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My new work has taken me longer than expected, as I had a change of heart regarding the overall style of the piece. The draft I had been working on felt too similar to my other orchestral works, and I thought to make the most out of this project I really ought to explore some other possibilities. So while my new new work retains my initial overall structure, its soundworld is somewhat different. My music is often highly lyrical and delicate with fairly transparent instrumental texture, but since I felt I have already demonstrated my ability in writing such music in the past, I concentrated instead on trying to bring out the raw energy available from a symphony orchestra in this piece.
(You may sample my previous works here.)
The main challenge of this project for me is to produce a valid orchestral work of such short duration (~3 minutes), as my music often has an unhurried nature. In the case of my last major orchestral work, it doesn’t “get going” until the eighth minute into the 23-minutes piece. In fact, there are very few larger ensemble works of <4 minutes duration by other composers that I feel are musically satisfying on their own. Off the top of my head, I can think of John Adams’ Short Ride in a Fast Machine and either of Oliver Knussen’s Two Organa.
I like to construct my music using limited amount of raw materials. For this short piece I am concentrating on two simple ideas, a zigzag melodic shape and an accelerating rhythmic motif. The overall structure is straight forward: one main build-up with a short coda.
Since this is my first post here, I shall introduce myself briefly. My biography can be found at my website www.funglam.com, but here is some extra info…
I started playing the piano at the age of six while I was in Hong Kong, but cello has been my major instrument since I took it up at 10. While I wasn’t especially interested in contemporary classical music in general at the beginning, I was very keen to explore the cello repertoire, old and new, especially those which have been premiered or performed by either Yo-Yo Ma or Mstislav Rostropovich, two of my favourites. Soon I found myself ordering random CDs and scores of composers I had never heard of! Fittingly, I shall mention that it included the Andrzej Panufnik’s Cello Concerto recorded by the LSO and Rostropovich, which remains one of my favourite contemporary cello concertos, alongside other ones by composers such as HK Gruber, Stephan Albert and Gavin Bryars. My interest in contemporary music just grew from there, and eventually started composing slightly more seriously after my undergraduate studies in music.
The Panufnik Young Composers Scheme 2008 is a thing of the past – the workshop took place over three months ago, and I have already met the six Panufnik Young Composers of 2009 (Francisco Coll Garcia, Edmund Finnis, Fung Lam, Vlad Maistorovici, Max de Wardener and Toby Young) last weekend, shared my experience on the scheme and gave (hopefully) useful tips. An impressive brunch, and apparently for the time since PYCS started an all-male selection. Their new pieces will be something one looks forward to.
PYCS has been a wonderful experience, as well as having my first orchestral piece played by the London Symphony Orchestra, the best thing for me was to meet the five wonderful fellow composers – Andrew McCormack, Ayanna Witter-Johnson, Joshua Penduck, Matthew Sergeant and Sasha Siem; each one of them with has an individual voice, and I would be delighted to share platform with all of them sometime in the future.
Out of the six of us, Andrew received a commission to write a 10-minute piece for the LSO, which is to be premiered later on this year. And I have the honour to receive a commission to write a piece for the Chinese pianist Lang Lang and the London based Silk String Quartet. It is a piano quintet with a difference as the four members of the quartet play not violin, viola or any familiar Western instruments; instead, the quartet is made up of four Chinese string instruments – erhu (二胡), pipa (琵琶), yangqin (揚琴) and guzheng (古箏). An interesting combination, and a challenging piece to write. I hope the end result, Maomao Yü, is going to turn out alright.