Student Spotlight: Bethanie Liu

The electronic musician shares how Berklee helped shape her desire to be a songwriter and arranger into something that incorporates digital instruments and computer programming.

March 29, 2024

What’s it like to study at Berklee? Our Student Spotlight series asks current students all about their Berklee experience—what they’re learning in class, what kinds of projects they’re involved in onstage or behind the scenes, how they recharge, and of course, what they’re listening to. In this edition, get to know Bethanie Liu, an eighth-semester electronic production and design (EPD) major with minors in electronic production and creative coding who is originally from the United Kingdom, but grew up in Hong Kong.

Follow Bethanie on Instagram.

Tell us about your path to Berklee. What made you decide to come here?

I performed internationally as a recorder player during my teenage years. When I performed at Conservatorium van Amsterdam in 2019, I saw a performance by Berklee alum Tali Rubinstein and was fascinated by the creative possibilities. She performed her originals on the recorder with extended techniques that created a palette of exciting sounds. 

Listen to Tali Rubinstein B.M. '14 talk about her approach to the recorder in this Sounds of Berklee episode:

This inspired me to think about where I want to be musically. I want to become a well-rounded musician who can compose, arrange, produce, and perform. After looking up the wide range of courses and curriculum Berklee offers, I realized this is where I want to be. Reflecting on my journey at Berklee so far, it has proven true that Berklee is a place where I can learn many different things—many things that I didn't even know existed before. From modular synthesizers to live coding to programming for VR/XR projects. Most importantly, I met some of my most inspiring mentors at Berklee and found my passion for live electronic performance!

What's been your favorite class, and what has it taught you?

Digital Signal Processing: Composition and Sound Design (EP-413), taught by Dr. Richard Boulanger, has been the most transformative class. It helped me move beyond the tonal composition methods I had been used to for years and gave me a paradigm shift in sound design. In class, we delve into concepts like Fast Fourier Transform algorithms and learn to apply these concepts when sound-designing in Csound, MaxMSP, and more. This class inspired me to think a lot deeper about sound.

Live Playback Engineering and Performance Design (MTEC-390), taught by Professor Claire Marie Lim, was also important for me. The class showed me how I could use my expertise in music technology to contribute to building shows and helping artists in their performances. I hope to explore this field further, and I am very grateful to have had the exposure through the class.

I also enjoyed a class, Making VR Experiences (MP-216), between Harvard, MIT, and Berklee, where students from the three schools collaborated to create VR/XR projects. It was an eye-opening experience as I was exposed to various topics such as programming haptic devices, biosensors, and 3D visualization, and advanced my coding and immersive audio skills.

Can you talk about how you got into electronic performance?

I came to Berklee wanting to become a songwriter and arranger (which I still am, but more on the electronic music side now), and I barely had any idea what electronic performance is. It all started when I stumbled upon performance videos of Professor Lim’s artist project, dolltr!ck, on YouTube during my first year. I was very amazed, and I told myself right away that I wanted to be able to do what she was doing.

Watch dolltr!ck (Claire Marie Lim) perform her original 'Rewind'


I began studying with Claire, and her Live Looping Lab (ILEL-112) is the class that truly got me started with electronic performance. She kindly puts on a show for each class at the end of the semester, and the one for Live Looping Lab was the first-ever show I played at Berklee! I have taken many courses with Claire now, and I am always grateful for her guidance. I found joy and confidence through electronic performance and owe it all to her.

EPD Chair Michele Darling has also given me many opportunities to learn and perform as an electronic performer. It is a blessing to have women role models in the music technology industry like Michele and Claire, who both showed me what is possible. I now aspire to reach a level of excellence where I could, hopefully, inspire others and show others what’s possible in the same way.

What project have you worked on since coming to Berklee that you've been incredibly excited about?

I have been working on a project that develops technology tools for people with disabilities to make music. This project holds a special place in my heart as I have always aspired to empower others to express themselves through music. Dr. Boulanger has helped me immensely throughout the process, guiding me from researching to debugging codes and programming for various hardware. I am very grateful for his support and help.

I am also involved in Nona Hendryx’s Dream Machine project, in which my multi-channel composition will be showcased this June at Lincoln Center in New York. My piece discusses topics related to embracing cultural diversity, and I am excited because my biggest goal in composing is to convey meaning and hopefully inspire people to think. It is truly an honor to work with Nona Hendryx, as she is an incredible artist and an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion in arts, science, and technology, which are values I hold dear.

How do you typically recharge or find new ideas outside of class?

To recharge, I usually cook food I like or hang out with friends. When the weather is good, I also enjoy going for walks. I always turn to the artists I admire to find new ideas outside class. I would listen to their music and watch their videos; there is always something new to discover and learn from!

What's one piece of advice you'd give to your high school self?

I used to feel embarrassed about wanting to pursue a music career (especially in contemporary music) when I was in high school because it wasn’t seen as a feasible career choice by those around me. If I could give my high school self a piece of advice, I would say it is okay to choose the road less traveled. However, you must work hard and try your best to master your craft! That’s the only way to prove to others that you can make it!

Bethanie's Top Five Songs Right Now:

We asked Bethanie to pick her top five songs of the moment. Here's what she said:

1. "Unchained," FKJ

FKJ is an artist I have always admired and has inspired me significantly in my creative practice as a live electronic performer and multi-instrumentalist.

2. "Hyper-ballad," Björk

Björk is an artist whom I admire a lot. This piece is truly a masterpiece; I especially like how the intricate layers of sound evolved throughout it.

3. "Transmission," Zedd, Logic, X Ambassadors

I performed this song as part of the EDI Showcase Ensemble, my favorite ensemble class. It is a fun song to perform, and I also love the contrapuntal lines in the song as they demonstrate how classical and electronic music could meld.


4. "In Love Again," Janice Vidal

This is a song I pull up whenever I feel homesick, as it connects me back to my roots.


5. "Into the New World—Orchestra Version," Seoul Philharmonic Orchestra

The original version by the K-pop girl group Girls’ Generation is a song close to my heart, as it is intertwined with many important memories in my life. This orchestral rendition adds a nostalgic touch, often bringing me bittersweet tears.

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