Chong Kee Yong’s Beneath Your Soul (2003, revised 2019)


Modern Music Matinee: Maverick Asian Voices
Saturday, 12 October 2019 @ 3:00pm
Yong Siew Toh Conservatory, Orchestra Hall

Contributed by Tai Yun Ming (BMUS2, YST)

Dedicated to his mentor Henri Pousseur and premiered by Nouvel Ensemble at the “International Composition Seminar”(La Chaux de Fonds, Switzerland), this piece was composed by Dr. Chong during his masterclass with Pousseur. The flute part, played by an offstage-flautist, carries pitches derived from Pousseur’s tone row materials. According to Dr. Chong, the flute part is like a hidden “soul” among the onstage and offstage disposition of instruments.

This piece opens up a mysterious and imaginative soundscape hidden in our minds. It almost feels like there is no time. The music is spacious and otherworldly. This timeless space is built on a very slow tempo, frequent meter changes and wide variance in dynamic changes and texture. At first there is no significant rhythm. The unpredictable flow of thoughts is like a wandering soul in the subconscious mind. However, after a while, you might recognise a recurring weak pulse that tenses up and releases from time to time. These random thoughts give spark in different areas of the mind, constantly evolving and creating ambiguous moves that interact with one another. Sometimes they combine to produce a stronger idea, but most of the time they remain a mystery, appearing out of nowhere and vanishing into the unknown.

Other than its unique texture and lyricism, the work is compelling because it offers each listener a different experience. Some might feel uneasy, some might feel at peace, some might feel as if something is awakening and scratching beneath. Because of its individuality, ambiguity and huge space for imagination, this piece has some kind of visceral power that leads us into another dimension. We can have very different interpretations, musically and spiritually.

Chong, Kee Yong, personal communication, September 26, 2019.

About Dr. Chong Kee Yong

Dr. CHONG Kee Yong, one of Malaysia’s leading contemporary music composers, possesses one of the most exciting voices in new music today. Indeed, his work has been hailed as “imaginative and poetic” by leading conductor-composer Peter Eötvös, and as “very inventive and artistically pure” by composer Jonathan Harvey. The uniqueness of his music stems not only from a rich palette of sounds, but his experimentation into traditions, infusing his own Chinese and multi-cultural Malaysian heritage into his work.

Dr. Chong’s distinctive style has won him many awards and commissions; His list of prizes at various competitions is remarkable, for example the Prix Marcel Hastir by Belgium Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters & Fine-arts (1999, 2003), the 4th International Andrzej Panufnik Competition for Young Composers in Poland (2002), the Grand Prix at the 2nd Seoul International Competition for Composers (2003), the Max-Reger-Tage International Composition Competition in Germany (2004), the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra International Composers’ Award (2004), second prize at the 2nd Lepo Sumera International Young Composer Prize (2006), Lutoslawski Award (2006), BMW Award in the International Isang Yun Music Prize in Korea (2007), 2nd prize in the Preisträgerkonzert des Internationalen Kompositionswettbewerbes “global music—contemporary expression” in Germany, 3rd prize in Luxembourg International Composition Award 2008 and Giga-Hertz- Award 2009 (Germany).

He has been awarded the composer-in-residency with Akademie der Künste (Germany), Herrenhaus Edenkoben (Germany), Asian Cultural Council (USA), the Center Henri Pousseur (Belgium), SWR EXPERIMENTALSTUDIO (Germany), Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship 2014 (USA/Italy), Korea National Gugak Center fellowship, IGNM-VS / Forum Wallis in Leuk Switzerland and spring workshop Hong Kong.

To recognize Dr. Chong’s contributions to South East Asia’s contemporary music scene, Huddersfield University (UK) awarded him a full scholarship for PhD by publication 2014-2016 under the guidance of Prof. Liza Lim.

Dr. Chong is the creative director of Studio C, president of Society of Malaysian Contemporary Composers (2017-2019) and was the artistic director of the 2009 Kuala Lumpur Contemporary Music Festival and SMCC Contemporary Music Festival “SoundBridge” 2013, 2015 and 2017. 2016-2017 he was visiting professor of Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Categories Compositions

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