We have been planning our Asia tour for more than a year, and ended up scheduling a hectic but rewarding series of universities engagements and performances. After a year focusing on the Nordic countries, we felt like it was time to challenge ourselves and change continents. We left Italy on April 6th to go present music by Florent Ghys, Andy Akiho, Marta Forsberg and our own to new audiences in Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand. We met many students both in performance and composition, premiered a piece by Malaysian composer Adeline Wong, and another by Hong Kong-based composer Vanissa Law.
In Hong Kong, we workshopped five pieces by students at HKBU, gave a concert at the amazing art space/hostel Wontonmeen in Kowloon, had a lovely chat with the radio host Stacey Rodda of RHTK, and finally premiered Vanissa’s new piece at the CUHK in front of a small but attentive audience.
Although always wish we had more time to visit and understand the city more extensively, staying in Sham Shui Po was itself an experience worth the entire visit. Besides long walks through markets where you can just happen upon the best dumplings of your life, there’s just something special about this place that we will miss. Perhaps that ‘something special’ is best encapsulated by Wontonmeen, the venue and hostel we performed at who’s ambitious hosts, Kent Leung & Patricia Choi, are creating an unexpected and amazing hub for contemporary art and culture in the heart of an amazing city. We hope to be back soon!
Singapore was our next stop. We can’t overstate the contrast experienced in traveling between these two places: Hong Kong is a beacon of democratic beliefs, its streets coated in a patina of stories, cultures, and histories that give authenticity and preservation to cultures often lost in modern and sprawling metropolises. In contrast, Singapore is pristine and planned. Everything looks like it was built yesterday, and it feels a bit like stepping into the future.
Our first stop, Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, was no exception: it has all the resources of any world-class conservatory, and the Sounding Now Festival, though young, is internationally attended with some really ambitious and engaging programming. We spent our time there collaborating with Adeline Wong on a new piece for vibraphone and piano that was premiered at the end of our stay.
Singapore also gave us an amazing chance to catch up with two friends, Janis Wang & Joachim Lim, the best percussionist in Singapore, who took us to the Hawker markets to try amazing local foods (and our first ever bubble tea). At a certain point we noticed something about Singapore: there are shopping malls everywhere. Joachim said they’re trying to have one at each metro stop. Well, we were skeptical at first, but in 35 degree heat, a public space with air conditioning will always become appreciated.
We also performed at SOTA, the School of the Arts in Singapore. With its central location, modern architecture, and enormous size, it could easily be mistaken for a conservatory or university despite being an arts high-school. There, we were hosted by Danny Imson, a composer, entrepreneur, and talented photographer. We presented a small talk and concert for his students that was a fun end to our time in this city- not before meeting Joachim & Janis again at the newly open “Jewel” at Changi Airport, complete with the world’s largest indoor waterfall (no one was keeping track of that record), and Bengawan Solo (an amazing bakery).
On the day of our 4am arrival, we started a 3-day intensive seminar at the University Putra, which is located in a southern district of the city of Kuala Lumpur. A glimpse into local Malaysian life, it was a kind of suburb in the jungle.
Most of the seminar’s registered participants were music students and professional composers, thanks to the enthusiastic organization of Prof. Camellia Siti Maya Mohamed Razali, who is interested in growing a more extended interest for contemporary music in the country. The enthusiasm and curiosity of the students (and the top notch local catering) really kept us going through the morning lectures and the afternoon workshops. It was a particularly intense time because we received the workshop pieces once we were already on tour, (a lot of sight-reading…) but we managed to put together a complete program for the final concert featuring many of the participant’s works. For many of the students, it was even the first time anyone had performed their music.
Three days isn’t a long day to be in a place, so we absolutely can’t wait to be back to Malaysia again. It turned out to be a more diverse and interesting place than we could have imagined. After our workshops, we were somehow gifted a 501 Amazing Facts About Malaysia book that was enjoyed on some bus, plane, or train after…
After a week and a half with a concert or event nearly every day, we had a couple days to ourselves to explore Bangkok before our engagement at Silpakorn University. The class was hosted by the enthusiastic Kittiphan who, not unlike Camellia in Malaysia, is also striving to create a path for new music and technology for his students. The music department at Silpakorn has recently grown quickly, and we can’t wait to see more collaborations coming up!
We will miss the incredibly fresh fruit, walking through the ancient city in Ayutthaya, watching locals prepare for the upcoming king’s coronation, and commuting by boat along the river.