Writing and Research

24 July 2020

Conference panellist: Decolonising Pedagogies

Edinburgh University

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

Together in Difference: Transnational Identity in New Music

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

In Significance: Introductory notes

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

Lunar New Year Premieres: LSO Composers - past and present - tell us about a night of new music

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

Mind the Gap: Transnational Identity in Opera

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

Spiralling Scrolls: Introductory notes

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

Cultural Imperialism and the New Yellow Peril in Western Classical Music, Report

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

50 Things: Rituals and Resonances

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.


Latest News

17 November 2020

Above the White Island - digital release

Commissioned by National Opera Studio

24 August 2020

Untold "a rich tapestry"

Review by Schmopera