New music struggles for a stride

The Young Reporter (2000, November), 33(03), pp. 10.
Author: Estelle Cheung. Editor: Elsa Au.
Permanent URL - https://sys01.lib.hkbu.edu.hk/bujspa/purl.php?&did=bujspa0014808

Estelle Cheung

“HONG KONG has the advantage to develop new music. It’s a place with much foreign communication, composers can easily reach Western music,” said Dr Mary Wu Mei-loc, a renowned pianist and one of the founders of Bauhinia Piano Trio.

In recent years, a number of people had joined the force of promoting new music. For example, the annual “Musicarama”, a local music festival organized by Hong Kong Composers’ Guild with the joint effort of other performing groups like Bauhinia Piano Trio, Chinese Music Virtuosi and Les Six and more.

According to Dr Wu, new music has the features of new key structure, different composers’ philosophy which may not follow the traditions. The compositions themselves have less contact with the audience.

Sharon Chan, project manager of Musicarama 2000, thinks the contemporary compositions show elements of new techniques in performing and composing with different social and cultural backgrounds. For example, the blending of East and West in Raymond Mok’s Five Studies for Three Instruments.

Promoting new music is never an easy job. The meaning of new music is subjective in sense to different people.

In Hong Kong, new music is not popular. Most people like pop music. “When I personally promote new music to my friends, the typical response is ‘Eek......’ ,” said Sharon.

Poor marketing and promotion hinder new music development. In Musicarama, its promotion method was in the simplest form. It relied heavily on internal promotion through composers and the performers. “We face budget cut every year and we do not have budget for advertising,” said Sharon.

However, this year’s Musicarama, seems to achieve greater success than last few years.

“We paid particular attention to the choice and organization of works this year. We have also taken into consideration the acceptability of the audience. Our music is less experimental this year as we didn’t enjoy positive feedback in the past few years,” said Sharon.

“It is an exciting and enjoyable night. It is fresh to perform young composer’s work and experience the successful blending of the East and West instruments in Raymond Mok’s Five Studies for Three Instruments,” said Dr Wu after one of the Musicarama 2000 concerts.

Despite the virtual triumph of Musicarama and new music, their development in Hong Kong still has a long and tough way to go.

The hurdles along the way do not put out the passion and persistence of developers.

“It is a fact that if we don’t do it, no one will do it,” both Sharon and Loo Sze-wang, the Chairman of Chinese Music Virtuosi, said.

Sharon believes that if Musicarama comes to an end, there will not be another outlet for both the composers and their compositions. It would be difficult for audience to approach other kinds of music.

Loo thinks that there should be a greater varieties of works and more changes in the Festival. “We expect a surprise every year,” he said.

But they agreed that the growth of new music is unavoidably slow and it is beyond their control. What they can do is to work together for the cause.

Expecting development in local new music, the attitude of audience, the composers, the music itself and the Arts administrators are crucial.

Dr Wu thinks that “an open mind” towards new music is needed among public. She also breakthroughs in increasing number of better contemporary works.

While Sharon hopes that listeners could gain after their experience in new music. She wants better communication between the audience and the organizers for the better development of new music. She said the Guild would pay more effort in enriching the content of the Festival to attract more audience.

According to Dr Chan Hing-yan, it is necessary to strengthen the education on foundation music to potential listeners. Otherwise, new music will remain unpopular. He thinks that responsible composers and music are also crucial. “Composers in Hong Kong tend to take up many administrative postitions [i.e. positions]. They do not devote all their time for music composition,” he said.

MUSICARAMA is an annual local music festival. With the support of the Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Arts Development Council, MUSICARAMA 2000 is being held this year from 75 September to 26 November. It comprises five concerts, each with a different theme, including electronic music, Western classics, Latin-American contemporary music compositions and Chinese music.

Edited by Elsa Au

  • Mary Wu Mei-loc is anactive solist and chamber performer. She has ken iterst incontemporay music.
  • Chinese Music Virtuosi was formed in 1997 by a group of six people playing Yangqin, Dili, Erhu, Pipa, Zheng and Sheng. Its goal is to promote classical Chinese music through regular public perform ances with special interest in introducing not only cherished old tunes but also outstanding contemporary pieces.
  • Chan Hing-yan is local composer. He is eurrently a lecturer in the Mosic Department of the University of Hong Kong. His most reccnt work is of the Fossilized Demons (2000) . He is one of the Executive Comee of Hong Kong Composers' Guild.