How old are you? How long have you been composing music?
I’m fifteen years old. Ever since my piano teacher put the first lesson book in my hands, when I was eight or so, I’ve been composing. First it was adjusting the song to feel right. Then it was creating a melody off of the chords. Finally it is where I am now.
What inspires you?
I wouldn’t say that music or writing in themselves inspire me; more of the feeling they provoke. That’s why I love creating from both. I have a Youtube channel as a record for my compositions (Walker Burgin) and have been writing a novel since the end of eighth grade (I’m a sophomore in high school). I aim to have it finished by the end of the school year.
What’s your novel about?
It explores hope, dreams, and delusions. The name of it is ‘Slaves to Paradise’ - how every human longs for a better world and how mankind has been searching for progress since our inception, but also how our problems have just magnified. It’s a genuine tragedy about human nature. Romans 6:15-16 comes to mind (fittingly called ‘Slaves to Righteousness’). “What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know that when you offer yourselves to someone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness?”
What’s your creative process?
I’ve always thought that it is the artist’s duty to feel whatever there is to feel and evoke those emotions in other people. In this regard, you have to feel to create beautiful music, to write beautiful words. Art tells something about human nature that connects us all, whether we be black or white, rich or poor, woman or man, because it reminds the viewer about herself. In order to achieve this, you must forget yourself and become completely immersed in the craft, so much so that the art transcends you. It’s like what Faulkner said in his interview with the Paris Review: “The artist is of no importance. Only what he creates is important, since there is nothing new to be said. Shakespeare, Balzac, Homer have all written about the same things, and if they had lived one thousand or two thousand years longer, the publishers wouldn’t have needed anyone since.”
Does this mean that your writing is centered on personal experience?
Yes and no. Think of it as sort of a mirror of reality, because we all experience one thing - suffering. This is why the great writers, artists, and musicians had such terrible lives… it’s not simply correlation, it’s causation. Art lasts forever while the artist crumbles into ash. So while it may be based on personal experience, it stops being so when the artist raises his paintbrush, his pen, his fingers off of the piano.
Who is your role model?
I look up to people whether they have done good or bad. I look up to people who have had the nerve to make history, not those who retreat inward after returning, day after day, from jobs they hate. So perhaps I look up to nobody - just idealized concepts of duty and honor to the self, something that has all but disappeared in the modern world. In other words, I look up to people who have had the audacity to make the world go their way. Christ, Nietzsche, anyone who provoked the world to accept itself.
What’s your favorite composition?
I don’t pick favorites when talking about music. You listen to a song for a while, and it becomes mundane.
What’s your favorite book?
It’s not just God’s word. It’s the book that provoked wars and peace. It’s the book that turned the world on its side and then kicked it around. It contains founding epics, wisdom literature, accurate history. It’s the ideal version of my novel, something I will never reach… something that cannot be classified into a box of understanding.
Why do you write and compose?
Believe it or not, I don’t actually like doing the actual process of the two. But we have to differentiate between the fruit of our labors and the labors themselves.
What is your favorite subject in school?
I don’t really like school. I don’t know, but it feels like the purpose of school is simply to mold the children to find a job, not to live free. If I had to choose (this isn’t a subject, but I’m in the club at Myers Park High), I’d say speech and debate. It inspires people. My favorite speech is either Charlie Chaplin’s in The Great Dictator or Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.
I love the people, though. It’s interesting to watch people grow up and become stubborn.
You think very deeply about things.
So I’ve been told. But you have to if you want to understand the world.
Have you always lived in the Carolinas?
Born and raised in Charlotte. I went to Holy Comforter preschool, Selwyn Elementary, Alexander Graham Middle, and now I am at Myers Park High. I might leave to see the world after college.
How often do you compose piano music?
It really depends. Sometimes I’ll be unable to come up with anything for half a year. But two weeks ago, I composed five songs in a week and put them all on my Youtube channel.
When you were younger, what made an impact on who you are today?
First, the fact that I’m an identical twin means that there’s always comparison between the two of us! It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it’s pushed both of us to our limits. For example, I am more of an art person than a math person, writing a novel, while my twin Alex is trying to solve the Riemann Hypothesis. Yes, very ambitious. Wish him luck. Secondly, I cannot tell you how much the movies of Hayao Miyazaki influenced me. I’m a quarter Japanese, and when I was nine or ten my mom gave some of the movies to my Japanese grandmother. We watched them in the dark basement, huddled together, and the stories and the music have remained with me ever since. There’s a conception in the west that there should be some differentiation between the real world and how children should be treated and what they should see. But Miyazaki showed me that one day we can grow up to realize the beauty in the world - that there are no absolutes in this world, only people.