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AANMI - Japan Tour 2018



These three weeks had been especially memorable to participate in a performance tour as a composer. We travelled through seven cities, performed at eight different concert halls and presented at five high schools. We talked to high school students about the creative process and the hard work that goes behind music creation and being a composer/musician/artist. The students were exposed to multiple layers of music preparation from the seeds of inspiration to live performances. We also performed and workshopped with local university students and experienced their refined concert halls...ie. the gently reverberant dark woods of Blue Rose Hall at Suntory Hall, or being a part of religious rituals at our temple concerts. What inspires me most are the day-to-day interactions with local people (including taxi drivers & train conductors that regularly helped with luggages), they perform their task with dignity and perfection, never requiring tips nor extra compensation to do a job well; something to be respected. Needless to say, I have not seen a single piece of trash left unattended in Japan, school students are taught to clean and polish their schools and neighborhood everyday.

As this project is sponsored by the U.S. Embassy, foreign countries might be surprised by our cultural diversity! Honestly, America for me with its vast nature, natural resources and seasonal changes, and an education system that emphasizes creativity, inspires the best from each of us in our creative process, no matter what cultural backgrounds we come from.

Thank you again to AANMI for performing my works in every city on this tour, as well as numerous support from local Japanese organizations. Many thanks for the beautiful performances by Boston-based HUB Ensemble and Yo-Yo Mas Silk Road Ensemble shakuhachi virtuoso Kojiro Umezaki, along with award-winning conductor Yuga Cohler, on this successful tour.

Also thank you to our traveling videographer/photographer Benedikt Schulte!

- July 2018




Kanmangafuchi Abyss, Nikko (left) - Miyajima (right)


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Color of the Mind, for live music with new film

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...

Story and music by Angel Lam
Film by Mida Chu
Produced by Matthew Schlomer




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



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June Lovers, A Musical

Commissionied work for the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2012
sponsored by The HSBC Foundation

 

                            


            
 
        

  



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Her Thousand Years Dance
University of California, Irvine Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Stephen Tucker

Kojiro Umezaki, solo shakuhachi
Maggie Parkins, solo cello
Angel Lam, composer and narrator




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Awakening from a Disappearing Garden (2009)
Yo-Yo Ma and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Robert Spano, October 15-16, 2009




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The Emperor's Eight Thousand Women Ghosts (2010)
Rehearsal with Professor Aldo Parisot and the Yale Cellos

yale cellos 8 thousand   Yale cellos rehearsal




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The Burning Babe
St. John's Cathedral, Los Angeles, December 2008

Premiere of The Burning Babe, St. John's Cathedral, Los Angeles, December 13, 2008. Loyola High School Choir under the direction of Steven Speciale
 
With singers and musicians from the University of Southern California



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The Midnight Run

Peabody Dance mentored by Martha Clarke




Midnight Run
A theater production for dance, music, narration and visual projections
Mentored by Martha Clarke
Story and music by Angel Lam
Choreography by Peabody Dance Director Carol Bartlett
Visual projections and stage design by Carol Bartlett and Angel Lam







Photos from Baltimore Sun
and M.S. Druskin



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Empty Mountain, Spirit Rain Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble tours China
Hong Kong Stop, Hong Kong Cultural Center Concert Hall




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Silk Road Chicago, Chicago Symphony Center




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Premiere of Sun, Moon, and Star
Carnegie Hall

Carnegie 
    
With mentors Dawn Upshaw and Osvaldo Golijov



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Premiere with Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Australia's Grainger Quartet
In Search of Seasons



with Maestra Yip Wing-Sie


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We must call back the 'self' and revive our accumulation of experience and our capability of observation. Let our minds float, across the rigors of the physical world, where we feel the tastes of life, and our music, as evidence of the forces of life, without black and white nor right or wrong, but only the mysteries of life, and of life, all on its own. I believe, that is the essence, of our post-post modern world.

The mind is a lonely hunter.

- Spring 2010


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As time went by, the last curtain of my graduate life at Yale University drew near. I could only explain my experience like going into a theatre in the middle of an old movie; it was not only the light contrast that I have to adjust to, but also the wrinkling of the movie screen, streets wavering back and forth, now warped, then caving in, blurring and doubled...I turned my back and prepared to head towards the exit, suddenly, at an impulse of a moment, images of the screen became explicit and clear. I sat down again and found myself in the screen, shopping around. I could even hear what the shopkeepers are selling.

I agree with what the modernists have said, extreme romanticism corrupts the soul, but a fool like me, stubborn as I am, refuses to let go of the audiences who fall into the palms of the commercial world. I decided to find my own solution. As a rationalist, I write stories for my music so that they recall lives, and arouse definitions.

Remember the girl yelling hysterically and calling her leader's name at the People's Square? Her mind had already left her body? Remember the girl waiting anxiously for the finalist's list of a popular song contest? She doesn't know that the society she lives in is conducted by reasoning?

Here I am, the guardian of a new form of music, higher definition performing arts.

- May 2010


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"Between the music and literature there is a vast whiteness, like the ancient poem drawings of the Sung period, there lies a meaning, or a question, only the listener's imagination can complete."

- April 2010


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"Since 13, Scarlett had always reminded me, "Afterall...tomorrow is another day."

I give a higher definition to the music, back to the detail, back to our self-consciousness. Gao Xingjian (recipient of the 2000 Nobel prize in literature) said that drama (music) is nothing but performance; the performer should always be aware that he/she is performing. It is a real thing and a self-conscious art. We go back to the surface, and make interpretation an invention. Time is extended through the recollection of details, in Awakening from a Disappearing Garden, the three minute narration becomes an eternity course...the luxurious mansion, the solid red, nine-foot wide main entrance, the royal green mandarin dress...they come alive, as Aurelius Augustinus told us on the art of the display of time.

On going back to the surface, Shin's mother (Shin is a five year old character in Crayon Shin-Chan, the Japanese manga series created by Yoshito Usui) scolds Shin for leaving crumbs while eating cake, his father tells him to behave and improve his eating manner. Shin answers, "it is not my problem, it is the cake's problem--we should change the cake, not my eating habit." Shin taught his parents that there is no need to go so deep. (This scenario is my own.) I borrow the characters from Crayon Shin-Chan to explain the spirit of Post-modernism.

Music, like poetry, stems from an inner force; it comes, and it goes, like flowers, bloom and fade."

- January 2010




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On Awakening from a Disappearing Garden and the ghost of Eileen Chang

I am deeply moved by the many powerful human stories coming from a country with 1.3 billion people, centuries of turbulent political and societal changes with distorted human behaviors, long periods of pressure and constant human tragedies. However, those were also extraordinary times of non-material pursuits and spiritual transformations.

Reading the short stories of 20th century literary giant Eileen Chang, I discover an unusual postmodern ghost displayed in her characters. This ghost has haunted me many times when I try to look for inspirations to create a soundscape for a new musical work.

China between the two world wars had experienced much trauma and instability in its social and political circumstances. Similar to the post-war writers in the western world, Chang (b.1920-1995) responded to the wars and the feelings of helplessness and persecution in her own uniquely florid language, and acute social and emotional observation. This was during the time of the Republic of China under the Nationalist Party, the Eight Nation Alliance colonization, and the Japanese occupation of Shanghai and Hong Kong. Those were unique times in history, of cultural fusion. The Eight Nation Alliances brought France, United Kingdom, Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan and the United States into China and intermingled those cultures with China's own rich, varied and layered tradition. Chang herself was brought up in Shanghai and well educated in both Chinese and English at a Christian high school. In 1939, as a young woman she received a full scholarship to attend the University of London, but due to the outbreak of the Sino-Japanese War, she was not able to continue that path. Awakening from a Disappearing Garden, though it is not based on a Chang writing but my own, the first movement is set against the politically unstable time in which Chang lived; that was the time they called the "Big Era".

In the composition, I try to evoke this subtle yet powerful strength, a restless postmodern force, inside Chang. She was clearly ahead of her own time. The society that Chang lived in was a chaotic struggle for power at the dawn of the modern society. For the ordinary people, and especially for a young woman in China, the pressure of modernization and modern political expansion, as exhibited in the political agendas of the time, together with the twisted distortion of rules and 'traditions' bounding Chinese women and society, was an overbearing omnipresent force. It seems to me, her characters, and my Number Five...sublimated.

There was no clear black or white, nor right from wrong, but only the full forces of life, floating through the physical world. The anti-heroine, feels the tastes of life, and forgets depth and tradition. Spiritually, goes back to the surface. In music, it is a lyrical cry, full of nostalgia, tragedy, and extreme beauty.

- Autumn, Yaddo 2010

Eileens Signature          Eileen Chang Books          Eileens house in the woods

Eileen stayed at MacDowell Colony
to work on her book in 1957

Photos taken at MacDowell Colony this summer



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Interlochen Arts Academy

January 2013, in collaboration with Shanghai Conservatory Middle School
Presentation of my doctoral research paper topic

Understanding Chinese Music through Chinese Garden, Poetries and Literature

Student workshop: composing for Chinese instruments and combining with western instrument

An ensemble performance in class and students reading from the Chinese simplified notation



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Salzburg, Austria. Internationale Sommerakademie Der Universitat Mozarteum Salzburg
Masterclass with Franco Donatoni and Simone Fontanelli


Cathedral Church of Our Lady (Munich, Germany) Neues Rathaus, Flanders Gothic style new town hall
Hellbrunn Palace (Salzburg, Austria) Hohensalzburg Fortress, overlooking the "city of Mozart"



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Imagery of Water

Bunkyo Civic Hall, Tokyo
Asian Composer's League Festival