Hannah Lu-Way, who produces electronic music under the name CHLORA, fell in love with the art of composing after taking her first intermedia arts class at Mills College one year ago. On Sept. 28, she had her first paid gig at the Jewish Contemporary Museum in San Francisco where she performed her original songs.
When Lu-Way entered Mills as a first-year in 2015, she was planning to major in biology with a concentration in ecology. All of that changed after she took her first intermedia arts class in her sophomore year, and now she is pursuing her passion as an intermedia arts major.
“I first fell in love with composing music when I was in eighth grade,” Lu-Way said. “But I didn’t really get into it until college when I took Sound and Visual Programming.”
After teaching herself to play piano in seventh grade, Lu-Way’s parents gave in to her begging and set her up with a piano teacher one year later. With her piano teacher, Lu-Way was trained in classical music and jazz, and from there learned to play guitar, drums, and even taught herself to play violin for three months.
Despite her classical training, Lu-Way was drawn to the art of composing electronic music and flexing her creative muscles.
“Electronic music is nice because you have so many options,” Lu-Way said. “Any sound that you can dream of, you can find some way to create it and I think that was attractive to me because now it gives me the full world of creation.”
After Lu-Way completed her first song, she was addicted to the process of creating electronic music. She was proud of her accomplishment, but also aware of how much she could continue to grow.
“The first song that I was really really proud of was ‘April’s Daydream,’” Lu-Way said. “It made me feel really happy but I also felt like there was so much more that I had to learn.”
John Bischoff, Lu-Way’s professor for Computer Music, was impressed by how quickly Lu-Way advanced in the class.
“Hannah responded immediately to the technical challenges of learning the Max audio synthesis language in my course,” Bischoff said. “She advanced rapidly in her understanding of it. I was impressed with the developed musicality she was able to attain early on in the semester.”
Lu-Way uses the program Ableton to record and mix sound, and occasionally uses another program called Max when she wants a more avant-garde sound.
“I would really like to start using Max more to build my own plug-ins and my own instruments to get more mathematical and geeky about things,” Lu-Way said.
Lu-Way describes the music she makes under the name CHLORA as rhythmic, but with elements of synth-pop.
“I like the idea of having really harsh rhythms and bass tones, but then paired with the soft, airy, dreamy sound,” Lu-Way said.
Bischoff was also impressed with the way Lu-Way combined different sounds in the music she made in his class.
“I was continually surprised by the wildly different sonic elements she was able to combine together and fit into one piece of music, from seagull sounds to rhythmic street noises,” Bischoff said. “She was able to incorporate all of it.”
When Lu-Way was offered the gig at the Jewish Contemporary Museum, she didn’t have nearly enough musical content to fill the entire time slot. Instead of turning the opportunity down, she scrambled to make enough music to fill the hour and a half she was expected to perform.
“I don’t know if I was necessarily ready for it,” Lu-Way said. “But it was time to just jump in and do it and show the world what I got.”
Hannah Horten had been following Lu-Way’s music throughout the summer, and was excited to see her perform.
“The music was really appropriate for the venue,” Horten said. “What she composed provided the right atmosphere. People could listen to it while having a conversation, it was melodic and flowed well, and it was very good for vibing and dancing.”
For now, Lu-Way’s music can be found on SoundCloud. She hopes to continue to play more gigs and get the name CHLORA out there, as well as make a record in the near future. As for her long term goals, Lu-Way hopes to turn her passion for music into a career on her own.
“I do want to be my own boss; I want to do everything independently,” Lu-Way said. “I don’t want to have to answer to anyone.”