DRAMA AND MULTIMEDIA WORKS:|
CHAMBER AND SOLO:
CHORAL AND OPERA:
ACOUSTIC INSTRUMENT WITH ELECTRONIC SOUND:
|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
|Sing Tao Daily||Wen Wei Po||Hong Kong Economic
|Hong Kong Economic Journal
"Arts Festival Opening Ceremony"
|Ming Pao Weekly||U Magazine||Hong Kong Economic Times|
|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
Color of the Mind - Trailer from Angel Lam on Vimeo.
|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
|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
|Premiere:||(For orchestra) Yale Philharmonia Orchestra, November 20, 2008, Yale University Woolsey Hall|
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
|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
|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|
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."
Be sure that he can see you
"Should there be any questions?
You are the only answer."
Twinkle little star
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
Life has many fashions-
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
You give me my strength
To be brave
Those good things
You tell me
not to hesitate
When there are problems
"Just to do it,
with all you can-
And life will be okay."
To light up our lives
We show our own glory.
"Should there be any complaints?
There should be few regrets."
Life is a festival
(P.S. Which one are you?)
|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
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.
|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
Painting by Angel Lam
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.
|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
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.
Through the Interwoven Growth topI. Forest of Bare Branches
II. First Snow Upon the Evergreen Grove
III. Valley Stream's Fragrance of the Green Green Woodlands
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 topI. Drops
Premiere: Peabody Institute, Goodwin Hall, Dec. 2002
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 top
Love Memo topPremiere: 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
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 top
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 topScored 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 top
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:
Dream Sketches topI. Moon
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
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 topPremiere: 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
Carry Me Over the Rainbow topPremiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, April 2000
Love in Cynical City topPremiere: "Love in Cynical City" a multimedia dance production, Cheung Wan Civic Centre, Hong Kong, Nov. 1998
Memories from My Previous Lives topPremiere: Northwest Symphony Orchestra, Chicago, January 2014
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 topPremiere: 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
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
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 topPremiere: "Composer's Workshop Series", Hong Kong Sinfonietta, Tsung Yeh, conductor. August 1999
Reading: Hong Kong Academy for the Performing Arts
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 top
Oh Stars, from the Abyss: A letter from Qin Jin top
Therefore We Do Not Lose Heart top
Beyond the Rainbow topOpera 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... topPremiere: Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, Electronic Music Showcase, March 2000
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
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.