Scott Li ’16 fuses electronic knowledge and classical background

photo: Annie Gao

photo by Annie Gao

Scott Li ’16 is the co-concertmaster of PHS Orchestra as well as an independent electronic music composer. His violin has taken him to Europe several times, with and without the school orchestra. Next year, he will be attending Peabody Conservatory studying both Computer Music Composition and Recording Arts.

What do you play/what elements of music are you involved in?

I play violin, and I study classical music with my violin teacher, who I have been studying with for nine years. [She’s] been my only violin teacher. I also do electronic music on a computer program called FL Studio. It’s basically a more complicated version of GarageBand.

How are you involved in the PHS music program and how does that affect your life?

I’ve been in the PHS orchestra program for four years … As a freshman, I was taking music classes for both electives, so I was very engaged in music, but I decided to take PHS orchestra over band … PHS orchestra has really influenced me in so many ways. The musicals that we’ve done have really opened me up to new types of music, like the Gershwin piece we just did. Also, just learning to perform with all these musicians has just taught me a lot of musicianship that I otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to … I just finished my last concert with them and I had a solo that I’ve been working on since the beginning of junior year. It’s called the Violin Concerto No.4 in D Minor Op. 31 by Henri Vieuxtemps, and I played the second movement. It’s a slow piece, nothing show-offy. The reason I didn’t choose a show-offy piece is because they are, for one, very hard, and also I think that second movements are underrated and underrepresented. Not many people can play them and make a really musical statement, so I decided to take on that challenge myself.

What kind of music do you listen to and does that have an influence on your composition at all?

So, I’m definitely very well-versed in electronic music—you know, EDM—and that’s where I started off. A few years ago, that was all I listened to, but now as I get older I’m starting to branch off. Right now, I listen to a lot of indie rock. I’m also trying to get into jazz, because jazz has always influenced both my composition and my understanding of music as whole: my musicianship, how I listen to other musicians. For example, I recently went to Joe Bell’s senior recital, which was honestly a life-changing experience, and I’m not even exaggerating. It was the first time I ever heard him and things like that have made me realize that it really doesn’t matter what kind of music you listen to because you can always have incredibly musical experiences. I just love the harmonies in jazz and things like that have definitely influenced both my playing and my composition.

How do you balance school and music?

For me, honestly, music has always been a priority because I’ve never treated academics as seriously as music. Often times, I’ll stay up and pull all-nighters when I have a project due the next day, but I’ll just be working on a composition instead. That’s something that happens pretty often so it’s really hard to juggle the two. Sometimes schoolwork will prevent me from working on a song that I really want to work on because there’s always this initial inspiration that you get when you first start working on a composition, and it’s very easy to lose it so you can’t let them go to waste.

How do you blend newer music with a more traditional method that stems from your classical training?

I would say that classical music has really set a foundation for my musical ability. It’s not like I’m trying to integrate it and create something new, but it has set the foundations for my understanding of music in general. Harmony, counterpoint … it’s where all of modern music has developed from, in my opinion. And it’s the first style of music that I learned, and my violin teacher … has set a very strong foundation for me. So for me, doing what I do—creating electronic music—is a way of searching for new styles of music to add to my knowledge of classical. And, because I have that initial knowledge,  I of music that I learned, and my violin teacher … has set a very strong foundation for me.

So for me, doing what I do—creating electronic music—is a way of searching for new styles of music to add to my knowledge of classical. And, because I have that initial knowledge, I can apply and sometimes break the rules that classical has set forth.

Overall, how has music shaped you as a person and affected your life?

Honestly, there are so many messages that you can convey through music, it’s just such a unique artistic medium. It’s not like painting or photography or film. Even though those are all great mediums that all have their own worlds and great potentials, and I’m not trying to belittle them, music is just something that you can’t grab, it’s something that is so close to your soul. It’s like a language: you can communicate with other musicians as you play, and that’s where the most genuine and heart-wrenching music comes from. I think it’s just a great medium for human connection.

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