21 November 2022
By Guest Writer
Get to know this talented Australian-Taiwanese musician, who is fresh off the back of releasing a brand-new album.
1. She is a first-generation immigrant
Belle was born in Kaohsiung, a port city in southern Taiwan. As a child, she followed her family to Christchurch, New Zealand, then on to Brisbane, Australia, where she became a naturalised Australian. Belle is now based in London, United Kingdom.
As the first musician in her family, she changed piano teachers every time the family moved, giving her exposure to a multitude of approaches in piano-playing and listening.
Her upbringing is a story that may be shared by many other immigrants – or indeed children of immigrants – in the sense that she was required to adapt and to absorb varying traditions and influences. Her exposure to both eastern and western idioms as co-existing influences, as well as acknowledgement of tradition and innovation, is deeply reflected in her approach to music-making – as can be heard on her Years of Pilgrimage album.
2. Her musical personality is fluid and indescribable
Described by Brian Eno as 'original and provocative', Belle has a very fluid musical personality, somewhat influenced by her upbringing.
Her music combines and draws influences from classical, post-classical, jazz, world, experimental, avant-garde… these influences come together in unexpected and surprising ways through her music.
In addition to the concert grand piano, she often draws on textures from prepared piano, synthesisers, electric pianos, kalimba, melodica, sampled sounds, and felt piano to create here music – as seen here live at The Stone Nest in London.
To this date, no reviewers have been able to describe her approach to music in a singular manner!
3. Her passion is for travel and discovering nature’s sound world
While Belle enjoys performing on various makes of piano, she is a Yamaha artist and finds great use in their synthesiser and electric pianos, applied in unexpected manners in her shows to mimic the sounds of nature while also hinting to textures of world music instruments - from whale calls, bird songs, windswept plains, and even sounds of helicopters and kitchenware!
Her fascination with the world can also be seen in the #SoundsFromHome project during the 2020-2021 pandemic, enabling listeners to share sounds and stories from their neighbourhoods. This project was covered by the BBC and PBS.
4. She keeps it real
Belle loves to interact and engage directly with her audience, often surprising her fans by sharing insights into her music, explorations on a variety instruments, and surprise livestreams and events in a friendly, casual manner.
Her fan community - who call themselves the ‘Late Night Zebras’ - is a wonderful community of listeners who also enjoy travel and exploration through Belle’s music and persona, meeting regularly online to share and discover music and culture from a variety of corners of the globe.
5. She is re-imagining the tradition
As well as her original compositions, Belle enjoys re-imagining traditional melodies and classical canons to bring a contemporary twist in her own way.
This can be heard in ‘Alle Mod’ (after Beethoven’s Fourth Piano Concerto), and ‘Evening Garden’ (after Mozart’s Don Giovanni) - both of which were commissioned by the French streaming platform, Deezer. Another favourite, often heard on radio, is ‘Lullaby for Edward’ (a tribute to Edward Elgar).
Re-imaginations of traditional melodies can also be found in Belle’s catalogue: from the haunting Japanese melody, Sakura, Sakura; the Indonesian traditional song Es Lilin; from the Philippines, Leron Leron Sinta; a stirring Mongolian melody, Baater Tsogtyn Nagats; and Shui, after the Taiwanese melody, Dark Sky.
In celebration of her new EP of Christmas imaginations, 'Another Nod To Christmas' (out on November 25), Belle is giving away one of her Christmas re-imagination scores written for piano during the months of November and December.
You can get your free piano score here.
You can discover Belle Chen’s re-imaginations in this Spotify playlist, or watch Belle’s re-imagination of Jingle Bells on YouTube below.