Anya Lagman and Music as The Shaper of Worlds
Sadness, unease, excitement, triumph, joy. Music is one of the art forms that illicit instant feelings from the soul. Songs and melodies strongly affect one’s mental state and help increase blood flow in the brain. Specifically, the limbic system would light up, energized by songs and creating dopamine–triggering sensations of pleasure and well-being. For many people, music is a friend that helps get them through the day. To some, it’s family and shapes what they become in the future.
This is the case for Filipina composer, Anya Lagman who performed her repertoire of original compositions and covers for the Pagsibol concert with the Manila Philharmonic Orchestra and the Philippine Madrigal Singers. For Lagman, performing at the historic Goldenberg Mansion at Malacañang was a true honor. After all, there are few moments in life one can collaborate with musicians of global caliber. The Philippine Madrigal singers are famous for their conductor-less seated style and have the ability to showcase a diverse range of composers and genres. The Manila Philharmonic Orchestra meanwhile is home to passionate musicians. Together, they brought Lagman’s compositions to life.
“Witnessing their interpretation during rehearsals evoked profound emotions, reminding me of why I love to compose.” Lagman says, “The way they infused life into my music, adding their own human touch and interpretation, transformed the pieces into a complete artistic experience. Collaborating with both the Manila Philharmonic quartet and the Madrigal Singers was a humbling privilege. I look forward to crafting future works tailored to their abilities, continuing to share my music with the world.”
Chapter 1: The Family of Artists
Anya Lagman was one of those artists who have been immersed in the craft even at a young age. Lagman was raised in a creative household. So listening to music and watching films were pastimes that fostered her love for the arts.
“My father, a director, ignited my family’s passion for film, often bonding over movie nights featuring Wes Anderson films, and family classics like Rush Hour and Ratatouille.” Lagman explains, “My mother’s musical prowess, having played drums and piano in college, enriched my musical upbringing. Summers and Christmas breaks were filled with road trips where she played her favorite songs, nurturing my love for EDM and house music.”
Siblings also play a role in influencing and inspiring the future. While watching her sister play the piano prompted her to try, seeing her brother passionately play the flute urged her to learn too. In the end, music became something more than just a performance. In her high school years, Lagman composed her first film score. This was inspired by renowned composer Hans Zimmer’s evocative theme “Time” for Christopher Nolan’s film, “Inception”.
“I was captivated by the organic growth of a motif that carried profound emotion, how a composer could shape abstract experiences into tangible musical expressions.”
Her newfound passion then directed her to perform the piece with her school orchestra–her debut as a conductor and composer. Like every artist’s exciting debut, it urged her to climb higher. The University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music in Los Angeles was her next step. Here, she studied composition as a merit scholar.
“I find immense joy when audiences express how my music resonated with their emotions. My passion lies in crafting narratives that evoke human feelings.” Lagman says, “I am drawn to music’s ability to reflect my own moods through various genres. As a composer, I find ways to draw inspiration from this and convey my own emotions. My favorite reaction comes from forming an emotional bond with the audience, transcending time through our shared musical journey, fostering vulnerability and openness even with diverse perspectives and musical origins.”
Chapter 2: Flowing into The Music World
Anya Lagman’s fulfilling journey with music has led her to meet so many other equally talented artists. This time also led to memorable performances that elevated her musical abilities. One of her most recent endeavors is the Pagsibol concert at the Goldenberg Mansion in Malacañang. A concept envisioned by her father, the concert represents Anya’s current stage as a composer and marks the beginning of a new chapter. Pagsibol also highlights the evolution of Original Pilipino Music (OPM). It paid tribute to timeless names ranging from Freddie Aguilar to Butch Montserrat. The songs from more recent artists like IV of Spades and Kamikazee were also highlighted.
“One of my favorite aspects of the conceptualization process was creating unique arrangements for the OPM songs.” Lagman says. During this process, she was able to include her own touches into the beloved classics. This turned the event into a loving homage to OPM. At the same time, it was a testament to the Manila Philharmonic quartet’s capabilities. With a blend of modern and classical elements, Pagsibol allowed for Lagman’s own creativity. “Infusing a blend of modern and classical elements, this endeavor allowed me to channel my creativity in showcasing the distinct qualities of each instrument and the quartet as a whole.”
Pagsibol is only her most recent work. Back in November, Lagman spearheaded and produced filmUSiC. This is USC’s first student-led live-to-picture concert and featured animated films by USC School of Cinematic Arts’ animation students. The original film score meanwhile was played live by an orchestra composed of music majors and volunteers from the Student Symphony Orchestra.
“The journey of bringing this concert to life revealed the multifaceted nature of concert production. I found myself in roles as composer, executive director, marketing lead, and Performer.” Lagman says, “This resulted in a sold-out show with an audience of Angelenos and members of the USC community from different colleges. This experience was both enlightening and rewarding. I felt personal growth and was reminded that passion and diligence can create remarkable outcomes with the right mindset.”
This experience is one of Lagman’s favorite collaborations as it taught her the importance of acknowledging the importance of every individual involved on stage and off stage in concert production. Another notable collaboration Lagman enjoyed was her collaboration with her siblings on their song “Together We Build”–a gift for their parents’ silver anniversary.
“This blossomed naturally from our shared experiences as musicians over the years, rooted in our trust and synergy as siblings. This compositional break from academia allowed us to explore ideas organically and create a genuine expression of gratitude to our parents for their unwavering support.”
Chapter 3: What is Music?
For some, music may just be a composition of sounds. But to many others, it is a channel for human expression, stories that inspire, and arrangements that evoke emotions. To Anya Lagman who has been embraced by it all her life, it’s an essential element in the world. It helps people sit with their feelings, communicate, and form connections.
“In the art I create, I appreciate how music is a universal phenomena that celebrates culture.” Lagman says, “It can provide insight into diverse societies through their unique approach to music. With music becoming more global, especially as a Filipina composer, I am hopeful for the broader dissemination of Filipino arts worldwide. Rather than hating the kind of art I do, a challenge I grapple with is learning to trust the creative process and embracing patience. Navigating musical hurdles is integral to creating a composition you feel proud of. While I don’t think a composition can ever feel truly finished, I value the composing journey itself. The experience is a stepping stone to growth and refinement in developing my compositional voice. As a composer, I believe that diligence, resilience, and patience is necessary in allowing organic creation to flourish.”
Over time, Lagman has fulfilled notable compositions filled with pieces of her own soul.
“Balikbayan” which reflects on the experiences of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) and their feelings of reuniting with their hometown, helped transform and shape her compositional voice since it made her step out of her comfort zone as it was composed on a digital audio workstation (DAW). By recording and improvising vocal parts to emulate a choir, Lagman was able to break free from conventional structures and made a more organic narrative. At the same time, this narrative changed her perspective on the Philippines post-pandemic.
“I Am Mother” was born from a seamless collaboration with MUSE Cincinnati Women’s Choir and librettist Catherine Holliss. It touches on the theme of motherhood and pays tribute to the resilience, unity, and strength of female OFWs in Hong Kong. With the choir’s knowledge and advocacy for feminist rights, the moving and impactful performance was infused with more power and emotion.
Through her compositions, Lagman wishes to convey her own unique perspective. All her works are infused with emotions drawn from her own experiences whether it be her own composition or a collaboration. Like every other artist, these compositions pay homage to the Filipino music pioneers she loves as well.
Photos courtesy of Anya Lagman