Shih-Hui Chen

Professor of Composition and Theory and Chair of Composition and Theory
Diploma (1982), National Academy for the Arts
M.M. (1985), Northern Illinois University
D. M. A. (1993) Boston University

1603 Alice Pratt Brown Hall

Shih-Hui Chen

陳士惠 A citation accompanying Shih-Hui Chen’s Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters states: “Among the composers of Asian descent living in the U.S.A., Shih-Hui Chen is most successful in balancing the very refined spectral traditions of the East with the polyphonic practice of Western art-music. In a seamless narrative, her beautiful music, always highly inventive and expressive, is immediately as appealing as it is demanding and memorable.” According to the New Music Box review of 66 Times (Albany Records CD), Chen “…completely blurs the line between traditional Chinese music and contemporary American composition.” Her most recent CD, Returning Souls (New World), was hailed by Wire Magazine for its “deep musical intelligence.”

Born in Taiwan, Shih-Hui Chen has lived in the United States since 1982 and received her doctorate from Boston University. In addition to garnering a Koussevitzky Music Foundation Commission, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and an American Academy in Rome Prize, her compositions have been performed widely throughout the U.S. and abroad, including China, Japan, England, Germany, and Italy. Chen’s compositions have brought her into contact with many orchestras including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and Utah Symphony. Her chamber music has been presented by the Arditti Quartet, Network for New Music, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Freon Ensemble in Rome, Italy. Chen’s work has also been the subject of analysis by scholars such as German ethnomusicologist Barbara Mittler, who wrote Chen’s biographical entry in the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians.

Seeking a deeper understanding of her native culture and music, Chen spent two years in Taiwan studying indigenous and Nanguan music (2010 Fulbright Senior Scholar and 2013 Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs Fellowship, affiliated with the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica.) In addition, Chen takes personal pride in promoting Taiwanese culture by organizing events beyond the confines of the concert hall. In 2013, she launched the U.S. tour for Returning Souls, a documentary film and concert music (in collaboration with anthropological filmmaker Taili Hu) based on the music and culture of indigenous Taiwanese tribes. Chen served as director for the 2015 Common Practice 21C: Classical, Contemporary, and Cross-Culture Music, bringing musicians from Taiwan, China and Southeast Asia to present a three-day festival at Rice University and Asia Society Texas Center. Chen is currently planning the 2016 Nanguan festival and tour, which will present a mixture of traditional Nanguan and newly composed works influenced by Nanguan.

Shih-Hui Chen serves as Professor of Music at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music. Recent projects include a soundtrack for the animated film for the Water and Land Dharma Ceremony (法鼓山水陸法會 Dharma Drum Mountain); A Plea to Lady Chang’e (推忱著衣-- 南管新唱) for Chamber Orchestra and Nanguan pipa; Fantasia on the Theme of Guanglingsan for Zheng and Chinese Orchestra (廣陵散的迴響); three new orchestral works for the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, Pacific Rim Music Festival and National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra; and Messages From a Paiwan Village (土板部落往返的信), a 50-minute storytelling musical drama. Her music can be heard on Albany, New World and Bridge Records.