Hippocrates Cheng, a second-year doctoral student at the Jacobs School of Music, is mainly a composer, but is also an overtone singer, which is a singing technique where a singer could sing two or more notes at the same time. He is also a pianist, violinist and multi-instrumentalist.
Cheng studied composition and overtone singing as a graduate at Jacobs. Now, he composes and performs actively in the U.S. and Hong Kong.
He has performed inside and outside of IU as a solo performer, including performances with Mariachi ensemble, Danzón ensemble, Samulnori, a Korean drumming group and the Cross-Cultural Music Collective, a music ensemble consisting of different musicians and singers from around the world. The ensemble celebrates diverse sound, music, instruments and culture with semester concerts, guest lectures and educational workshops.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cheng has been attending IU classes online from Hong Kong. He said taking online classes while living in Hong Kong isn’t easy due to the 13-hour time difference.
“I am very blessed to have the support, patience and assistance from my professors who always help and teach me a lot,” Cheng said in an email.
Cheng was recently interviewed by the popular Youtube channel TwoSet Violin. Founded in 2014 by Australian duo Brett Yang and Eddy Chen, the channel first went viral with funny and accurate videos depicting the life of classical musicians. They have more than 4.5 million combined social media followers and 500 million views on YouTube.
Cheng said he was first contacted by their manager, because TwoSet Violin watched his video of overtone singing and were impressed. So, the channel invited him to collaborate and teach them how to sing this technique.
“The interview was amazing, Brett and Eddy were super nice,” Cheng said in an email. “We had a lot of fun knowing each other. I think we all spent some quality time on learning and teaching overtone singing techniques, as well as sharing our music insights with the audiences.”
TwoSet Violin has been featured in international media such as the China Times, ABC News, Classic FM and more. Their work led to collaborations with high-profile artists such as Lang Lang, Hilary Hahn, Janine Jansen and James Ehnes.
Aaron Travers, composition professor at IU, said Cheng was his student in the spring 2020 semester and he saw how motivated Cheng was.
“Hippocrates was never at a loss at what piece of music to write next,” Travers said. “He always had an idea brewing. He never shied away from a challenging instrument or ensemble combination. In that sense, he was quite fearless.”
Cheng said due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it is tough for musicians to learn, rehearse and perform. However, he also said that doesn't mean musicians have to stop playing and sharing music positivity with others.
Cheng's next project will be a virtual pandemic opera called “In the Midst Of." He said it’s a multimedia work that takes inspirations from different poems written by outstanding poets from Hong Kong and various places worldwide.