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Shueh-li Ong: Music From Another Land

The interview

Shueh-li Ong
Shueh-li Ong.

What’s the meaning of your name?

XENOVIBES means foreign expressions. It is not a stage name, rather it was a noun I coined to try and explain what I do. It is also a concept that brings people together to play my music in a show that amalgamates the geographical and musical origins of the musicians.

That is interesting but I actually meant your real name. What does it mean Shueh-li?

Shueh-li is the anglicized version (phonetically though not using the Pin-Yin standard) of my Mandarin Chinese name which means “Snow jasmine”. My surname “Ong” means “King”. It is my English name as opposed to my Chinese (in characters).

Where are you now?

I am in the USA with “Xenovibes the Show”.

You’ve said that Music From Another Land “celebrates the beauty of diverse musical cultures and the spirit of live performance.” I will ask you to elaborate on the first statement later, but now I’d like to discuss the second. Your CD sounds fresh and alive but it’s pretty evident that its production relied heavily on studio work and the use of sequencers. So what you really mean when you say that it “celebrates the spirit of the live performance?”

As a composer, arranger, performer, I work from the “production” angle i.e. how I want the end result to be. The fact that I can pluck ideas from my head and execute them because I have the tools and skills makes me feel very fortunate, for this means I can realize my objectives no matter how simple or complex a project or idea.

With that said, my CDs are me flying solo along with my production style, quite unlike the concerts. Designing from a macro perspective means that my CDs utilize my tools of trade i.e my background in music technology, studio engineering, live performance. It is also a platform to show off my work as a multi-instrumentalist, specifically synthesizer programming/performance and as a thereminist.

Sound recordings give us the liberty to conjure what we can’t quite do “live”, so why not use it to make-believe I say (chuckle). Sequencers are our 20thC version of the multi track recorder, and this one-man-show has utilized it to enable her to fulfill her “objectives”. So you are right. Besides ‘sequencing and studio work’ I have laid down some “wicked” solos using some “wicked” sounds that I hope listeners will appreciate especially when they are being expressed by a synthesizer. I also wanted to promote my spirit of virtuosic playing in this day where most songs made-in-the-studio are as you call “heavily produced”. Neither are right, just different methods. Incidentally, John’s drumming was recorded in a live take.

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