Humans of Harker: Not so quiet after all

Annabelle Perng explores altering perspectives through writing and music


Anthony Xu

“I think there is an element of personality in music. If you give people the same melody or the same sample or idea, they’re going to come up with different things based on this given input because of the differences in their own worldview experiences and styles. Personally, I like the romantic styles a lot. Romantic is when people started experimenting with chords and focusing more on the feeling of the music. I think those pieces are really pretty because of that,” Annabelle Perng (12) said.

When you’re passing by from class to class, you might see Annabelle Perng (12) walking quietly through the hallways, keeping to herself. You might have her in some of your classes, and notice how quiet she is. However, under that veil of silence is a world of ideas and insight swimming around in her mind.

Even if she doesn’t always say her ideas out loud, Annabelle often conveys her ideas through other mediums. One such medium is literature.

“I like writing fiction,” Annabelle said. “I usually write short stories, like flash fiction. I write a lot of romance or philosophical pieces, still fictional.”

One of Annabelle’s inspirations is the book “All the Light We Cannot See” by Anthony Doerr, a Pulitzer book set in World War II about a young man from Germany and a woman from France, and how they end up falling in love despite being from opposing sides of the war.

“When I read his work I was really floored because I had never seen such a writing style, which is a cross between poetry and fiction,” Annabelle said. “So I guess for a while I tried to write in his style because he was just such a big inspiration. I try to go somewhere in between poetry and fiction writing so that my stories still flow coherently as sentences, but I try to use repetition in a way that makes the writing in itself pretty.”

Annabelle also tries to incorporate Doerr’s theme of varying perspectives of the same story into her writing.

“Sometimes I’ll write a work, and then rewrite it from someone else’s perspective,” she said. “It’s nice to see how the same story is different in different people’s eyes. It’s fun writing about characters who I guess are different from myself, especially in the perspectives of them. I guess I get a chance to act like someone else from writing their dialogues.”

Annabelle writes lots of science fiction, but unlike many other sci-fi stories, she tries to approach every story in deeper ways. One of her stories deals with a man obsessed with becoming an astronaut, so much so that he shuns his family and friends, but when he does get to space, he finds himself lonely and regretful. Another story talks about artificial intelligence, and how when the military tries to kill off this intelligence, they misfire and end up murdering thousands of innocent civilians.

“We’re coming up with a lot of new tools, and those tools should always be used with caution,” Annabelle said. “I’m sure I can trust the engineers behind that to not release the product until it’s safe. I think we should be wary, but at the same time there’s so much about the future to be excited about. I think I’m less wary and more excited.”

Another medium which in Annabelle experiments with is music. From learning piano, she has learned to analyze chords and even come up with her own music.

“I like to compose as well as improvise,” she said. “I almost always start out with the notes instead of the lyrics. Sometimes I improvise it on the piano, on the spot, or sometimes I open a composition app and type out the notes to see whatever comes out. I write EDM and pop, but sometimes I do some orchestral stuff as well. I guess I haven’t settled on a style yet.”

Similar to what she does with her writing pieces, Annabelle also sees music as a medium to explore altering perspectives.

“There is an element of personality in music,” she said. “If you give people the same melody or the same sample or idea, they’re going to come up with different things based on this given input because of the differences in like their own worldview experiences and styles.”

Annabelle experiences these altering perspectives in her own life as well, rather than only writing or composing through them. One example is through her volunteering experiences over the summer.

“In the summer, I was a TA [teaching assistant] for CS at Harker’s Summer Institute,” she said. “It was actually really fun. You spend so much time as a student, so taking the perspective of a teacher was a pretty interesting change for me.”

Despite having many ideas in her head for literature, music, or computer science, Annabelle is generally a quiet person. However, as her friends and peers are quick to point out, that quietness might lead to some misconceptions.

“She talks about how in English class, she’ll have a really big idea, but by the time she’s really thought about everything very thoroughly in every single possible situation, time has already elapsed and class is over,” close friend Helen Yang (12) said. “I think that just really reflects how even when she’s speaking in conversation. Her being quiet doesn’t mean that she has nothing to say. She has probably more to say than probably anyone else I know.”

And to her friends, Annabelle is one of the most talkative and fun people to hang around.

“During the first week of school, she invited me to her lunch table,” another friend Linda Luo (12) said. “It’s just really different knowing her as a stranger and as a friend; I didn’t expect it at all when I sat with her and her friends. I thought she was some shy, quiet girl, but she was completely different in a good way.”

So the next time you see Annabelle sitting in those classrooms or walking through those hallways, don’t get the wrong idea that she’s always quiet and has nothing to say. Maybe you can read one of her many writing pieces or listen to one of her musical compositions, because that is where those thoughts are materialized.

“I think every artist wishes that people would care more about their art. It’s very hard to get noticed as an artist,” Annabelle said. “I attended these writing workshops over the summer, and it’s really refreshing to share your work with people who have the same interests as you. Before, I had only shown my work to my friends, but to be able to discuss the elements in our pieces with other strangers was amazing.”