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Dec 24, 2018

Reflections on ACL 2018

The 35th Asian Composers League conference and festival (ACL 2018) was held in Taiwan on 19-23 Oct 18.

A number of Singapore composers had their works selected for ACL 2018. They had the opportunity to present their work on an international platform, and work with reputable international/Taiwanese ensembles and discuss the conception, rehearsal and performance of the selected works.

  1. CHUA Jon Lin: Mind Monkey, for percussion trio (2017)-Taiwan Premiere | Performer: Ju Percussion Group | Time: 2018/10/22 MON 19:30 | Venue: TNUA Concert Hall
  2. HO Chee Kong: Folksongs, for percussion trio (2018)-World Premiere | Performer: Ju Percussion Group | Time: 2018/10/22 MON 19:30 | Venue: TNUA Concert Hall
  3. HOH Chung Shih: Variations (on the brink), for 8-part vocal ensemble or choir (2006)-Taiwan Premiere | Conductor: Yun-Hung CHEN | Choral Music Concert | Choir: Taipei Chamber Singers | Time: 2018/10/21 SUN | Venue: National Recital Hall
  4. Emily KOH: Resonate, for mixed Western and Chinese instruments (2017)-World Premiere | Conductor: Paul Tien-Chi LIN & Tai-chi CHEN | Chamber Music for Chinese and Western Instruments | Time: 2018/10/20 SAT 13:30 | Venue: Soochow University Song Yi Hall
  5. Joyce Bee Tuan KOH: Waiting, for piano quintet, 2nd mvt.“Waiting”& 4th mvt. “Let’s stop talking for a minute”(2009)-Taiwan Premiere | Conductor: Mei-Fang LIN | Chamber Music Concert II | Time: 2018/10/21 SUN 19:30 | Venue: National Recital Hall | Performers: TNUA New Music Workshop and TNUA Musicians
  6. WANG Chenwei: Confluence 《融》, Chinese orchestra version (2009)-Taiwan Premiere | Venue: TNUA Experimental Theatre | Conductor: YuanYu LIAO | Ensemble: TCO Academy Orchestra | Time: 2018/10/23 TUE 19:30 | Venue: TNUA Concert Hall
  7. DING Jian Han: Duet for clarinet in B♭ and contrabass (2018)-World Premiere | ACL Young Composers Competition Concerts I+II | Time: 2018/10/22 MON 12:00 | Venue: TNUA Dance Theatre
  8. Peter Ivan EDWARDS: Pachinko Mobile (2018)-World Premiere | Electroacoustics Concert | Time: 2018/10/22 MON 16:00 | Venue: TNUA Experimental Theatre

CHEN Zhangyi also presented “Eclecticism in a Chamber Opera Trilogy of Food, Shopping, and Coffee” for Forum II: Fusion and Transformation – Asian Contemporary Compositions since 1990 ~ Hearing Asia in Music | Time: 2018/10/23 Tue 10:00.

After ACL 2018, we asked a few composers about their thoughts.

Chua Jon Lin

How was the audience response to your Mind Monkey?

General response was positive. Received comments such as:

  • “Such a fun piece!”
  • “Love your piece!”
  • “Wonderful combination and use of timbres. The piece was subtle and exciting at the same time.”

How has this experience benefited you (e.g. increased your international profile, created new opportunities)?

As a younger and less experienced composer, it was a great opportunity to get to meet other distinguished composers, musicians, and scholars, to widen my network and to learn from them. I was delighted to also meet a number of talented young composers and listen to their works. Getting to know the music of all these other composers as well as exchanging ideas with them was very inspiring, giving me new fuel to compose. Having just returned from the US this year, it was also a chance for me to widen my network in this part of the world, and establish my foothold as an Asian composer.

Were there any initiatives or projects that you encountered at the ACL (either through discussion with other participants etc.) that you think could be implemented in SIngapore? Why?

Not an initiative per se, but I was rather impressed at how the new music scene was so well linked up to various music groups who were not necessarily new music specialists. I attribute the success of ACL 2018 to that these groups were the performers of these concerts, and these concerts could reach the general concert audience. It was good that the concerts did not include only new music aficionados and composers. I feel that CSS should work towards more partnerships with some of the more established music groups in Singapore, who are known not just as new music specialists.

Ding Jian Han

How was the audience response to your Duet for Clarinet in Bb and Contrabass?

Generally positive. Quite a number of audience members, including the other competitors, told me that they really enjoyed my piece.

How has this experience benefited you (e.g. increased your international profile, created new opportunities)?

I think this entire experience has benefited me greatly and also my school, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music (YSTCM).

Firstly, for my school, many teachers in YSTCM have really good relationships with composers of the Asia region, so such a gathering will certainly increase chances of future collaborations with their schools and universities. This also translates into more compositional events that can be brought over to Singapore. Being a young composer myself, meeting and getting to know many other young composers will be very important in my future endeavours in music and composition. I could also listen to many wonderful and innovative pieces by composers of so many different cultures and backgrounds, and get inspired by them. There are so many interesting things which composers in our region are doing right now. Without a platform like the ACL, they will likely remain unknown outside their country of origin.

Finally, winning the 3rd place prize at the Young Composers Competition could possibly boost my international profile. More importantly, I was happy that my music and work were recognised by esteemed judges and other people. This will give me more confidence in propelling myself.

Peter Ivan Edwards

So you featured your electroacoustic work Pachinko Mobile for ACL 2018. How has this experience benefited you (e.g. increased your international profile, created new opportunities)?

Attending ACL conferences occasionally is an important tool for maintaining contacts within the community of composers in Asia. Here Asia is defined broadly, including Israel, Turkey, etc., which allows us to interact and develop relationships with composers situated closer to Europe. On the flip-side, I think it’s important for Singapore-based composers to attend ACL to represent the country. ACL is a chance for each country to share what is going on in their local community, and Singapore-based composers should fully participate in this. The community in Singapore is growing and working at professional, international levels. This should be projected to composers in other countries, when possible.

An additional benefit was the 3rd place award for Ding Jian Han in the student composers’ competition. Jian Han was already a student of mine at Yong Siew Toh Conservatory for 3 years. During the time of composing his winning work. Jian Han represented the conservatory and the future of Singaporean compositional activity very well.

In general, I think the profile of Singapore-based new music was extremely well received for its quality and diversity.

Were there any initiatives or projects that you encountered at the ACL (either through discussion with other participants etc.) that you think could be implemented in Singapore? Why?

The quality of performances in Taiwan was very high. There are many performers who can successfully interpret contemporary repertoire. This is the result of dedicating to arts development that countries like Taiwan (and South Korea and Japan) have made over the last 40-50 years. If anything, this demonstrated the importance of a government’s continual support of cultural activity at the highest international levels. While the payoff isn’t immediate, these results don’t happen without that support. Artistic activity at the highest international levels demonstrates a nation’s sophisticated understanding that life is more than just numbers, that it endorses the human spirit and its development, interpersonal communication, individual ingenuity and curiosity.

Wang Chenwei

How was the audience response to Confluence《融》 ?

Audience responses to “Confluence” were positive. The Taiwanese felt that the Indian and Gamelan flavours were unique to the Chinese Orchestra, while delegates from Israel, Australia etc. commended me for the multi-ethnic feel and the orchestration.

How has this experience benefited you (e.g. increased your international profile, created new opportunities)?

As there are numerous Chinese Orchestras in Taiwan and many are looking for pieces beyond the usual Chinese themes, getting Confluence《融》 premiered in Taiwan could pave the way for more performances in the future.

The wide variety of musical works I heard at the concerts has broadened my horizon on the possibilities of composition. Discussions with the composers of works which I found particularly unique has yielded interesting insights. E.g.:

  1. Raymond Mok (Hong Kong): composition for Dizi and symphony orchestra, a dialogue of traditional-style tunes (Dizi) vs very contemporary orchestral writing.
  2. Michael Timpson (Korea): A very effective composition based on very minimal materials. One of the movements revolves around only one note but is yet very engaging.
  3. Jason Long (New Zealand): An electroacoustic composition involving an electro-mechanical glockenspiel that he made. He said that with almost infinite possibilities provided by electroacoustic music, he sets himself boundaries to ensure that his composition has a coherent character.

I also befriended delegates from Taiwan, Israel, Australia, Korea, Macau, Philippines etc.

Were there any initiatives or projects that you encountered at the ACL (either through discussion with other participants etc.) that you think could be implemented in Singapore? Why?

I think that the ACL Taiwan was well-organised and featured a wide variety of concerts. Should Singapore host the ACL again, we could take some cues from it.

Since we are quite near Taiwan and both sides have an active Chinese orchestra scene, we could have more exchanges (ranging from individual soloists/conductors to whole orchestras) to learn from each other. As Taiwan has several universities offering majors in Chinese instruments, naturally they have very high Chinese orchestra standards (even for amateurs).