“Finding My Identity in Film Scores”: An Essay by Ann Annie for AAPI Heritage Month

Ann Annie © 2023
Ann Annie © 2023
In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Atwood Magazine has invited artists to participate in a series of essays reflecting on identity, music, culture, inclusion, and more.
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Today, Ann Annie shares his essay, “Finding My Identity in Film Scores,” as a part of Atwood Magazine’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month series. The stage name for Portland-based composer Eli Goldberg, Ann Annie was introduced to music in his formative years by attempting to learn various scores on a small electric piano. Eventually, translating this into soft ambient atmospheres using tape manipulation and various synthesizes. Although primarily an instrumental artist, over the last few years, Ann Annie has begun working with vocalists as an instrumentalist and producer and recently created a collaborative EP – ‘Homeward,’ with Searows, Rose Brokenshire, and Portland-based Amos Heart. His latest endeavors involve collaborating with small string and woodwind sections in live settings.
Ann Annie describes his essay as “attempting to search for my identity as an adopted Filipino.”

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Ann Annie © 2023

by Ann Annie

Talking about my Philipino heritage isn’t something I’m used to or do very often.

I was adopted by a loving family at birth and I must admit, although excited to write this piece, I felt somewhat lost and unsure of how to approach this topic. So while I can’t speak directly to how my heritage has influenced my music and work, sharing my experience and struggle with my cultural and ethnic identity is something I hope other adoptees or people in similar situations can connect with.

I grew up as the only brown person in a white family in a majority white city. Although my family was completely loving and welcoming of me, I couldn’t help feeling like our connection to each other was false or a facade. Explaining my adoption to childhood friends, the phrase “not my real parents” was usually the easiest way to get around others’ confusion, but only contributed to mine. It’s truly only been recently that I’ve been able to articulate and begin to understand this feeling. Unfortunately as a child I never had the opportunity to learn about my heritage but instead had to create my own story and logic for my difference from my other family members.

I remember the first piece of music I ever learned. When I was 5 or 6, a babysitter of mine showed me the Legend of Zelda theme song on a small Casio piano my parents had bought at a thrift store. Although it wouldn’t be until 10 years later that I actually played a Zelda game, I was immediately captured by the melody. Side note; I may disappear for a month when the new one releases this month. Normally my parents leaving for the night would cause me (and my parents) some amount of upset. But I quickly looked forward to them. Date night would usually mean I’d get to learn a new theme song from movies and games I’d yet to have watched / played. The creative space these short melodies and themes left me was incredible. They constantly played in my head, watching the world creating my own movies and worlds. As I began to watch said movies and play games of the songs I now knew So Well, (never a bad time for an Ann Annie reference if you know what I mean), my love and affinity of the beauty and emotion of movie and game scores were solidified alongside fantastical and epic stories. More importantly, the ability to create whole universes and worlds with nothing more than well thought audio had captured me. Subconsciously I think it was a release of the feelings I had pertaining to my identity I could not yet understand. I often fantasized being one of the heroes, lonely, without much background and often lost to their identity, but shaping it as the story progresses. Perhaps this was a method I used to escape my own confusing reality. A way to create a world where it truly didn’t matter where I came from or who I was.Even today, writing new music can feel fleeting. Much of the time I sit down to create can feel unproductive and uninspired. Given the right circumstances though, (who knows what those are, usually starting with intense emotions), complete ideas seem to fall out of a hidden locked away place within me.

My more recent exploration into my identity and what it means to be Philipino has brought up many feelings of being an imposter. There are experiences I ache to share and learn about with others in my community… Yet I guess I’m not even really sure what community I “belong” to. Creating under Ann Annie has given me the opportunity to be part of a community I’m proud to be in and for the first time felt “right”. Before beginning to write this piece, I had the coincidental meeting of a fellow Philipino artist. We only got to chat once for a few hours, but they reminded me of my rightful claim to being Philipino, no matter my knowledge of traditions, or language etc.. something I’ve only recently become comfortable claiming. – Ann Annie

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Ann Annie © 2023

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