LifeDesigner with Jingyu Chen
Conversation with Musician Zenith
Photo by Photographer: tomookai
Growing up in New Zealand and being the only Asian kid in the whole school, Zenith experienced years of bully at primary school. It led her to develop an initial interest in how the human psychic and mind work, and she set herself up for pursuing psychiatry at a very early age. Younger Zenith’s choice of being a doctor may not come from having a ‘ good heart for forgiveness ‘ ( as she self-corrected ), but I saw a kid striving to survive first by being the best
( which is probably the best strategy a kid could adopt). Fundamentally it’s a choice driven by her inherent intention of helping those struggling inside.
A gay year in Korea and a teaching job over there prompted her to shift the lane, and pivoted to pursue music. She completed the master degree in Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The scope of her music practice is enormous: performing cello, piano, violin, composing, singing, and teaching music., as Zenith said, music is her life basically. Music fulfils her purpose of living, and secondarily music feeds her to sustain a living. The order can’t be flipped around because that order shaped her as a musician and framed her perspectives towards the world.
When it comes to performing music, Zenith considers it essential to incorporate intellectual pieces of information behind each piece ( a composer’s life, social environment, and political movement at that time, etc., ) into her creative act as supposed to just emoting and feeling her way through the sound.
By employing both intellectual and emotional skills, a musician is equipped to deliver an individual narrative in its attached social and cultural landscape. History and human stories, therefore, are documented and archived. I also personally believe that only in this way can music legacy be inherited and evolved through generation by generation
We further address non-transactional value in music, which I consider distinguishes music from all other instrumental forces (economic power, tech power, etc.,), because music moves our
hearts! I can’t think of any other human inventions that can so easily and mysteriously activate and unleash human emotions and feelings!
Music is for the ears to hear. As a human being, Zenith is humbling and compassionate in a profound sense that she acknowledges different forms of human living and struggling. Hence she will never project her feelings for music onto audiences. As a musician, her goal is only and always just to share her life passion with the outside world and to send invitations to whoever walks into her musical world. What audiences will take away from a piece of music is absolutely individual but her genuine attempt and efforts to make an emotional connection through sounds will definitely be sensed by all her audiences!
On that note, I am one of the recipients.15 years old me accepted the Yo-Yo Ma tracks sent by my friend and since then music becomes my lifelong intimate friend.
Zenith’s insight into music musician education for children portrayed an epic scene that music intricately interplays with the rest of the world ( art, architecture, fashion, history, science, religion, etc.,). Her revealing reaches my core belief that music goes beyond an exclusive component and isolated being, as well as embodying grand aesthetes that encompass a mixture of human civilization creation.
She not only offers her teaching methodology on technical training but also presents a full rich and enchanting world that sparks a 5 years natural curiosity. She made me believe that a piece of music can be unpackaged in a way to be linguistically understandable and emotionally relatable to a 5-year-old. Music is to some extent exclusive as a career path, but musicians like Zenith reinforced my faith that Music education plays an instrumental role in preparing children to be better emotionally equipped for life in general. Music does provide a perspective and reality to live a life with infinity.
Photo by Photographer: tomookai
All musicians are searching for their voice in music. The minute it’s found, the choice of living
life with music becomes eternity. Zenith found her voice in music which is to make an emotional and artistic connection with her audiences.
As a musician, Zenith never shines away from performing confronting pieces and she also fully embrace playing dreamy and fantasy pieces like La La Land.
When delivering confronting pieces to her audiences, disclaimer and warning ahead need to be made out of courtesy and basic human decency as Zenith said. Her goal is to make an emotional connection with her audience. The key is not to overstep the boundary in between making an emotional connection and healing. As far as I consider it, it already takes a musician’s full strengths to be completely vulnerable and to even brutally expose herself/himself to that excruciating pain that comes with that piece. When a musician goes beyond making connections and attempts to heal audiences’ trauma through music, it becomes a rather unprofessional, unsafe, and even arrogant act, as Zenith put it. I agree with that. I was trained at work in building professional boundaries when it comes to dealing with crisis cases. Empathy and compassion will not qualify you as a therapist and healing should be left to accreted professionals' hands.
We also extend into’ what’s underneath the façade’. When reaching a radical acceptance towards the complexity of humanity and an in-depth life experience, a person (or a musician specifically) may finally gain the liberation and autonomy to choose the tone and colour in their professional work ( which can be only played La La Land LoL, for example). I also consider Zenith as the least judging person as her judgment is formulated through her endeavours to peel layers to reach a person’s inner core. She never defines a person’s ‘being’ on a surface level ( job title whatever ) , What matters to her is an individual’s inward expression and inner strengths. She talked to people from all walks of life because she is purely and genuinely (I even consider it like genetically given to some extent ) interested in richness and diversity in human stories, wanting to explore and hear their inner voice. How could a person like that is judgemental lol , right?
About internal pretentiousness: I got this concept from Ethan Hawk, one of my favourite actors. He said it’s ok that you are pretentious if you do it with a bit of humor. If you have a sense of humor about yourself, it means you are aspiring to something. You have to set up a goal for yourself. They may as well be lofty. I feel it’s so true!
Zenith likes to have a solid understanding of her current standing and status, and she enjoys being accurate and objective about her reality rather than internally creating a false and higher self-image. But she sets up her strict personal standard which she fiercely
protects as well as a goal that she strives to achieve. I see that inner protection as the essence of pretentiousness. With that pretentiousness at the core, Musician’s creative desire comes within and the determination to reach their goals is unwavering. I believe that pretentiousness defines an artist’s artistry and sustains a musician’s creativity.
About sensibility: Zenith reiterates the importance of not separating a discipline from the rest of the world. She said: if you live as a human being in society, all disciplines cross each other. If you have a basic level of knowledge about what’s going on around your surrounding, the community at the point of life, you are gonna be much more equipped to be better at doing what you are doing. I hold similar belief that Perception shouldn’t be made in a vacuum. A discipline shouldn’t be approached as an island. With this holistic perspective in mind, Zenith keeps practicing and deepening her sensibility for her creative pursuit.
About authenticity: Her authenticity comes downs to practicing and grinding her craft daily. Zenith and I came from different backgrounds, though, we apply the same mindset and practice to navigate our life every day, that is to keep the promise we made to ourselves and hold ourselves accountable. Again, means and craft doesn’t matter, Human connection is real when what drives us is essentially identical at its core.
About work-life balance: Zinth is very grateful to own the life she chooses to live and she is fully aware that not everyone gets to do what they want to do even if they have the means and will. I know she has no intention to diminish the importance of work-life balance, and I do believe musician like Zenith or artists in general, sustain their living through tireless and fearless creative pursuits. I just purely wish all creatives take good care of themselves ( eat well, sleep well, maybe add some exercise Lol) for greater longevity leading up to a longer creative span.
Finally, it comes to the end of this beyond-word amazing podcast journey with Zenith. From receiving the very first few tracks sent by my friends ( Yo-Yo Ma plays Ennio Morricone, Forever love by X-Japan, etc) to encountering Zenith and documenting her music story, I feel it’s like a full circle for me. I made promoise to myself that I will forever protect the sensibility, sensitivity 'pretentiousness', authenticity of musicians who I connected to ( which is gonna be very minimal given my very small social network Lol). Because music protect mine. In the end, I want to tell all musicians out there to enjoy the journey and trust the process and it will lead to a moment. Wherever you are standing now, at least you are already connected to your inner art and hence you will never lose hope to live your life.
Hans Zimmer also wants to reassure everyone that however much people discourage you, however hard it gets, at the end of the day, it’s worth it. If you feel compelled to write music, then do it!
All Photos attached with these two episodes by Photographer: tomookai