussion Group

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Between Heaven and Earth, Hovering

Choreographer: Yang Yang

Voice & live electronics: Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir

Pipa, live electronics & fixed media: Sophia Shen

Between Heaven and Earth, Hovering, a cross-cultural collaboration between music and dance. The dancer uses the traditional Chinese shuixiu (水袖, water sleeves) as an extension of her body and explores new pathways and movement patterns without referencing the symbolism of the traditional Chinese dance, while the music reinterprets the movement by blending the sound worlds of the Chinese traditional instrument pipa, Icelandic poem, vocal improvisation, live processed small objects and processed recordings from different locations.


Duo with Ingibjörg Friðriksdóttir

Hymn is a folk improvisation with voice, pipa, percussion and live electronics based on the Icelandic hymn Heyr Himna Smiður (Hear, Smith of heavens). The piece uses pipa and abstract vocals to create a powerful soundscape of tension and grandiosity. The looping of the sounds conveys a dark ambient feeling that builds as the composition progresses. It’s a conversation and convergence of sounds from the two distant cultures.

The hymn that this composition is build on was written by Kolbeinn Tumason (1173-1208), just before 1208 AD, and is the oldest known nordic hymn. The music was composed over 700 years later by Þorkell Sigurbjörnsson (1938-2013).

This is a studio mix of a live performance. Kristopher Rodriguez Svönuson plays percussion.


Choreography: Yao Dang 

Live musicians: Adam Adhiyatma (electronics), Sophia Shen (amplified pipa)

Dancer: Stephanie Hewett, Sophia Klein, Hailey Sounart, Jordan Wanderer, Yang Yang, Yawen Zou


Choreographer: Yang Yang
Dancer: Stephanie Hewett
Composer: Sophia Shen

In fluid dynamics, drag (sometimes called fluid resistance) refers to forces acting opposite to the relative motion of any object moving with respect to a surrounding fluid. This can exist between two fluid layers or surfaces. In this collaboration, the movement and the sound together explore velocity within a sense of stagnancy, resistance and confinement. The music explores the triple point of the substance at which the three phases (gas, liquid, and solid) of the substance coexist in thermodynamic equilibrium. The dancer is soaked in the imaginary heavy liquid that music symbolizes and moves in it in order to search for equilibrium in a binary form, but instead arrives at an open-ended state.

Mills College, December 2015.


在那遥远的地方 (In a Faraway Land)

Wang Luobin, one of the most renowned Chinese songwriters and earliest ethnic music researchers wrote the song in 1939 in Qinghai Province while shooting a film near Qinghai Lake. He met a young Tibetan girl and wrote a song about the beautiful impression that she left upon him and all those around her. The song is set to the tune of a Kazakh folk song that Wang had collected in the area, and it’s famous for its ethnic complexity. This traditional Chinese tune is rearranged to a SATB chorus by Lemon Guo and a Chinese chamber ensemble by Sophia Shen.

Soprano: Kristina Warren & Connie Zhenyue Huang

Alto: Savannah Thieme, Lemon Guo & Moira Lennon

Tenor: Pat Burns, Yunlu Zhu & Steve Sun

Bass: Brian Roy & John Xia

Chinese Drum: Yuning Ling

Erhu: Carina Cai & Jining Zhong

Dizi: Zishu Gao & Zexi Ye

Pipa: Lily Ouyang & Sophia Shen

Guzheng: Yuchen Xie

University of Virginia, 04/26/2015


Stereo mix of an 8-channel surround live performance at Octophonia 2015, Mills College.

WeChat, a free messaging and calling app that's popular in China because of its audio message utility. On Saturday morning I posted a status asking my friends to send me an one-minute long audio message (anything you want to say/ lie/ sing/ play/ read to me, gibberish, noise, background sound etc.) and by midnight I received a variety of audio messages from different parts of the world. This short and condense one-minute composition represents the sound of my social network. Fascinating, addictive, warm, and sometimes overwhelming.

Nature Suite

Stereo mix of the multichannel fixed media version

I. Membrane

captures the most unforgettable experience during the recording session in the middle of the ocean on the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. It was the sonic traveling between the land and the underwater. Under the peaceful appearance of the surface was the incredibly dynamic world that I had never encountered, and everything was vividly unveiled in my headphone. But when I put down my headphone, everything seemed to disappear all of a sudden – only the world that I live in was left.

II. Rainstorm

is made in RTcmix using field recordings from my hometown Zhangzhou, Fujian, China during the summer storm season. Different techniques of sound synthesis, physical modeling and sample processing were applied in order to sonically transform and reconstruct the gloomy, depressing, and overwhelming visual memory of the frequent thunderstorms, as well as to juxtapose the fantasy and the reality. 

III. The Last 23 of Us

takes the data of the estimated population size of the Hainan black-crested gibbon from 1950 to nowadays. The data is mapped into different parameters of the FM synthesizer and the IIR filter in RTcmix in order to show the rapid decline of the population in the past 65 years. Every 10 years equals 20 seconds of the piece. The frequency range also shrinks, which signifies the shrinkage of gibbon distribution over the years. The Hainan black crested gibbon or Hainan gibbon (Nomascus hainanus), is a species of gibbon found only on Hainan Island, China. The Hainan black-crested gibbon is under grave threat of extinction. They are currently identified as Critically Endangered on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List. 



The Unveiling

Pipa improvisation and live electronics

In this interactive improvisation, the dialog between the instrument and the computer is established upon amplification and processing of the neglected sounds of the instrument in SuperCollider. A pear-shaped, four-string plucked instrument that can be dated back to the late Han Dynasty around 2nd century CE, pipa is one of the most popular Chinese instruments and has been played for almost two thousand years in China. The decaying notes and enlarging spaces will connect the music between the acoustic and synthetic worlds. The performer plays an essential role in realizing the dialog between computer and instrument by listening and responding intensely to the sound in the moment.