Writing and Features
24 November 2022
British-Chinese composer Alex Ho tells me over lunch at a bao restaurant in central London: “Not only for the enjoyment, but even professionally and creatively—you’re gonna make better work if you just get on with people.” Ho is one of two artistic directors of contemporary music collective Tangram (七巧板), a group of composers and performers whose mission statement is “transcending the China-West divide.” The collective champions the social aspects of its artistic community, including the sharing of food, as much as the art it creates.
11 November 2022
London Symphony Orchestra
As humans become more global, living outside places of birth or inhabiting multiple cultures, trailblazing collective Tangram’s mission will feel familiar to many. The group explores ideas of ‘transnational identity’ through celebrating Chinese and Western cultures in music. But their aims are deeper than that, as we’ll discover during a three-season tenure as Associate Artists at LSO St Luke's. The group wants to break down the idea that China and the West are mutually exclusive entities and connect both ancient traditions in multiple ways.
13 June 2022
Choir & Organ, Rhinegold
A day after our interview, Alex Ho flies to France for his artist-in-residence post at Opéra Orchestre National Montpellier. Like our recent New Music composers, he has participated in the scheme run by the National Youth Choirs of Great Britain (NYCGB), plus those of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal Philharmonic Society with the Manchester Camerata. All this while he reads for a fully funded PhD at the Royal College of Music.
28 March 2022
Fleur Barron: "As a child, I often went to Beijing operas with my uncle, learning Mandarin and Hokkien. But music education was totally focused on western music. Still by the way. This is not unwillingness, but stems from an assumption that has become "normal": that Western classical music is superior, and that you do not even need to study other sources. I realized a few years ago that I had never sung an Asian piece before. In fact: I could hardly name composers! Embarrassing, right? I've changed that recently."
11 February 2022
Shruthi Rajasekar, I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
This haunting piece [Spiralling Scrolls] about distance and displacement features the co-directors of Tangram (Alex Ho, composer, and Reylon Yount, yangqin player) and performers from the London Symphony Orchestra (LSO). The British-Chinese arts collective Tangram explores transcultural identity, and this piece, which brings together Chinese and Western instruments, is emblematic of the depth of their work.
11 February 2022
Alex returns live to Soho Radio for a third time to talk to Max Reinhardt about his latest choral releases with National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and NMC Records (2:02:18-2:43:30).
31 January 2022
Alex Ho is a British-Chinese composer based in London, and was one of NYCGB's Young Composers this year. The piece he wrote for the scheme is called Hush, and it explores ideas of racial identity. It 'reveals the latent power of the silent. It explores the tension embedded in this space: one that is vibrant, alive, and present.'
18 November 2021
National Youth Choirs of Great Britain
Read the last of our 2021 cohort blogs, this time by composer Alex Ho. Alex highlights his time with NYCGB and in the spirit of learning and sharing, he accompanies three things which he has learnt from the Young Composer Scheme, with a short track. A thoroughly enjoyable, honest and unique piece.
4 November 2021
Emma-Lee Moss, Orchid Pavilion
Pavilion started life in a warehouse in Hong Kong’s Ap Lei Chau and is now based in East London. Co-founders Alex Whittaker and Emma-Lee Moss bring together years of experience in the global creative industries and a shared passion for accessibility in the arts. The Orchid Pavilion is a journal of art, identity and diaspora, exploring topics with a particular focus on East and South-east Asian experiences.
20 September 2021
Sound UK’s new artist development programme, Sound Generator, supports early career artists and the work they present.
In this series of Spotlight interviews, we will find out more about the artists on this year’s programme, delve deeper into their Sound Generator project and discover what the process has meant to them. This week, we talk to Alex Ho.
10 September 2021
Tune in to hear Tangram co-director Alex Ho introduce Tangram's upcoming concert on 23 September at Rich Mix London showcasing pipa-virtuoso Cheng Yu (1:48:00-2:04:00)
22 April 2021
Chinese Arts Now
Chinese Arts Now are delighted to present Alex Ho, Sun Keting, and Raymond Yiu in conversation. Discussing their own practices and exploring their points of intersection and departure, discover the vibrant ideas, sounds, collaborations, and networks that these artists draw upon to inspire their compositions and communities.
13 April 2021
I CARE IF YOU LISTEN
Chinese-American yangqin player Reylon Yount, currently residing in London, combines performance with songwriting, improvisation and diverse academic interests. With Alex Ho, he is co-director of Tangram, ‘a transnational Chinese music collective envisioning a future beyond the China-West divide.’
14 January 2021
Conference paper: Reflecting Transnational Chinese Identity through Composition
BFE/RMA Student Conference, Cambridge University
I investigate the ways in which identity can at once stimulate the writing of new music whilst simultaneously be reshaped by this creative process. Taking an autoethnographic approach, I examine my own experiences and perceptions as a British-born Chinese with parents from Hong Kong in order to reflect on larger cultural, social, and political contexts. For this conference, I present a piece for vocal trio, …chinese whispers…, to shed further light on the fluid relationship between my cultural identity and music, demonstrating both the vitality of cross-cultural spaces as well as the need to address the UK’s problematic past and present.
18 November 2020
Royal College of Music
Alongside his Doctoral studies at the RCM, Alex Ho is Co-Director of TANGRAM, a London-based artist collective catalysing transnational imagination and celebrating the vitality of Chinese cultures. Read Alex’s experience of growing the collective, and the skills it develops and requires.
13 November 2020
National Opera Studio
We caught up with composer Alex Ho about his new work Above the White Island which, in collaboration with 2019/20 Young Artist Shengzhi Ren and librettist Theophilus Kwek, will be premiered on the National Opera Studio’s YouTube channel alongside the documentary.
24 July 2020
In 2018, Morag Grant invited Diljeet Bhachu to curate and chair a panel on decolonising the music curriculum as part of the Reid School of Music research seminar series. This was in part because Diljeet’s research was beginning to touch on the issue of colonial legacy and mentality in music education. When planning that event, we became aware that the discussion on decolonisation in music education specifically is only beginning in the British context.
By calling this conference, we hope to connect with others who are interested in this issue, and draw on existing expertise and experience to move this work forward.
24 June 2020
British Music Collection
“The diaspora experience…is defined, not by essence or purity, but by the recognition of a necessary heterogeneity and diversity; by a conception of ‘identity’ which lives with and through, not despite, difference” – Stuart Hall (1990)
Curated by Alex Ho, this new blog series brings together seven award-winning composers with non-European heritage investigating the relationship between transnational identity and music. They show how their cultural identities affect composing in unique and diverse ways, from directly exploring novel sonic realms to developing new approaches and aesthetics in their work. In doing so, these contributors demonstrate the vitality and plurality of diasporic experience and offer an insight into the richness of cross-cultural spaces.
04 February 2020
London Symphony Orchestra
My new commission, In Significance, is scored for seven musicians: two percussionists, oboe, horn, piano, violin and cello. The piece investigates the often uncomfortable balance between centres and ‘their’ peripheries, and attempts to imagine a different relationship. Whether in respect to post-colonial thought, environmental issues, or social structures, the implication is that those on the periphery – individuals, groups, nature – are marginalised, ignored, and at times forgotten. It is as if the centre is independent and self-sufficient whilst the periphery is somehow lesser… unimportant… insignificant…
18 December 2019
LSO St. Luke's
What better way to ring in the Lunar New Year than with new music? Following a sold-out debut in January 2019, artist collective Tangram return on 25 January to interweave folk melodies with brand new compositions. We caught up with composers Raymond Yiu, Jasmin Kent Rodgman and Alex Ho – all LSO composers of past and present – to find out more about the music we'll hear on Lunar New Year.
04 November 2019
British Music Collection
Tan Dun’s Ghost Opera is not your regular ghost story nor (trying to be) your regular western opera. Inspired primarily by shamanistic ‘ghost operas’ in Chinese peasant culture, the piece is scored for ‘vocalising’ string quartet and pipa who all play water, metal, stone, and paper percussion, and visual installation. With clear influences from shamanistic ritual, folk music, and shadow puppetry to name a few, Ghost Opera seems to revel in a liminal space that undermines our desire to categorise the unfamiliar.
05 July 2019
London Symphony Orchestra
It has been an incredible journey working with the LSO through their Soundhub scheme for composers. What makes LSO Soundhub different from the British Composer Schemes out there is the opportunity to design a project with complete freedom with financial, production and technical support – and to be performed by professional players! It’s also timely to allow classical music to be reimagined and reshaped at a point when broader issues of diversity are gradually being acknowledged and acted upon.
Over the last few years, I have been very lucky to have had the chance to write several pieces for Chinese traditional instruments – from a concerto for erhu to a chamber work for Chinese string quartet (erhu, pipa, guzheng and yangqin) to a solo work for 5-string pipa. However, I hadn’t then written anything for an ensemble of both Chinese and western instruments, and so I knew that this was the project I wanted to realise through LSO Soundhub.
10 June 2019
Asian-European Music Research E-Journal, Shzr Ee Tan and Mai Kawabata
Reylon Yount gave a hypnotic performance of Alex Ho’s Rituals and Resonances for Solo Yangqin (2018). The two then spoke about their positioning as Asian performer and composer, raising the question of what this means for the yangqin as an instrument in the Western context. The issue of genre (cross-cultural) was posed and of “world music” being a problematic term. Shzr Ee Tan pointed out that a certain composer born in China was criticised for being too Western and ‘not Chinese enough’ in his compositions, thereby reinforcing the idea of white composers having the privilege of normativity. Ho brought up the issues of appropriation and pentatonicism – is this an Eastern trope? – and Yount shared his experiences of fusion groups combining Western & Eastern instruments.
14 October 2018
British Music Collection
Alex Ho is an innovative young composer working at the intersection of contemporary Western and Chinese musics. Born in London to parents from Hong Kong, Alex pursued classical training in performance and composition for most of his life. I was lucky enough to meet Alex through a mutual friend in 2017. I was inspired by his interest in exploring conceptions of Chinese heritage through music, which resonated with, but also differed from, my own experience as a Chinese American playing the yangqin (a Chinese percussive string instrument) in the U.S.
25 May 2018
Race and Resistance, Oxford TORCH network, University of Oxford
The Race and Resistance programme, part of the Oxford University's TORCH network, brings together researchers, students, and activists in the history, literature, and culture of anti-racist movements across the modern world.