A pandemic interview with Jen-Shuo Chen, a soundtrack composer from Taiwan

Updated: May 26

Jen-Shuo Chen is a film music and soundtrack composer form Taiwan. he is working as solo composer for film and television.


Award winning Taiwanese composer for film and television. He has participated on several films and TV projects while he studied in UNC School of the Arts as a film composer and music editor. His score for the animation short "Serpendipity" earned him an Award of Excellence in Music from the Southern Shorts Festival. The animation has amassed over 2 million views on Youtube to date. After graduating from UNCSA, he got invited by Chiali studio in Taiwan to work as an in-house TV composer and music editor.


Tunitemusic could have an exclusive interview with this talented film music composer and talk about the effects of coronavirus on the independent music industry and life of the independent musicians with Jen-Shuo Chen from Taiwan.

Did you have to cancel any of your performances or new releases because of the Coronavirus?


We do some of the series suspended shooting or canceled due to the Coronavirus. But as we are at the position, which is sort of the end of the industry chain, it's not affecting us much yet. The TV shows I'm writing music for are shot way before the pandemic happened. But I'm quite sure there will be a down period in the near future.


What was the effect of the pandemic on your income?


Luckily, my income is still stable at this point!


Did the pandemic and new situation have an effect on your lifestyle?


I used to be a pretty outdoor-guy and have to go out everyday. Since the pandemic, I spend most of my time at home. Now I have much more time to experiment with more styles of music. Like I mainly used to write orchestral music, but now I'm trying more genres with synthesizer to write some synthwave, experimental etc., and I also bought my first hardware synth Korg NTS-1!


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Do you think this situation affects your creativity?


Actually it is! Spending more time at home means you have more time to think and talk to yourself. And I think that’s quite important to an artist. You have more time to explore new ideas, learn some cool new tech or find some inspiring arts. Beside electronic music, I’m also starting to explore some minimalist music, which I have always wanted to master for a long time. And this is a good time to absorb from others and write my own minimalism piece.

If the virus ends today, will you go back to your routine precisely as before?


Actually my daily schedule hasn’t changed much. Every morning I start to write music or do music editing for TV series at 8am. If that day I don’t need to do a project then I still write music for my personal use. It’s pretty much a 8 to 5 routine. The only change is that I have more time for myself at night and holidays. As I said, I used to be a very outdoor person, but now I realized that I like to be at home to play with sounds as well, so I think I’ll spend more time at home even after the virus ends.


What is your opinion about the effects of the pandemic on the music and art industry in the future?


I think the most affected part is the performing arts. People are not able to go to concerts and theaters, it must be such an impact to performing artists. But I also saw some big bands and orchestras doing live streaming performances. That’s a pretty cool idea, and as VR and the technologies are developing, I believe that streaming performance will get more popular.


What is your opinion about the future of art and more specifically music, from the cultural and artistic view?


Nowadays, no matter in film score or mainstream music, I feel more and more people are manipulating the sounds, instead of focusing on the chords and melody like “usual music”. I think that’s pretty cool to expand the whole spectrum of writing music with unique sounds! And you can sample anything and play with it on your laptop, or even your phone! And that means we have more opportunity to play with our “Culture sounds”, for example, suona is an instrument that is pretty popular in Taiwanese temples. When I scored for a horror film, I sampled suona and added effects and edited the files to make a really cool can weird suona drone.


Did your government or any other organization in your country, support you or other artists around you against the pandemic?


There are some relief packages provided by Taiwanese government. They also have some loans without interest. Even though those are not big money, I do hope that can help a little. Lots of performing artists are not able to survive or feed their families right now.


As an artist, did you get any support from society? What do you think society could do for you?


Personally I don’t need much support right now since I’m still doing okay. But there are some online platforms and Facebook groups are letting artists post their works and let people buy them. And I heard they are doing pretty well since lots of people are very supportive.


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As an artist, did you support your community through the pandemic?


It’s a shame to say that I didn’t do much. As a film composer, I don’t have much chance to connect with other artists since I mostly work alone or sometimes with my colleagues. But I always try to upload my works regularly on Instagram and try to inspire other beginner musicians. It’s really satisfying to see people around the world DM me to ask me about the process of making music, or just a simple greeting that motivates me to share my work and process a lot.


In your opinion how can artists help people through pandemic time?


The whole planet is kinda in a mess right now, there is so much fear about losing the job, living or the virus. People need something to bring them peace or even just distract them from this situation a little. And I believe that’s what arts can do! We artists can keep working and publishing our works, just try our best to bring some warmth to this world through our works.


If you could save only one artist from the Coronavirus, who would that be?


My cousin Li-Bin Hsu is such a great and creative painter. His first exhibition is going to open very soon which he planned for such a long time. In normal time, it’s hard already to attract people coming to your exhibition when you are a smaller artist. Now it’s even harder due to the virus. I really hope I can do something for him to support his exhibition!


If you knew about the 2020's pandemic from a year ago, what would you do differently?


I think I wouldn’t do much different since the virus has not changed my lifestyle drastically. But buying much, much more masks is definitely!


You can have just one of your wishes come true, what will you wish for?


I always want to prove that I can live well with writing music, which is the thing I really love. Usually the stereotype of an artist is that if you are not a big name, you are probably a poor person who doesn't want to get a normal job. But I wish I can prove that is not true. In my opinion, people think art is a hard career because there’s no regular path to follow. It’s not a job you can get by only following the interview process. You need to make a strategy to maximize your opportunity and gain your portfolio. There’s still some systems in the path I believe, and I want to prove I can find them and inspire other young artists to keep pursuing their dream.


What to listen to in times of corona

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