Graduation marks the successful completion of one’s undergraduate journey. For Sulwyn Lok (Recording Arts & Sciences), it’s a milestone to celebrate, but no cause to slow down the lively pace he has been keeping.
The recent months have been filled with exciting activity for him, with more to come. In May, the film ADAM, for which Sulwyn composed the music, was screened at the Cannes Film Festival. In June, he premiered a Silk Road-inspired composition commissioned by the Tianzi Chinese Ensemble, which is affiliated with the Sichuan Symphony Orchestra. He will have his arrangements performed by inclusive orchestra The Purple Symphony in August, and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra in October. He will serve as Composition faculty at the Music Society of Myanmar’s 2019 Festival and Competition, which he is also involved in planning. As part of audio-video company Poco Productions, which he co-founded with his classmates, he recorded the Red Dot Baroque’s One Charming Night concert as well as the TENG Ensemble’s upcoming album. And the very day after Commencement, he will conduct the Victoria Chinese Orchestra in concert at the Singapore Conference Hall. To top it all, he is graduating as valedictorian of the YST Class of 2019.
Speaking to him, one is struck by his seemingly boundless energy and enthusiasm. One also notes the multi-facetedness of his musical identity. He began as a Chinese instrumentalist at the age of 13, playing the zhongruan. While serving National Service, he tried his hand at composition and arrangement, doing percussion arrangements for the Rainbow Centre and Pathlight School, as well as writing for Chinese orchestra.
Sulwyn shares, “I started as a Chinese instrumentalist, composer and arranger, and only came across audio arts and sciences at a later point. Looking back, production has been key in helping me expand my sonic palette, think about sound, and listen critically – all extremely important things for a composer. The skills I gained in digital music have helped me in composing film music, as directors increasingly seek to create distinctive sonic identities for their works.” Likewise, his background in composition lends inspiration to his work in audio production. “It’s not just a technical exercise – rather, it’s about bringing technique and artistry together to evoke emotions in people.”
Having started out as a self-taught musician, Sulwyn expresses gratitude for his teachers’ guidance. “I’m thankful to my Major teachers, the Analysis & Composition and Music Studies faculty, as well as the Professional Integration faculty – they sharpened my production skills, opened up my world and thinking, and helped me gain skills and confidence in community projects. Every semester at YST, I come out feeling like a different musician in my thinking and abilities.” At the same time, he acknowledges the value of starting out self-taught, noting that it has made him more adventurous and willing to explore new musical fusions and ideas.
Beyond YST, working with different communities has contributed to Sulwyn’s evolution as a musician. “With the Conservatory’s support, I’ve been able to take on musical projects in Laos, Myanmar and Thailand; these have allowed me to see new musical colours and possibilities. At a broader level, music is something that can connect people across abilities, ages and backgrounds – this is a gift we have, that we can harness for good.”
With these diverse musical influences, Sulwyn hopes to pursue further studies in film composition in the future. “As a film composer, I want to be the bridge between thinking and feeling, between the artist and film and then audience – and to nurture future talents in Singapore in this area. With the richness of global cultures, there is so much that we can each draw on to create something new for the world.” We look forward to what he, and our graduating cohort, will create!
Cover photo by Estee Goh.