MUTED  *this project is supported by New Music USA

Asians lack presence. Asians take up apologetic space. We don’t even have enough presence to be considered real minorities. We’re not racial enough to be token. We’re so post-racial we’re silicon. – Cathy Park Hong, from Minor Feelings 

I moved to the United States in 2004. Since then, I have transitioned from a graduate student to a professional performer and faculty member at a university. Although I went through different phases in life, I have always been seen as an Asian woman. What American society sees in me has not changed. I was a stereotypical Asian woman, and I am a stereotypical Asian woman – subdued and demure, in other words, “muted.” I am a muted person without vivid colors. Naturally, a muted person’s voice wouldn’t be heard. My voice is muted.

The muted piano sound is not a representation of traditional piano sound. Piano has been compared with an orchestra. Piano offers virtuosity, brilliance, sensitivity, seven-octave ranges, rich colors, thick and massive chords, and multiple voices. Muffled(muted) sound was not associated with the characteristics of a piano. However, muting strings turns the piano into a different animal. Piano becomes a percussion instrument, and, at the same time, it becomes a string instrument. It generates harmonics. It produces timbres that mimic percussion. The mix of muted and unmuted sounds gives a stark contrast and even whimsy. Playing inside of piano does not make the immense volume. Muted notes will be soft, just like my own voice.

I want to explore the muted piano sound. I want to express myself as a performer and person through muted notes that are quiet, muffled, and unbrilliant.

Selected composers will receive a $1000 commissioning fee to write a new work for solo piano that uses extended techniques (including different ways of muting strings). In addition to receiving the fee, the composers’ new works will be premiered and performed throughout the year 2024.


Anruo Cheng

Chen-Hui Jen

Grace Ann Lee

Ania Vu