We had the good fortune of connecting with Jessica Wen Jun Ciprian and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Jessica Wen Jun, why did you decide to pursue a creative path?
I don’t think I’ve ever really asked myself this question, and so therein lies the answer to the question of “why?” – it was simply done without thought or hesitation, an innate part of who I was, as natural as breathing. I’ll be honest, it took me a moment to think of an answer, hoping I’d form some sort of elaborate, philosophical reasoning… but I truly don’t have one. Not to say that my artistic pursuit isn’t symbolic or profound with a deeper meaning; of course it is, I love what I do. However, ultimately the choice to pursue music professionally as a composer was me being my most authentic self and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m trying to pinpoint the moment I knew, or an epiphanic episode where I decided film scoring was for me. Whilst I can’t think of one, I can certainly think of the progression or accumulation of moments that manifested into this lifelong passion; the most significant influences being my classical piano background and love of storytelling/writing. I began piano lessons at the age of four thanks to the (sometimes) rigorous, but overall loving push from my parents. Through my repertoire, I developed an ardent love for so many of the greats, particularly the Romantics. My academic relationship with music, combined with my love of books and film, inspired my narrative approach to composing. The marriage of these art forms, in my mind, was such a dream to me. The pairing of music and cinema was magical and addictive, I just had to be a part of it.

Born in Australia to Chinese and Italian parents, I would say that my multicultural upbringing has had a formative impact on my musical voice. I remember during the years I’d grown up in Hong Kong as well, I was often exposed to Asian Cinema, particularly Chinese films, and also Japanese Anime. I recall falling in love with the Studio Ghibli scores of Joe Hisaishi; even without the picture, such vivid imagery would emanate from his music, much like a well-written book. My own musical voice was therefore dedicated to achieving this level of narrative motion, both with and without picture (oh and I’m a sucker for potent melodies). I am thankful to have such a diverse background; my European and Asian cultural identity has definitely found its home in my music, which amalgamates both styles of scoring.

There is no denying that the artistic/creative career path can be brutally discouraging. The trajectory to stability and success is often volatile. Despite this, with an incessant, devoted work ethic, you will experience the most fulfilling and rewarding results. It is healthy to celebrate even your small feats, for these eventuate into your biggest, proudest accomplishments. I decided that there was no point in pursuing a path I had no passion for, my musical fervour took precedence. Passion gives you an advantage, an edge, it’s a driving force – so why not wholeheartedly pursue what you have an advantage in?

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
As I said earlier, being my most authentic self is irrefutably intertwined with being a composer, particularly through film scoring. I am a hypersensitive, emotional individual who finds solace in music. And so I consider myself more of an emotional composer than I do technical or theoretical. I still do incorporate technique and theory, this is inevitable in music, but my compositional process is driven mostly by feel and instinct. This approach is present in my relationship with film; I am an absorber of emotions and find myself empathising deeply with certain plot lines. My emotional response translates itself into music through my melodies and themes, which I noted before as being important to me. Even in the subtlest films and narratives, I will still try and appropriately sneak in a small melodic element. I consider this to be a distinctive part of my musical voice. So many of my favourite composers/film composers are such thematic writers, their melodies and themes forever inseparable from the film’s identity. This is the connection I always aim to create between music and film.

I mentioned this before, but I definitely have my classical piano background to thank for my journey as a composer. It all began on the piano for me, it was and still is my main compositional tool, even for orchestral or electronic works. I studied piano performance and composition throughout my Bachelor’s, then focused in on film composition in my current Master’s degree. These skillsets have always complemented each other.

The journey as an artist is never an easy one, however, I reiterate what I mentioned earlier about passion: passion is advantage, so use it to your advantage. There is never a day where I don’t suffer the setbacks of imposter syndrome; I fight the intrusive desire to compare. The film music industry is highly competitive, and an unfortunate by-product of this competitiveness is toxicity. I choose to disengage from this. Generosity, modesty, respect, empathy and support are the qualities that truly represent what it means to be an artist. Collaboration is beautiful, sharing is beautiful, cherish these unifying opportunities.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Oh gosh, this is almost impossible to answer, there’s just so much to do! I’ll try my best to give some recommendations, but note that it doesn’t stop here. I’m personally still quite new to New York City – I moved to NYC from Australia in August of 2021, so I’m still exploring it myself.

To start with, one of my favourite places to wander is around the West Village. It’s so quaint and has a storybook charm to it. I swear no matter how many times you return, you’ll always find a new hidden gem. It’s full of bakeries, cafés and little boutique stores, so go explore those pretty tree-lined streets! It’s the perfect breather.

If you’re up for a little retail therapy, or even just another lovely walk, cobblestoned Soho is a beautiful spot to check out.

This next one’s quite specific, but so necessary, the spot’s called Eataly! It’s an Italian marketplace abundant in all things food and culture. It’s also ridiculously large, but that’s definitely not a complaint. You can either shop for your own goodies to cook, or eat there. I have honestly spent hours in this store, you’ll get me if you go there.

For nightlife, I really love the rooftop bars NYC has to offer, along with their speakeasies. Be sure to explore New York at night, it’s a vision when it’s all shimmery and lit up.

This might sound super touristy, but the MET does not disappoint. It’s enormous, not even a full day could cover the amount of art and history they have in there (and that’s why I love it).

Finally, a quick little Aussie recommendation – Ruby’s! It’s an Australian brunch café (they do dinner too), and it’s been my comfort spot for the homesickness. Even if you’re not Aussie, the food is top-notch (good coffee too).

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My growth as a person and musician is far from a solo pursuit, for it takes a village. The gratitude that I have for those who have supported me is immeasurable.

I want to thank all of my academic professors and mentors at both The University of Melbourne and New York University’s Steinhardt. My Screen Scoring studies at New York University have been unbelievably inspiring; the unwavering support they have for their students is remarkable. I want to thank my private tutors from this course thus far, Greg Pliska, Dr. Stefan Swanson and Jamie Lawrence, for their encouragement and boundless knowledge.

I want to thank my loved ones, my dearest friends from the different stages of my life for supporting me, you know who you are. Thank you for inspiring me to live unapologetically, I admire you all.

And of course, a loving thank you to my parents, my brother, my family in Hong Kong. Where would I be without their unconditional love and support? Certainly not where I am now. I am forever grateful and indebted to the sacrifices my parents, my family have made, and I promise to make them proud. Thank you for helping me realise my dreams.

Website: https://www.jessicawjciprianmusic.com/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jessicawenjun/

Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/c/jessicawjciprianmusic

Other: https://open.spotify.com/artist/2vQOTzHVXCnNCrkBmc3hIb?si=RKLKlls9RxWV0rY_EIGt-A

Image Credits
Jessica Wen Jun Ciprian and Marwan Ramen

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