Home

Bio

Compositions

News

Gallery

Press

List of Compositions




MUSIC THEATER AND MULTIMEDIA WORKS:

June Lovers (2012)
Full length musical with an ensemble of
six vocalists and eight musicians




Ghost Wife (2012-13)
Drama with original music and documentary
visual projections




Color of the Mind (2013)
Film with Symphonic band


Of days and nights (2014)
Dance theater with live music and narration



ORCHESTRAL:
Awakening from a Disappearing Garden (2009)
for solo cello, narration and orchestra

Chapter I, excerpt
In Search of Seasons
for orchestra (with narration opening) (2008), 13'
for string quartet and orchestra (2007), 16'
Her Thousand Years Dance (2007)
for shakuhachi (or alto flute /other non-Western flutes), cello, percussion and string orchestra

Memories from My Previous Lives (2013)
for orchestra
Softly I Speak to you, of Orchids and a Dream (2005)
for soprano, harp, piano, and string orchestra

Symphonic Journal: Ambush from Ten Directions (2002)

for large orchestra with narration


The Suite for Orchestra (1999)
for orchestra
I. Awakening II. Blessing

CHAMBER MUSIC:
Avalokiteshvara's Hand (2009)
for three percussionists using marimba, vibraphone, crotales, tuned gongs and temple bowls
Sun, Moon, and Star (2007)
for two soprano, violin, cello, double bass, percussion and piano

II. Moon
Midnight Run (2007)
for choreography, music, and visual projections

Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain (2006, 2008)
for shakuhachi, violin, cello, double bass, marimba and percussion

I. Silent Field
II. Rain

Silk Road, Silk Road (2006)
for harmonica quintet

I. Mirage, elevation 12,000 feet
II. Baby Camel Walk
III. Mirage on the train
Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain II (2006)
for guitar and marimba duo
for marimba solo
Secrets and Ice Garden (2005)
for piano quintet
Red Peony Sky in Mid-June (2005)
for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and two percussionists

I. Sunset
II. Nightfall
Through the Interwoven Growth (2003)
for woodwind quintet

I. Forest of the bare branches
II. First snow upon the evergreen growth
III. Valley stream's fragrance of the green green woodlands
Imagery of Water (2002)
for guitar, harp, vibraphone/crotales and double bass
I. Drops    II. Rain    III. Icy

II. Rain

Love Memo (1998)
duet for flute and piano
Dream Sketches (2001)
for string quartet

I. Moon     II. Drunken     III. Separation
IV. With the wind       V. Dance shadows
For a New Millennium (2000)
for woodwind quintet

You need to upgrade your Flash Player








Order Score or Parts*
*Send separate email to:
composer@angellam.com
with the title of the work(s)
you wish to order
CHORAL AND OPERA:
The Burning Babe (2008)
for SATB choir, organ, strings, winds and percussion
Oh Stars, from the Abyss (2008)
for women's chorus, strings, piano and percussion
Merry Go Round (2007)
for SATB choir a capella
Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart (2004)
for women's choir, a capella
Beyond the Rainbow (2003)
for soprano, tenor/countertenor and baritone; double bass, narrator and piano

ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENT WITH ELECTRONIC SOUND:
Dreams of them enter, like men alive, into the maiden room of their lovers...(2000)
for guzheng and effects processors


PROGRAM DETAILS


June Lovers (2012)       top



Premiere: Hong Kong Arts Festival 2012, Hong Kong City Hall Theater, February 9-11, 2012
New Stage Series
Commissioned by Hong Kong Arts Festival with suport from Composers and Authors Society of Hong Kong and New Music USA Grant
Production sponsored by HSBC Foundation
Duration: 75 minutes


PRESS & MEDIA:

Sing Tao Daily Wen Wei Po Hong Kong Economic
Journal
Hong Kong Economic Journal
"Arts Festival Opening Ceremony"
Ming Pao Weekly U Magazine Hong Kong Economic Times




Color of the Mind (2013)       top

Inspired by a true story about a young girl's mission to pursue impressionist painting lessons from an old painter, and the impact of those lessons later on in her adulthood.

Premiere: Interlochen Academy for Performing Arts, November 2013
Original story and music by Angel Lam
Film by Mida Chu
Conducted by Matthew Scholmer
Interlochen Academy Symphonic Band
Duration: 15:00

Color of the Mind - Trailer from Angel Lam on Vimeo.



Starring Charlotte Griffith, David Holland, and Dara Potts




Special thanks to Detroit Institute of the Arts for the permission to film their Vincent van Gogh collection
And to the film department at Interlochen Academy for the use of State-of-the-Arts equipments



of days and nights (2014)       top

Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts and Shanghai tour, May-June 2014
Dance theater with live music and narration
Choreographed by Australian choreographer John Utans and Chinese choreographer Sheng Pei-Qi, in collaboration with contemporary and Chinese dance department at Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts
Duration: 19:30


Original music and text/narration by Angel Lam
Inspired by a diary from 1945 Shanghai...decadent, nostalgic, and addictive

She was like a phantom,
She was like an orphan, walking on a lonely path.
Was she drifting west, or heading east?

She was the Paris of the Orient,
Mysterious, luxurious, unpredictable, and deadly...















Awakening from a Disappearing Garden (2009)       top

Premiere: Yo-Yo Ma and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Hall, October 15-16, 2009
(New York premiere) Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage, November 7, 2009
Ancient Paths, Modern Voices: A Festival Celebrating Chinese Culture
Commissioned by Carnegie Hall through a leadership gift from Henry R. Kravis in honor of his wife, Marie-Josée
Duration: 32:00


I.  Chapter I
II. Chapter II


Play music


Chapter I

I took a taxi. It wouldn't take long to reach this luxurious mansion where I had been invited for a party. A calendar on the dashboard showed in bright red letters, May 10th, 1953. I asked the driver to circle the block again, spending more time, and then had him drop me off a block away. I left the taxi and walked some distance so that no one would see me coming by taxi, and not by limousine.

Everything was so familiar, the high ceiling, the solid red, nine-foot wide main entrance, the flowery furnished corridor...I had once lived in such a mansion.

The left side of the entrance lobby framed a full body mirror, where I spent some time smoothing my clothing--pushing up my shape, as well as my spirit.

There, I saw my beautiful face...well-combed, short curled hair, fashion of the 40's, last century. I patted my face hard and bit my lips, to highlight my color, and hide my age...

The light of this modest city had humbled my royal-green robe, dragging me down as well. I said to myself, this is no fairy tale, but the trading ground of the upper class, where everybody is watched and calculated. When a distant bell droned nine times, the party began. I stood tall, and walked proud into the main hall.

The host, a middle-aged woman, greeted me with a mechanical smile, calling my name, Lao Wu. (Number Five...?)

Then, a man in his early fifties waved his hands at me, and my heartbeat hastened.

What's next?

Should I walk over to greet him? Or wait for him to approach me?

This is when I awake, every time, the same moment, the same dream.

Who am I? Or, who was I, in dreams.



Chapter II

September 9th, 2007

I was not in a hurry, but the taxi driver was. He drove madly through the capital streets, making sharp turns again and again until finally stopping abruptly in front of a glowing grand building. The rainbow neon signs stood ten stories tall. They shone onto the dark surroundings, sucking in the nearby street lights. The rapid rolling of colorful lights seized my soul immediately. Time and space seemed to pull backwards, hundreds of years...

Music of old Shanghai whispered through the redwood framed Manchurian glass door. Two lines of tall, well-dressed women on both sides of the hallway uniformly shouted "Welcome!"

I grasped my father's coat sleeve very tightly. I had a special feeling, if I were to lose him, he would change into a pig. We sat in a corner of this heavenly furnished place. Customers walked around with their hot tempers and crippled spirits. Everyone served meticulously; no mistakes would be allowed.

This was a luxurious nightclub. My father could not afford this place. I felt like a guest of the Emperor.

I spent the whole night talking to a girl who called herself Number Five. She came from a neighboring rural district, seeking her dreams. She taught me a song from an opera:

Last night, we talked of dreams. This morning, I found that spring had gone by. A butterfly, shrunken on my writing desk, the swallows were gone along with the blooming flowers at the window. Why, autumn comes in such a hurry, we have not yet seen summer?

The nightclub closed late. When I pushed my father into a waiting taxi outside the building, he was drunk. The neon signs were off and the neighborhood drowned in darkness. A full autumn moon ruled over the sky, and gave the city an outline of silvery blue, like a territory of ghosts and spirits. A gust of wind animated some old newspapers and other rubbish to twist like a tornado, rolling high like an angry dragon. Was it a messenger from the Emperor?

I looked back.

I looked back over my shoulder, and saw Number Five. She was still standing there, under the neon blue moon shadow, waving her hand at me from a distance. She was so beautiful in her royal green Mandarin dress, somewhat unreal, like an ancient Chinese painting.

Suddenly, I felt released. She was tough, so tough that she could overcome another revolution.

__________________________________________

This is a story about two women, two different generations, two different eras, in a society that had turned our nature upside down and then upside down again...
Never changing is the spirit and face, to live, and to survive. It is all well preserved, in the memories, of our previous lives.



In Search of Seasons (2007-8)        top

Premiere: (For orchestra) Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, November 20, 2008, Yale University Woolsey Hall
Performances: Minnesota Orchestra, Future Classics Concert, November 21, 2009, Minnesota Orchestra Symphony Hall
Minnesota Orchestra, excerpt "Autumn" Inside Classics, March 2010, Minnesota Orchestra Symphony Hall
Colorado Symphony Orchestra public reading, July 17, 2009, Boettcher Concert Hall, Denver Performing Arts Complex
Duration: ca. 13:30 with narration
Premiere: (For string quartet and orchestra)
Hong Kong Sinfonietta, October 5, 2007, Hong Kong City Hall Concert Hall



Ezra Stiles College, New Haven, Connecticut

I was born in Hong Kong and moved to Huntington Beach, California as a child. Strictly speaking, these two cities never gave me any true feelings of the seasons. Recently, I had the opportunity to live in the American Northeast. There, I finally experienced the real delight of seasonal changes.

Should I tell you some of my favorites?

Winter is always a mystery. Star-shaped, diamond-shaped and blossom-shaped snowflakes fly like mist in the red sky; they explode into a wild dance in the silent air. The long stormy nights often send me into deep thoughts. The most memorable moment is closing the door to the harsh cold world behind me and being embraced by the warmth of home. The joy is beyond what words can describe.

The end of winter is marked by the first roar of thunder from the distant sky. It is spring's thunder--her awakening call. Suddenly the earth cracks and splits, the whole world turns into a running fragrant stream. We must hurry; the wonders of the world are waiting for our discovery.

Summer is most mesmerizing. I lay in nature's never-ending greens while I watch the afternoon sun shine through the leaves. The southern breeze massages my lazy soul and I slowly drift into a dream. I would spoil myself and nap until the street lamps light. I love summer long.

In autumn, trees one by one catch on a fiery red. The sky is crisp and the air is light. I like to take a break while the northern wind is still friendly, to travel into the mountains looking for bears.

As time goes by, I begin to understand more about the seasons. Seasonal change is a witness to our lives. The more splendid the scenery, the more romantic the atmosphere, the more details you know of their stories, the easier you feel lonely. We desperately need someone with whom to share and witness these beautiful moments together.

Occasionally, I come back to Hong Kong. It is busy, noisy and crowded, as always. However, the nature of this city keeps me high-spirited.

During these years, Hong Kong has changed a bit, somewhat, somehow. She has added to herself a firework season--firework festival every night at the harbor.

If you ever have the chance to visit Hong Kong and enjoy the fireworks, don't forget to bring along that special someone, somebody to share the joy of the season with you--to be a witness to the glory in your life.

Have you found your favorite season?





Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain (2006)       top

Play music

Premiere: Tanglewood Music Center, Seiji Ozawa Hall, September 13, 2006
(New York premiere) Carnegie Hall Zankel Hall, September 16, 2006
Commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation, presented jointly by The Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall, Yo-Yo Ma Silk Road Project and the Tanglewood Music Center of the Boston Symphony Orchestra
Duration: ca.15:00



Thirty minutes passed but Grandma still hadn't arrived. My kindergarten sat on top of a hill, overlooking a narrow street with a muddy pedestrian pathway alongside traffic. It was another hot summer day; the aggressive sun seemed to slow my time but activated the scenery in front of me. Trees moved in the heat like monsters stretching their palms; pedestrians walked slowly, dragged by their long shadows.

Suddenly, it rained, but the sun still shone. I decided to run home. I was only five. I sprinted down that busy street, people were shouting behind me, like low-pitched murmurings of ancient emperors. The sounding of horns screamed sharply with long mystic tails... When a distant temple bell drummed, I saw Grandma--her peaceful smile, and an air of gracefulness that is memorable to this day. This time she seemed bigger ... when I reached out to touch her, she floated through me and I turned around, the sun shone directly into my eyes, and Grandma disappeared into the core of the afternoon sun. The evening sun suddenly closed, and rain stopped.

When I got home, everybody was crying, but I did not cry. I went to my little desk and started a letter:

Dear Grandma ...




Sun, Moon, and Star (2007)       top

Premiere: Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Sunday, April 15, 2007, 3:00 pm
Carnegie Hall Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw Young Artists Concert
Also a featured composition at the Bard College-Conservatory of Music Public Presentation, performed in Olin Hall on April 11, 2007
Commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation a part of the Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw Professional Training Workshop
Duration: ca.15:00 in 3 movements



These are memories, far away in the distant, when the skies are always blue, and the grass an everlasting green.

Star, 13
Moon, 15
Sun, 16

And that's forever.
Star

Oh Star
Twinkle
You teach me how to love

How to sparkle
How to twinkle
You make the sky blue

When there is rain
When there are storms
Breaking in our lives-

"Just feel. Relax
Please stay calm
and see how life will shape."

If love
Is love-
No hesitation

Keep bright
Keep shining
Be sure that he can see you

"Should there be any questions?
You are the only answer."

So near
So far
Twinkle little star


Moon

Oh moon
All the nights
Lessons on the phone-

How to dress up
How to make up
And how to speak tenderly

And if I recall
And when I recall
All those happy nights
(Plus your sweetness)
It is a great gift

You turn
Your face
Life has many fashions-

Be proud
Be sad
It is not the same old story.

"Because we are not the same,
We are unique from them all."

You shine on me
Smile, in my dreams


Sun

Oh sun
Sure will
You give me my strength

To be brave
Generous
Those good things
You tell me
not to hesitate

When there are problems
and frustration
Never retreat-

"Just to do it,
with all you can-
And life will be okay."

You burn
Yourself
To light up our lives

So bright
So warm
We show our own glory.

"Should there be any complaints?
There should be few regrets."

Life is a festival
Because
Of you




Because
Of you

Of you
Of you
Of you                                      

(P.S. Which one are you?)





Play music

Star


Moon


Sun

Midnight Run (2007)       top

Premiere: New Works Showcase with distinguished artist Martha Clarke
Choreographed by Peabody Dance director Carol Bartlett
Story and music by Angel Lam
Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall, Peabody Conservatory
April 14, 2007, 7:30 pm and April 15, 2007, 3:00 pm
Duration: 22:00


When I was eight, I lived with my parents in a high-rise apartment on the 7th floor. There was a large round balcony, facing south. The apartment was on a very quiet street in the middle of town, which was quite unusual for a big city.

My father usually came home very late, and I liked to sit at the balcony, to wait for his appearance on the street. In a moon shining summer night, I sat at the balcony, enjoying the southern wind blowing all over my body...like soft hands caressing my face...I fell asleep.

I was woken up by a certain noise from the street below me. There was a young lady, well dressed in a silky yellow dress, her hands holding a pair of high heel shoes...she was running through the midnight streets, barefoot.

As her whisper-like steps broke the silence of the night, a very beautiful and mysterious scene, her body seemed to be floating along, dressed up with gentle winds embracing her body...

Who was she?
Why was she running at midnight?
Were there anyone chasing after her?
Was she angry? Was she sad?
What made her run?

These questions kept me thinking for a very long time. The image of her, that striking yellow under the silvery moon...Never left me.

She kept running, and running, all these years.

She ran into my mind.

She stayed with me, and kept me running as I grow up...well dressed.



   Play music


Her Thousand Years Dance       top

Premiere: Greenvich Village Orchestra
In a concert titled Spiritual, Sunday, November 18, 2007
Washington Irving Auditorium, New York, New York
Soloist Eric Jacobsen, cello and Kojiro Umezaki, shakuhachi
Guan Yin by Angel Lam
Painting by Angel Lam

   Play music
Duration: 14:00
As a composer, my life is a beautiful, chaotic mess. My mind is full of notes and ideas, but it spares no room for a normal life. Every time I travel, I always forget something important, like a passport, identity card, or cash...

Once in a while, I go back to my birthplace. My mother will take me on a journey to visit the Guan Yin, Goddess of Compassion. This visit is when I feel truly released, caressed by Guan Yin's gentle, all compassionate smile. When I was little, I used to call her the Green Buddha--my grandparents owned a Guan Yin figurine made out of precious green jade.

For thousands of years, Guan Yin is the most worshiped figure among women in China. She has the most elegant and graceful facial features of all female faces. No matter which angle you view her, she is always wearing a serene, welcoming smile that intently listens to all that speak to her. Women pray to her for help and guidance to their grievances. They ask for a good husband and blessings for their family.

Is it too simple to rely on a jade green figure for our fortune?

As the Chinese author Eileen Chang once said, "Life is a luxurious and majestic overcoat, but when we examine it closely, it is full of worms and maggots."

From time to time, I want to pray in front of her, to massage the soul and keep hopes for the future.

In dreams the jade buddha invites me to join her in her dance, beyond the boundaries of time and space, the Thousand Years Dance.



Silk Road, Silk Road (2006)      top

Premiere: Hong Kong City Hall Theatre, October 23, 2006 and Februry 26, 2010
Commissioned by Hong Kong Arts Festival 2010 and CASH Music Fund, "Musicarama 2006" and Hong Kong Composers' Guild
Duration: 12:00


Self-portrait (1992)
Prologue

In this composition, I invoke the writing style of Truman Capote's non-fiction novel. Like his "A Christmas Memory", it is filled with childhood fantasy, though only memories--a sorrowful world of beauty too rich to be forgotten.



I. Mirage, elevation 12,000 feet
III. Mirage on the train


At this elevation, where the air is thin, everyone have difficulty breathing. My body became weak, head feeling dizzy, but this is all worth it.

Just looking at the majestic scenery outside the window, mountains covered with snow caps desirable like ice-cream sundaes. The sky, a stunning metallic blue, against florescent white clouds, and the grass...I have never seen so many shades and layers of green extending ever endlessly...

Suddenly, I thought of my elementary school classmate...she seems to be here too, sitting right behind me. I remember that day, in my third grade class, my art teacher was not happy with my painting. He said I was always painting outside of the lines and edges of the drawing, and was angry that I did not obey the rules. I couldn't help but cry. My classmate comforted me, and even offered to buy my painting with a box of soymilk...

Suddenly, she disappeared again.


II. Baby Camel Walk

This movement has two main ideas: little camel's playful and happy personality, and traveler's joyful and relaxing feelings riding on a camel. I fused these two elements in the music, I hope listeners can share the fun of traveling in the northwestern plains of China.

Red Peony Sky in Mid-June (2003)       top

Premiere: Proteus Contemporary Ensemble at the Aspen Music Festival
Susan and Ford Schumann Composition Masterclass Program Recital, June 2003
Ballet Premiere: Peabody Spring Dance Showcase 2004, choreographed for ballet by Carol A. Bartlett
Awards: ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer and ASCAP/SCI Young Composer
Commissioning Award Regional winner and National finalist, 2005
Duration: 11:00

The red peony is praised as the "king of flowers" in China for its exquisite blossom and overflowing sweetness of fragrance. Because of its noble characteristics, the Chinese associate it with happiness and beauty. It is an emblem for wealth and enduring prosperity.

One evening I saw a sunset reflected upon the edges, or rims of an overlapping pattern of clouds. The image reminded me of the lushness of a red peony blossom in full bloom. It was such a beautiful sight, but it faded away very quickly. This composition is an attempt to capture that moment...
Play music:
I. Sunset


Through the Interwoven Growth (2003)        top

I. Forest of Bare Branches
II. First Snow Upon the Evergreen Grove
III. Valley Stream's Fragrance of the Green Green Woodlands


Performances: Aspen Music Festival composition recital, Harris Hall, August 2002 (1st movement premiere)
Peabody composition department recital, January 2003 (1st & 2nd movement)
Third Seoul International Competition for Composers finalists competition, March 2005
Award: Third Seoul International Competition for Composers Audience Prize Award
NACUSA (National Association of Composers U.S.A.) 26th Annual Young Composer Composition Competition
Southeastern Composers' League Philip Slates Memorial Composition Contest
Duration: 12:00

I.   Forest of Bare Branches               
II.   First Snow Upon the Evergreen Grove

One November afternoon I took a walk through the woods. Half bared branches interwove with each other as if they were holding hands. They locked sunshine onto the ground, reflecting rays of silvery sprays. When the wind blew, the movement of the tree branches and fallen leaves changed the direction of the shine, and I saw myself dancing in the mystery of a silvery river... The scenery was so stunning that I could hear it sing. The wind mingled with the leaves and the leaves with its branches; I paused in amazement to listen. Out of silence, music was born.

I chose the bassoon to begin the opening of the first movement; to me it has an enchanting voice that seems to carry the spirit of the tree from which it is made. It begins the call of the interwoven branches in the opening of this composition; they grow out of each other like lyrical branches...

I have always been attracted to the distinct timbre of the woodwind instruments, and am especially fond of writing for this combination. The generic name for their family of instruments also inspired this piece, the 'wood' 'wind' quintet. They each take on a special character in my music, weaving out a dialogue of interwoven melodies. I saw nature through the eyes of the painter; all of nature is an interwoven tapestry of lines, dots, and colors, spun out into a mysterious lyricism.

Seasonal changes have always amazed me and reminded me of how majestic nature's creation is--the first day of snow fall, first roar of the spring thunder, first warm breeze from the tropics in mid-May... it is such an alluring experience that sometimes I think it is beyond us to completely replicate. This composition is my sincere attempt to translate these impressions into music.

The second movement, "First Snow Upon the Evergreen Grove", describes the first snow of winter that changed the color of the natural landscape. Neon white flakes danced in the sky, and hang on to the deep black of the evergreen forest. The opening, animated motive danced and interwove to the beats of a sky of flying snow flakes. The world waited in harmony for the season to come...

The last movement describes the wake of spring to the beginning of summer. The woodwind melody is the choir of all living creatures at the dawn of spring; valley stream bubbling with fragrance in the gentle flowing passage of the clarinet and bassoon. I could smell the mist of an approaching summer rain... In this set of three movements I translated the scenery into musical notes. The melody of the five different shades and characters of the woodwind instruments interweave with each other simulating the great art works of nature.

The reflection of nature in art is my greatest passion.



Imagery of Water (2002)        top

I. Drops
II. Rain
III. Icy


Premiere: Peabody Institute, Goodwin Hall, Dec. 2002
Award: 1st prize, Prix d'ete 2003 Composition Competition, Peabody Institute, USA
  NACUSA (National Association of Composers USA) 27th Annual Young Composer Composition Competition
  ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award Honorable Mention, 2003
Duration: 12:00

II. Rain
II. Icy

I enjoy the beauty of watching a drop of water fall into still water, the image reminds me of a saying from Heart Sutra of Zen Buddhism:

Form is no other than emptiness;
emptiness no other than form;
form is exactly emptiness;
emptiness exactly form.

All perceptions and things perceived are essentially empty. The form may be a thought or an emotion or an object.
Drops is an imagery of that form--like dew drops falling upon still water, they create a graceful, subtle wave of ripples...
it is a beautiful sight, that comes into being, and goes out of being...

Rain is a process. The music is inspired by the myth of the forbidden sight of a fox wedding in the deep forest of Japan.

Icy is coming back to form again.


Softly I Speak to You, of Orchids and a Dream (2005)       top

Premiere: Peabody Conducting Recital, April 10, 2005, Griswold Hall
Duration: 9:25

Text: In Mandarin Chinese

(English translation)
You ask me, what is my favorite, what do I love?
A maiden's heart, how could it be expressed, how could I speak...
The good things that I like, one sentence cannot express all;
maybe...little by little, it can be revealed to you.

Summer nights, new moon, and the southern wind...
A sky full of star lights, bright and twinkling,
My favorite is the orchid, when its fragrance embraces the house,
the most unforgettable first rain at dawn, the sun rises to warm every home...
It warms my home.
(Original text and translation by the composer)

Notes:
This piece was first drafted in 1993 when I was still in junior high school. Recently I met a wonderful singer at Peabody, who has a beautiful voice that is subtle and delicate, and excels in a very high range, most suitable for this piece. The text is written in Chinese. Singers told me that they enjoy singing in a foreign language, so I did not worry about the language difficulty. Luckily, my soprano, Jeannie Cheng, is originally from Taiwan and managed the text with ease. It was premiered at Peabody Conservatory of Music, the Conducting Recital of Chi-Chung Ho.



Love Memo (1997)        top

Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Composition Recital, Dec. 1997
Ballet Premiere: "Love in Cynical City" a multimedia dance production, Cheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong, Nov. 1998
Duration: 5:30

Play music


Last summer, I accidentally came across a hundred pages of love letters. I was helping my cousin move into her new home in Sai Kung. There was no late bus home, so I spent the night at her home. She lives in a fifty year-old Spanish style independent house. While I was cleaning a wardrobe under the staircase, I discovered a small, abandoned paper box, neatly wrapped with floral pastel-colored paper; the wrapping paper a bit faded. Inside the box, was a bundle of yellowish, dusty letters. I picked up one of the letters...the writing is delicate, detailed and replete with an out pouring of affections. It is the hand writing of a girl named Ah-wai.

More than a hundred pages of letters, all written to the same person, Fai. She wrote everyday, sometimes even twice a day. The content is simple, ordinary, yet very detailed. She records fragments of daily happenings...

How are you?
It was raining very hard this morning... the Northern wind might come tomorrow
Is it cold where you are?
I got a runny nose again, I was late to school.


I spent the whole night, reading, every single page of her letters. Her letters are touching...I feel sorry for Ah-wai. She had never sent out a single letter.
I know, not even one. Each page was smooth and straight, not a trace of it being folded.
After that night, I wrote this piece of music, and I dedicated it to Ah-wai.

I always wonder, where is she, how is she doing? I sincerely wish her beauty and happiness.


Secrets and Ice Garden (2005)       top

Commissioned by Professor Andrew Talle and his "Introduction To Western Music" course at Johns Hopkins University
Premiere: Johns Hopkins University, Mattin Center, Ross Jones Building, December 12, 2005
Public Rehearsal: Mattin Center, December 6, 2005, composer discusses with the students about her work
Duration: ca 7:30

One evening, I came upon a street with many tall Glinkgo trees neatly lined up on both sides of the street; it was snowing soft light flakes, and the sky was a mesmerizing wine red color.  The trees were large enough that both sides' branches touched each other, like giants holding hands. Each branch wrapped with a crystal clothing, like nature's chandelier.  The scenery suddenly lightened my heart. I carefully took out a small plastic bag to fill some fresh air into the bag, sealed it up, in the hope to bring it back home as a memory.

Maybe others will think this is silly, so I have never told anyone about this small secret that I kept, that evening in Hokkaido, in a city at the northern most island of Japan.

I tried to use music to describe that secret ice garden that I found, using the most beautiful notes that I could think of...I'm afraid I could only come close to the majesty of nature's works.



Avalokiteshvara's Hand (2009)       top

Scored for percussionists using marimba, vibraphone, crotales, tuned gongs and temple bowls
Performed with slow bodily movements like choregraphing Tai-Chi; bell-like sounds resonant as though in a temple

Ballet premiere: April 2-3, 2011, Peabody Dance Spring Showcase, live music performed by Peabody Conservatory percussionists




Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain II (2006)      top

Premiere: Minato-Mirai Hall, Yokohama, Japan. August 19, 2006
Commissioned by Nozomi Abe. Performed by percussionist Nozomi Abe and guitarist Anne-Sophie Lloren
Marimba solo version performed on a Japan tour by Ms. Abe
Duration: ca 11:00

Play music


Thirty minutes have passed since Miss Young let us out from our kindergarten class, but grandma still hasn't arrived. This is quite unusual; she is always on time. I become more and more anxious, but Miss Young keeps me calm, "She's coming...don't worry."

Sitting on the front steps of my kindergarten school, I look down the pathway to a very busy street. The street, a narrow, downward sloping road of two-way traffic, with a small muddy sidewalk for pedestrians to walk alongside the cars and trucks. I try to catch a glimpse of my grandma, but she is nowhere in sight.

My school is built at the top of a small hill; a beautiful red brick pathway connects the school to the busy street. The street leads down to the bottom of the hill where my home sits, five or six minutes away by foot.

That day, another hot and humid summer day, the aggressive afternoon sun of the subtropical island activated the scenery in front of me. The trees seemed to be moving in the heat, their roots clawing the ground like monsters stretching their palms. People walked slowly, dragging the long shadow of their body...Suddenly, I cried. A sudden storm came over the school. It began to rain. The afternoon sun shone through the rain. I decided to run home.

When I saw Miss Young turned away from me to help other children, I took my chance. I ran. She saw me running down the slope among the heavy traffic. Shocked, she ran after me, calling out behind me, "Careful, careful...Stop! Stop!"

I was five years old, carrying a book bag as big as myself. Big trucks and cars were going opposite directions--the street was so narrow that two big trucks cannot pass at the same time. Miss Young chased after me, but her aging legs eventually slowed her down.

From a distance, I heard other people calling me. Their voices, like the low-pitched, blunt murmurings of the ancient Emperor centuries ago. The sounding of horns carried long tails of screams. They sounded eerie; that encouraged me to go even faster. I felt myself growing big. The afternoon sun shining behind me; I saw my own shadow running brave and tall.

When I heard a distant temple bell drummed from its pavilion, that very moment, I saw my grandma. She was coming toward me, face to face. She looked bigger than usual; her face, sprayed with a neon, glowing shine. Her body, dressed in her favorite, usual blue silk gown. It seemed all of a sudden, silvery new. She came fast, swept over the ground, as if floating...

I was a stranger to her; but I easily recognized her...that smile, always so gentle and peaceful. She came toward me. I reached out to touch her, she floated through and I turned around and called out to her, but the afternoon sun shined directly into my eyes, and grandma, melted into the core of the afternoon sun...

I finally got home. Everyone was crying at home, and no one said a word.

I did not cry. I went straight to my little writing desk, and started a letter:

Dear Grandma,


Dream Sketches (2001)        top

I.   Moon
II.  Drunken
III. Separation
IV. With the Wind
V.  Dances with Shadows


Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, April 2001
Performances: Peabody Conservatory of Music, Composition Recital, Griswold Hall, Jan. 2002
Peabody Conservatory of Music, Thursday Noon Recital, Friedberg Concert Hall, April 2002
Duration: 12:00

This piece is inspired by an ancient Chinese poet, Su Si. In 1076 AD, Su Si wrote a poem on the evening of the Mid-Autumn festival. It is a festive day for family reunion in China every year. That evening, he drunk wine, alone, until dawn, longing to see his brother who have departed him for seven years. The piece expresses in musical imagery the luster and darkness of the moon, gestures of a drunken poet, a lyrical song about separation, the graceful lightness of a wish to be carried away by the wind and a whimsical dance with one's own shadow.


For A New Millennium (2000)        top

Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts Recital Hall, Eastern Winds Quintet, February 2000

Award: 1st prize, Millennium Competition for Woodwind Quintet Composition, Hong Kong, June 2000
Award Performances: Performed by Eastern Winds Quintet
29th Annual International Double Reed Society Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina. August 2000
Hong Kong City Hall. June 2000
Duration: 5:30


Carry Me Over the Rainbow (2000)        top

Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, April 2000
Duration: 10:00


Love in Cynical City (1998)        top

Premiere: "Love in Cynical City" a multimedia dance production, Cheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong, Nov. 1998
Duration: 5:30


Memories from My Previous Lives (2013)        top

Premiere: Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Chicago, January 2014
Duration: 9:30


I moved to California when I was young, but at age 15, using a composition I composed as a child, I was admitted to the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts. Once again, I returned to my birthplace.

I still clearly remember that summer. It was mid-July. On the airplane's descent into the city, you can see the buildings right underneath the plane, so close that you can see the people, and their faces. The plane landed in the middle of a bustling city. I was immediately enveloped by an ocean of humidity and immense heat from the city's subtropical climate. I was easily angered and frustrated, and increasingly allergic to everything around me.

That summer was never-ending. Finally, in October I found relief when my father's friend took me to visit the Big Buddha Temple on an island off the coast of South China. I started to go there every week to practice mediation.

One month later, I had grasped its techniques, and some secrets-- I wonder endlessly in a timeless journey, floating in a silent space. The feeling is wonderful...peaceful, serene, sometimes beautiful.

However, by the end of my training I had some unusual encounters. I felt myself sprinting endlessly in darkness, somewhere unknown, perhaps during the midnight hour. Above me is a radiant sky full of stars, twinkling; below me, an endless field of rolling red dust. I feel as though there are people chasing after me.... and I was not alone. Every time I woke up in horror.

I asked the chief monk at the temple what this meant.

He was unable to answer. Sometimes, he would nod as I told him the details.

As time went by, the dreams became ever more vivid, and recurred more frequently. I became more persistent.

He said to me, "These are the memories from your previous lives...the mystery of their content and meaning, only you can come to learn and understand."

"Treasure what you have at this time. Across hundreds of thousands of years, you have met them, each of them. Did you recognize them?"

I translated my experience of the dream journey into music. I hope the music can release some meaning, and find peace within.




Symphonic Journal: Ambush from Ten Directions (2002)        top

Premiere: Hong Kong Sinfonietta, March 18, 2005. Yip Wing Sie, conductor and artistic director
U.S. Premiere: Symphony of the Oak Park and River Forest, Chicago, May 21, 2006. Kim Diehnelt, conductor
Orchestral reading:
Aspen Music Festival 2002. American Academy for Conductor's Orchestra. Kim Diehnelt, Conductor
Peabody Symphony Orchestra. Teri Murail, conductor; Valerie Rogotzke, narrator
Duration: ca. 10:00

Play music
Notes:
Ambush from Ten Directions is the famous battle that took place in China, in 202 BC. It is the battle that determined the success and establishment of the Han dynasty in China--a dynasty as powerful and prestigious in East Asia as the Roman Empire, its approximate contemporary, in the West.(1)

This historical battle is also a battle about three men: Hong, Lau and Shun. These three men had very different character and human quality; the result of the battle had a long and deep influence upon China's history and its people.

The three main characters in this battle are: Lau (leader of the Han region(2)), a top player in human relationship. He devotes his time to playing politics and manipulation of human relationships. He was unable to defeat his top enemy, Hong, for many years and had lost all of his previous battles against him until he gained the help of Shun.

Hong (warlord and king of Western Chu), a military genius and a courageous warrior; his talent comes from his overwhelming confidence. This quality frightens Lau.

Shun (Lau's commander-in-chief in this battle), a management specialist and a person with great self-discipline. He was successful because of his detailed planning and arrangement of battles, and because of his careful strategizing, calculating possible responses of his enemies and creating plans to quickly adept to different situations.

Shun was appointed by Lau as the commander-in-chief in numerous battles--by the time of this battle, Shun had already won all of Eastern China. Through Shun's careful management and planning, Lau successfully defeated Hong and established the Han kingdom. Ironically, Shun and three generations of his related family members were sentenced to death by his boss, Lau. Lau is a man with no loyalty, and he wanted the spoils of war all for himself.

I heard about this battle many times since I was a little girl; I do not agree with the description in movies and story books. The attack they depict are simplified that they could not have deceived me, and I cannot believe that it could have defeated an experienced warrior such as Hong. By glossing over General Shun's winning strategy and glorifying Lau, these depictions reflect a tradition that undervalues merit in favor of skills for manipulating relationships. In this composition, I prepared a new perspective and explanation of this battle.


(1) National Geographic, Feb 2004, Vol. 205 Issue 2, p2, 28p; To this day, the members of the ethnic majority of Chinese still call themselves "people of Han". The Han Dynasty (202 BC - AD 220), followed the Chin (Qin) Dynasty and preceded the Three Kingdoms in Chinese history.
(2) Initially, the principality of the Han region consisted only of modern Sichuan, Chongqing, and southern Shaanxi and was a minor, humble principality before 202 BC.
*Other translation of the name of each character: Hsiang, Shin and Liu



The Suite for Orchestra (1999)        top

Premiere: "Composer's Workshop Series", Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Tsung Yeh, conductor. August 1999
Reading: Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts
Duration: 6:30

I. Awakening
II. Blessing


This is my first orchestral work completed during my undergraduate studies. The first movement is about a personal spiritual awakening and the second movement is a caricature of a parade of ceremonial blessings in folklife Hong Kong.


The Burning Babe (2008)       top

Premiere: Festival of Lessons and Carols performed by the Loyola High School men's chorus and the singers and musicians from the USC Thorton School of Music
               December 13, 2008, St. John's Cathedral, Los Angeles, California
Duration: 6:00

Text to The Burning Babe, by 16th century English poet Robert Southwell



Oh Stars, from the Abyss: A letter from Qin Jin (2008)       top

Premiere: Orange County Women's Chorus
               March 30, 2008, St. Wilfrid of York Episcopal Church, Huntington Beach, California
Duration: ca. 9:00

In the process of writing this piece, I felt myself developing a close relationship with a courageous young woman from early 20th century China; her name is Qin Jin. She was like an older sister telling me about her struggles and her hopes and ideas for change, through her poetry and essays written during a time of incredible political turmoil, the country was under foreign invasions and at the tail end of a corrupted imperial era. Through her first hand account I realized the path to womanhood was no easy road for any young Chinese woman, and as Qin Jin once wrote, “to be born a female is itself tragic.” The road to change and a normal lifestyle came a very long way. In this composition, also subtitled “a letter from Qin Jin”, is a memory, and a remembrance, of her brave and short-lived life, her daring battles with a deteriorating, cold-hearted society, filled with grace, beauty and honesty.

(Qin Jin was executed in 1907 at age 32 in an unsuccessful revolutionary revolt against the Qing imperial government. Most of her poetry and essays on women's independence and women's rights were written during 1903-1907.)


Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart (2004)       top

Premiere: "Songfest 2004" opening concert--Of Things Not Seen
                Pepperdine University, Malibu, California
Duration: 4:30

Therefore we do not lose heart;
But though our outer man is decaying,
Yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.
For our momentary lightness of affliction works out for us,
More and more surpassingly,
An eternal weight of glory,
Because we do not regard the things which are seen
But the things which are not seen;
For the things which are seen are temporary,
But the things which are not seen are eternal.

(II Corinthians 4:16-18)



Beyond the Rainbow (2003)        top

Opera in one act
Story by Angel Lam
Lyrics assisted by Douglas Basford (Johns Hopkins University, English dept. faculty)

Premiere: Peabody Opera Etude
Location: Theatre Project, Baltimore, Maryland
Directed by Roger Brunyate, Peabody opera department director

Dreams of them enter, like men alive, into the maiden room of their lovers... (2000)        top

Premiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Electronic Music Showcase, March 2000
Duration: 6:00

Marching proud with joy and anger,
clad in brilliant coats of sable and silk,
five thousand young men act on their vow to crush the Tartans,
at the Western territory.

Arisen from their crumbling bones,
on the banks of the river of no precise location,
Dreams of them enter,
like men alive,
into the maiden room of their lovers...

by Chen Tao, translation by Angel Lam

Notes:
This poem I found in the ancient Chinese poetry collection "The Three Hundred Poems from Tang Dynasty" (618-907 AD). I was stunned by the vivid imageries, of restless youth on battlefield, and the most beautiful moment, is the poet does not reveal the spirit of the poem until the very last line. I'm also captivated by the beautiful sound of the zheng.





eXTReMe Tracker