A chamber orchestra of young men and women dressed in black is arranged around a stage, facing their music stands. The orchestra comprises violins, violas, cellos and a double bass.
Danna, also dressed in black, with her black hair pulled back in a ponytail, approaches the conductor's music stand and picks up her baton.
Reading her music through black-rimmed spectacles, she waves her baton and the first viola player opens the piece.
The rest of the orchestra joins in, watching both Danna and their sheet music.
Various musicians have solos as the recital progresses.
For most of the piece, the players are using their bows to play, but in certain passages they pluck their strings in unison, and this is how they finish the recital.
When it is finished, Danna lays down her baton and the musicians lower their instruments.
Danna, a young woman with long black hair tied up in a bun, steps out onto a concert stage in a satiny black, off-the-shoulder top, black pants and stilettos. She sits at a grand piano and begins to play with a serene expression on her face.
DANNA: I started playing piano and cello when I was very young. I had a piano teacher and she was very good at teaching but very strict and often I would fear her. So the way I was raised with piano had been that you either got it perfect on the day or that if you didn't, you weren't good enough.
Danna sitting in a music studio, more casually dressed and wearing spectacles.
Music was something that was very personal to me and I linked it to my pride and my popularity. Gradually as my perception of the world changed, music became something that instead of being for me myself, I wanted to share with others.
Danna walking through a games arcade, its flashing lights reflected in her spectacles. She's wearing her hair loose beneath a woolly brown beanie with a pompom on top. She plays one of the arcade games.
When I was around 11, I played my first video game and it was an amazing experience and the music itself was able to draw you into the world of the game and you could completely lose yourself in it, and I hope that by writing game music, I can also allow other young people to grow an interest towards classical music.
Overlaying footage of Michelangelo's sculpture of David in a gallery is text that reads, 'In 1501 Michelangelo created a vision of human perfection. In 2019 Danna Yun was given a commission to do the same. She had no knowledge of the commission's origin.'
When I first got this brief, I was just lost.
Danna and a crowd of other young artists at a briefing.
I just thought, well, now's the end, I should just quit everything, because what do you do with this brief?
A bearded man in a jacket is addressing them while referring to a screen at the front of the room displaying information about the brief.
MAN: Create a piece of work that represents a vision of human physical perfection, Esther, Jack, Ash, Danna and Sam.
DANNA: In that state of panic I did brainstorm a lot of ideas. I thought, how can I write a piece of music that can represent a vision of physical human perfection? Which is something I'd never explored before.
Danna sitting at her piano at home, writing music notation on a stave.
Usually when I write pieces I like to have a narrative, but this one was just beyond me.
She plays a short musical passage, recording it on her phone at the same time, then transcribing it onto her stave.
There were a lot of obstacles along the way. I remember when I was brainstorming, I was like, "Oh, what do I do?" and then as I start writing, it's like, "How do I do this?". And you have to keep repeating, scrap an idea, repeat an idea, whatever.
She tries out a melody on her piano keyboard.
So say if I start with...and then it goes...
She tries something else.
It definitely taught me a lot through the process of writing this piece, so that's something I'm grateful for.
Danna sitting at a laptop in her room, wearing headphones and playing on an electronic keyboard that's connected to her laptop with a cable.
Not that it's a bad piece, it's just not quite there and maybe I'll spend my whole life thinking anything I write is not quite there. But in a way, maybe that will drive me.
Danna sitting in the studio again.
It's split into three sections, very simple, very clear.
Danna arrives at the Melbourne Conservatorium of Music on a sunny day, carrying her cello case on her back like a backpack. Inside, she gets into a lift.
The first section is representing the image of perfection. It's still, it's calm, it's ethereal, what we strive to be.
Sitting at a music stand, holding her cello, Danna speaks to a young male violinist sitting next to her.
- And so I decided to look at gods and deities for this part, because they kind of are a symbol of perfection.
Danna sitting in the studio again.
You look at a god, you think, wow they're perfect. They have this much power. We revere these beings. They are an image of what we strive to be.
Danna composing at her piano again.
The second section begins with a small dance in quite an odd character. It stops and it starts again and it wants to chase something. It wants to arrive at a place of perfection. However, how does it get there? It's stuck, just like humans and their pursuits of perfection.
Danna writes more notes on her stave.
Yes, so I don't want to make this too cliché, so essentially, even if I have something like...
She plays a lilting melody.
Danna sitting in the studio again, and with her violinist friend at the conservatorium.
The third section then sees a return of the theme from the first section. However, this time the textures are very turbulent and this represents how perfection, it's a triumph to achieve but we constantly have to keep achieving it.
Danna composing on the electronic keyboard and laptop.
The obstacle of feeling like your piece isn't good enough, that is what made me hinder my own creativity in a way or another.
Danna conducting a chamber orchestra during rehearsals in an auditorium.
Indifference is my fear, so if people were to listen to my music, I would want them to feel anything. Anything is better than nothing.
In slow motion, Danna raises her baton and swings it back and forth. The orchestra begins to play her composition.
Text overlays the orchestra that reads '30 emerging artists responded to the themes of the world's most iconic commissions.'
'First commissions. Online gallery now open.'
Riddle for String Ensemble
“The pursuit of perfection is ever-expanding. It’s only in reaching one horizon that the next becomes visible.”
Danna Yun was initially challenged by the brief, before she became inspired by her own struggle with perfectionism within her musical practice: she notes a moment in which she went beyond the pursuit of technical perfection in order to better understand why. This spirit of inquiry was important in her evolution as a musician and composer. Reflecting on this, Danna has composed a work that plays with traditional modes of composition to provide an accessible experience of classical music to contemporary audiences.
Riddle for String Ensemble is a 7-minute classical composition inspired from gods and deities found in religion and mythology. Historically immortalised as perfect beings in the form of painting and statues, her work investigates their stories and discovers they too share many of our human imperfections and flaws.
The piece (a reference to the Sphinx’s riddle from Greek mythology) depicts glimpses of deities as ethereal, still paintings as if you were walking among them. Tamer harmonic beginnings evoke a sense of tradition and respect, progressing to a mood of eccentricity, hinting that below the surface these gods consist of character at odds to their depiction. This juxtaposition pushes and pulls, until finally the gods fail to break free from the canvas – as this is only a representation of a vision.
Bachelor of Music, 2018
Bachelor of Music (Honours), current student
Mixed and mastered
Additional thanks to the players Athaya Anaduta, Annika Cho, Grace Elliott, Alexandra Giller, Kye Yim Loh, Jin Long, Nyssa Sanguansri, and Rebecca Wang