AAPI Listening Guide: Part Two

Happy Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage month Month! To celebrate, Social Media Team members Shirley Xiong and Abigail AuYeung compiled a listening guide featuring Asian-American, Pacific Islander, and Asian composers for your listening enjoyment.

This post is the follow-up to our AAPI Listening Guide: Part 1, so be sure to look through that one first if you haven’t already. Once again we want to clarify that the following list is by no means a full representation of Asian composers nor a collection of their best pieces. It is meant as an introduction to the vast variety of Asian compositions, featuring some of the works that we find terrific. We hope that you will enjoy these as much as we do!

Top Row: Yoshinao Nakada and Ahn Eak-Tai; Bottom Row: Mohammed Fairouz, Marcelo Adonay, and Huguang Xin.

Mohammed Fairouz, Piano Sonata No. 2, “The Last Resistance” (2011)

Mohammed Fairouz is an Arab-American composer who has been named an “important new artistic voice” by the New York Times. Fairouz began composing at a young age and attended New England Conservatory of Music and Curtis Institute of Music where he refined his talents while studying under many notable professors. His Piano Sonata No. 2, titled “The Last Resistance,” is a poignant commentary on post-9/11 events, in which he references a book by the same name written by Jacqueline Rose. The book’s influence is also reflected in the movement names, which reflect specific chapters in Rose’s book. Fairouz balances striking chord progressions with ominous melodies and arpeggios throughout the piece. The work provokes thought, and its equally powerful literary counterpart is an intriguing read.

Yoshinao Nakada, Piano Pieces for Children (“Japanese Festival”) (1955)

Piano Pieces for Children, or Japanese Festival as it was called in the US, is a collection of not one but seventeen short piano pieces written by Yoshinao Nakada. Nakada, who studied at the Tokyo Music School, skillfully weaves lyrical melodies by incorporating traditional Japanese themes into the Western classical and 20th century style. These brief works provide a range of moods and tonalities, ranging from the yearning “The Song of Twilight” to the bright and cleverly utilized dissonance of “The Speedy Car.”

Huguang Xin, Gada Meirin

Born in 1933, Xin Huguang studied at the Conservatory of the Central Music University in Beijing, where she discovered the Mongolian folk music that would largely inspire many of her pieces, like Gada Meirin. The piece is named after the Mongol leader who fought against the sale of the Khorchin grasslands, in what is now Tongliao City in Mongolia, to Chinese Han settlers in 1929. Xin’s symphonic poem is filled with majestic string tuttis and powerful brass, woodwind, and percussion clashes, but also moments of calm.

Marcelo Adonay, Salve Regina and La Marieta

As the name of his piece alludes to, Marcelo Adonay was a Filipino liturgical composer in addition to being an organist. This work was one of his first to be published, although posthumously, by his close friend and fellow composer Antonio J. Molina in a volume of the Unitas Journal. Salve Regina, also known as “Hail Holy Queen,” is a common Catholic antiphon (sung phrase) praising the Virgin Mary. Adonay’s lyrics follow the traditional Latin prayer: “Salve Regina, Mater misericordiæ, vita, dulcedo,” etc. The piece begins with haunting colors from the organ, before that same subject is repeated by the baritone soloist. His composition is melancholic yet rings with jubilance, especially seen in the last few lines. If you aren’t a fan of liturgical music, La Marieta is a good alternative—it follows a waltz style, similarly to Adonay’s other work, La Julita; a short but wonderful piano composition that stirs up nostalgia while still retaining its energy.

Ahn Eak-Tai, Korean Fantasy

Korean Fantasy, also called Symphonic Fantasia (Korea), was Ahn Eak-Tai’s first composition for orchestra. Although you may not know Ahn’s name, it’s likely that you’ve heard one of his works before: the current South Korean anthem. Ahn played a multitude of instruments when he was young, starting with violin and then shifting to trumpet, picking up a bit of cello as well. In his later years, he studied at the Kunitachi Music School, University of Cincinnati, and Curtis Institute of Music. He continued his work in Europe under the guidance of Bernhard Paumgartner (Herbert von Karajan’s teacher), Zoltán Kodály, and Richard Strauss; the latter assisted greatly in the completion of Ahn’s symphonic work. In this piece, both an orchestra and a chorus are used. Starting with a wonderful horn solo, the composition balances melodies between different parts effortlessly, with exciting and threatening passages as well.

Still looking for more? Check out other pieces by these composers— there are hundreds! Unfortunately, due to the under-representation of these composers, many of their compositions do not have professional recordings nor easily found on music streaming services. We highly recommend taking an internet deep dive (especially YouTube!) to explore the full extent of what these composers have to offer. For the truly committed, you could even consider watching the shows or playing the games that have their compositions as the soundtracks. Some other recommendations we have are on the Social Media team collaboration, the AAPI playlist.


Abigail AuYeung is a cellist in CYSO’s Concert Orchestra. This is her second season with CYSO. She’s currently a freshman at Hinsdale Central High School. In her free time, Abigail enjoys reading, baking, and playing the cello, of course!

Shirley Xiong is a cellist in Philharmonic Orchestra. Although loving cello, she is (a bit) more of a piano enthusiast. She is currently a junior at New Trier High School. Some of her hobbies include collecting stuffed toys, using Photoshop, and baking.

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