C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

D0 note (18.35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

C0 note (16,35 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

F0 note (21.83 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

G0 note (24.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface

A0 note (27.50 Hz) — vibrating on liquid surface




MUSIC AND BEYONDThe 2007 ISCM World Music Days in Hong Kong

Music and Politics have an uncanny knack of mixing in awkward ways. Under other circumstances, the World Music Days of 2007 would have taken place in Austria. However a General Election brought new politicians into office and apparently new cultural policies. Unwilling to come up with the necessary funds, the new Austrian government, backtracked on the promise of the previous one.

The ISCM Hong Kong section managed to avert the looming crisis and in spite of the fact that they had already organized the World Music Days of 2002, stepped in -almost at the last moment- and managed to save the day. The fact that within the last 18 years Hong Kong was able to organize this Festival not only two but three times, says a lot…

The World Music Days of 2007 were jointly organized by the ISCM Hong Kong section and the Asian Composers League (ACL). In addition, they were supported by a large number of institutions and private individuals.




A total of 29 government, public and private organizations from Hong Kong, China and Macao. In addition many embassies, consulates, foundations, cultural and educational institutions and companies were involved, as sponsors, patrons and financial supporters. Among these was Hong Kong’s Radio 4 which broadcasted most of the concerts and the local press which actively promoted the festival. The concerts were spread throughout the city in a total of 17 venues and whenever possible group audiences, such as schoolchildren, students of music academies, universities etc, were brought in or encouraged to attend.

Coming from Greece, a country where in terms of audience participation new music still faces an uphill struggle, I was pleasantly surprised by the attendance numbers. This impression is mainly based on the audiences I observed in the evening concerts in the Hong Kong Town Hall, the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and finally in the Theatre of the Macao Convention & Entertainment Centre.

There was a total of 24 concerts in which 156 works, by an equal number of composers were performed, featuring almost every medium, instrumental combination and stylistic trend. These were chosen from 604 submissions, coming from 60 countries. As is always the case with the ISCM, many performances were world premieres.

Approximately 200members of the musical community attended: representatives of ISCM National Sections and of Associate Members, composers, performers, musicologists and speakers at the symposium. To these we must add the dozens of musicians and music students from Hong Kong, China and Macao that took part as performers, as well as the ensembles and soloists who travelled from abroad.




With the exception of the opening evening, every day included two concerts and quite often three. Our usual daily programme began at 9:30. Five of the mornings (9:30 to 12:30), were dedicated to the General Assembly meetings of the ISCM In these, thanks to the co-ordinating talents of Richard Tsang, the ISCM President, we managed to plough through a huge amount of work by discussing and voting on a lot of future policy decisions of our Society.

Three other mornings were dedicated to the parallel musicological symposium. Its theme was the concept and the role of the “Musical Cannon” within the context of new music, in the present post-modern, globalized era. Most of the papers read in the symposium focused on Chinese and Far Eastern ergography.

The delegates participating in the General Assembly had brought along a lot of material showing the activities of their respective sections: Posters, leaflets, concert programmes, publications, magazines, even some CDs. Through these one could see how much activity levels varied from one ISCM section to another. Interestingly, it was not always the sections of wealthier countries that were most active. These discrepancies reflect the position that music in general (and new music in particular), have in each country and the kind of support that each government or society is willing to grant it.

It was an extremely intense, interesting and tiring set of twelve days but worth every moment of it! The dynamism of present day China was evident throughout the whole event and the many positive aspects of the festival far outweighed the very few problems.




From a listener’s point of view the worst problem was the curse of the single listening. The fact that two and quite often three concerts were packed in a single day did not help either. It’s easy to say that if a work is “really good”, it comes through regardless. Reality is more complicated.

Listening with the same high degree of  attention –concert after concert, day after day- to all kinds of performances and music is almost impossible. Inevitably, there may have been works which we were not able to appreciate for different reasons.

It was sometimes possible to “second-guess” an indifferent or bad performance, listen “between the notes” and understand the composer’s intentions. Fatigue is a much more treacherous enemy. Therefore, I plead for the indulgence of the colleagues who -like me- have attended the International Days. I base my comments on the notes put down while listening or immediately after. There is no possibility of “second chance” corroboration.

Obviously, there were those few works whose impact one could remember not only after the concert but during the next days and much later. Too few? Probably yes. But then, isn’t this always the case with all kinds of music and artistic creation in general?


We’ve also heard a number of compositions that made us wonder how they did manage to make it on the final list of such a prestigious international event. In most cases the answer could be found in the CVs of the composers with their (too evident) access in decision-making processes, as holders of administrative or academic posts.


Describing in detail everything I have heard and saw would make this report at least twice as long. Consequently, I will try to convey the flavor of the event by focusing on a certain highlights and points.




As this was a joint ISCM and ACL event, Chinese and Asian input was rather strong. Chinese works (58 of them), amounted to about a third of the total. All Asian works put together were 79, almost 50%. In spite of this, I don’t think that pluralism -one of the declared aims of the ISCM, since its inauguration at Salzburg 1922- has suffered. Pluralism is not so much a matter of nationalities as of diversity of styles. This was a positive aspect of the Hong Kong days and many of the colleagues I’ve spoken to, compared this favourably against other recent World Music Days, where the dogmatic adherence to a dated Germanic “modernism” was all too evident.

Out of the many present day trends, minimalism was perhaps the only one conspicuously absent. References to it appeared in many of the pieces but there wasn’t a single one that could be described as “minimalistic” in the narrow sense. Personally I did not miss this at all.

Greek performance standards of new music are still quite often problematic. Thus, I soon found out that I tended to be more tolerant and ready to be pleased than many colleagues from other countries, who quite often would point out even minor weaknesses of interpretation. This does not mean that there were not weak or outright bad performances. It would be impossible to be otherwise since there were a lot of participating musicians, many different ensembles and huge differences in the degree of technical competence and (most probably), of preparation.

The performers ranged from first class international ensembles and professional orchestras familiar with the intricacies of new music, performing pieces from their own repertoire, to student groups who may have gone on stage after just a few hurried rehearsals. A good example of these varied performance levels within a single programme, was the afternoon chamber concert at the H. K. Institute of Education (23-11-07), where we heard works from Mexico, Israel, Japan, Slovakia, Korea and Iceland. The big differences in the quality of their presentation were partly due to the idiom that each composition was using. Pieces that employed more complex or non-traditional writing tended to suffer much more that those who stayed within “safer” performance requirements and by contrast were quite adequately presented.

Most concerts of student groups followed the same pattern. Difficulties of instrumental technique were an important and easily understandable factor. More subtle was lack of experience. In these cases a work suffered, not because of technical difficulties but because the performers had misunderstood its meaning. Music that must have looked easy on paper required a deeper understanding.

A very characteristic example of this, was the performance of “Il silenzio dei morti” by Zoltan Jeney (b. 1943, Hungary) for alto and percussion group (26-11-07, Lecture Hall of the H.K. Science Museum). The intentions of the composer were audibly, very clear and the notes did not seem that hard to play. Sparsely written, with much economy of means and a sense of dark atmosphere, it seemed to ask from the performers to re-create a bleak ritual. Unfortunately nothing of that came through and in addition a classic performance mistake seems to have taken place: the music was played too slowly. (Most performers tend to associate slowness with atmospheric or ritualistic music.) The final result was that the piece seemed to be longer than necessary.




In every festival, the initial submissions of the ISCM national sections (slightly less of individual composers), determine substantially what we finally hear. Here I will venture to describe a specific filter mechanism which gives an interesting stylistic twist to the programmes.

It is logical to assume that the aim of any section is to have performed, as many of the six proposals, it is allowed to submit. To this end, it tries to choose works in styles and instrumental combinations that -experience has shown- have greater chances of being short listed.

Straight away chamber and choral music, smaller ensembles in general, seem safer choices. But what about style? Here national sections try to anticipate the judgment of the international jury by choosing works with a wide stylistic safety margin: those that stand more chances of being approved by composers of diverse nationalities and aesthetic backgrounds. If the above assumption is correct, anything written within the broad trend of a “middle ground academic modernism” is a safe bet.

Thus, quite often in the concert hall, we were confronted with similar sounding compositions from diverse countries, competently written, with a lot of innovative techniques, but equally with very little real musical content. Looking at my notes and thinking back, I recall impressions: Somewhere I jotted down: “You can sense the boredom of the audience even from the applause”.

There were many pieces, where one felt that composers tried –by hook and by crook- to be “modern”. They deliberately shied away from any reference or development of the recognizable melodic patterns that their initial material implied and tried, at any cost, to work within the confines of continuous variation or self imposed pre-compositional disciplines. We also heard a lot of pieces in which the ambitious non-thematic or pointilistic textures of their beginnings fizzled out to quasi-minimalistic or neo-tonal passages.

One of the decisions taken by the ISCM General Meeting, is that in the future at least one submission from each section will be included in the final programme. It remains to be seen whether this will have a positive effect and alter stylistic mix of the final programmes.




A lot of the more experienced colleagues are able to circumvent the problems of “academic modernity” or at least hide them. The younger ones find it more difficult. The most glaring example of this, were the works of the ACL Young Composers Competition (26-11-07,  the Concert Hall of H.K. City Hall). The fact that they were extremely well played by members of the Luxembourg Sinfonietta, made this even more apparent as there were no “fuzzy bits” or unclear passages which could make someone grant the benefit of a doubt.

All of the works displayed a very high degree of technical skill and for this the participants deserve the highest praise. On the other hand one could not avoid the feeling that with the exception of Lorenzo Alvaro (b. 1979, Australia) with his piece “Out with no Fear”, who courageously went against the trend and perhaps Amit Giluz (b. 1983, Israel), with “These Autumn Days” for solo piano and projection (both were cut out from the competition), every finalist was composing his submission with the Prize in the back of his mind. This was shown by the eagerness with which they grabbed at any chance at technique displays, coupled with a judicious avoidance of any real risk. Competent and “safe middle ground modernism”, perhaps sometimes sprinkled with a bit of post-modernism, at its best.




For many of us, one of the most interesting features of the World Music Days was the concentrated exposure to the Chinese sound and aesthetics. Chinese instruments were always present, and not only as participants in the many diverse combinations, with or without Western or other Far Eastern instruments: Every concert, regardless of programme or participating ensemble, opened with a short demonstration of a Chinese instrument from one of the soloists of the Hong Kong Chinese Orchestra.

The highlight of this exposure, were the two appearances of the Orchestra itself. The first was on the opening night (22-11-07), at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, where it appeared as a full-sized symphonic ensemble of about 80 musicians under its principal conductor Yan Huichang. Four of the five works presented, were Concertos for a traditional instrument (or instruments) and orchestra. It’s worth mentioning that “Chinese instrument concertos” constitute the first large scale attempts towards the creation of an indigenous symphonic tradition. Early attempts date from the first decades of the 20th Century, when the format of the present day Chinese orchestra did not exist. For this reason these first compositions were written for a traditional instrument and a Western orchestra.

The second concert was under its assistant conductor Chew Hee-chiat, in a room inside the Nan Lian Garden, where some of its soloists appeared in various chamber group combinations (24-11-07).

In both concerts we heard some of the many works that were able to stand out from the pack. With the exception of two works (which I won’t mention), I liked almost everything else I’ve heard. However I feel that I must single out as my favorite “Shao II”, for six performers on Chinese instruments by Gao Weijie (b.1938, China). The piece displayed all the interesting characteristics of contemporary Chinese sound, about which I shall speak shortly.

I also mention the drum concerto “Madam Su-Ro” for Korean percussion and Chinese Orchestra by Cecilia Hee-jeong Kim (b.1968, Korea), for the imaginative use of two different types of a Korean drum: two traditional Jango drums alongside an electronic version of the same instrument. The six sections of the composition are based on episodes of a folk tale. This seems to be a common practice, as many of the Asian pieces that we heard were based on similar types of extra-musical narrative.


The H.K.C.O. has commissioned over a 100 works and perhaps this explains why it was able to present such interesting programmes. Having a substantial pool of material to choose from, the Orchestra could present successful and previously tested extracts of its repertoire. As we shall presently see, this is not something that can be easily taken for granted.




On a purely acoustic level, what fascinated me about the contemporary Chinese (and for that matter Far Eastern) sound, is a kind of unexpected mixture between modernity and tradition. Very often we hear ways of playing and sound combinations that remind us of the European avant-garde. The difference is that in this context they sound more natural and matter of fact. (Much in the same way that baroque ornaments sound more natural when played at the harpsichord instead of the piano.)

This however is only part of the story. A much more basic difference stems from a completely different “sense of form” (I choose this Schoenbergian term deliberately). Good “Eastern” works display a surprising disregard for Western formal principles. They seem to proceed associatively or additively, sometimes jumping from one idea to the next without the niceties of a “preparation”, seem to disregard what we tend to analyze as “inner logic” and have an uncanny tendency of ending abruptly. In spite of all this, one can follow them along without too much difficulty and even sense when the end is approaching. This suggests to me an “inner logic” of a different kind, which finally transcends the instrumental medium for which it is written.


Many of the pieces that we heard corroborate the idea that it is certainly more difficult to make a full Western orchestra sound “non-European” than smaller ensembles of any kind.  In that sense, the use of “exotic” instruments can facilitate the production of alternative sound-images and forms but it can never guarantee their existence.

We heard a number of works that displayed the above point, written either for full Chinese orchestra or smaller groups. Predictably, some of them were by Western composers. More surprising was the fact that such works had also been written by a number of Chinese or Asian colleagues. Perhaps it is my own bias, but when I listened to present day  Asian works that employed debussian chords, tempered whole tone scales, bi-tonal structures and Western formal principles, being played by Chinese orchestral instruments (the Erhu, the Gaohu or the Suona), something felt wrong. What is the point -I wondered- to import the European “orientalism” of the early 20th Century back to the Orient?


The argument that oriental instruments are by no means a necessary condition towards the achievement of a “non-European modernity”, was eloquently displayed when we heard the Philharmonic Orchestra of Hong Kong under Tsung Yeh, in a programme featuring works from Korea, Switzerland, Australia and Japan (23-11-07, H.K. Cultural Centre). Here, we were able to listen to the good use of a lot of Eastern structural principles, through the medium of a Western symphonic ensemble. Traces of Debussy or European modernism could be detected here as well, but with one very important difference: they were just two of the many and varied compositional elements, convincingly incorporated into a whole.

In this concert we heard five works, each one with its own merits, being presented in a solid and competent way. My attention was particularly grabbed by the piece “A Time for Prayer”, for two violins and orchestra, by Matsushita Isao (b. Japan, 1951), for its clear monothematic structure, characteristic atmosphere and good use of  the juxtaposition between orchestra and soloists. I also mention “Typhon” by the Swiss Alexander Wagendristel (b.1956), for its interesting colouristic effects, textures and good use of gradual build-up techniques. Although over 19 minutes long, it kept the listener’s attention focused until the very end.

The concert by the Hong-Kong Sinfonietta featured only Asian works (25-11-07, H.K. City Hall). We heard works from China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Korea, played rather competently.




The use of folkloristic or traditional elements from various cultures, mixed with the European “mainstream” (historical or modern), was an aspect that kept coming back in the works of composers from different countries and in many guises or techniques. Quite predictably, the largest number of such compositions were by Asian composers attempting to achieve a synthesis of Chinese, Korean or Japanese, musical concepts, instruments and cultures, with their own Western schooling and influences.

It was very interesting to observe that in this type of “East meets West” music, there was no middle ground. Most of the pieces were either very good or very bad. In this respect the work of Doming Lam, one of the forerunners of this (can we call it today “post-modern”?), trend can teach a lot to those attempting to follow that difficult and treacherous road.

Can we venture some analysis of this difficulty? An indicative first example comes from the area of instrumental timbre. One of the most cumbersome instruments in combination with non-Western ones, was the piano. It’s inherently “mechanical” and definite character seems to contradict the supple and often unstable “notes” that most traditional instruments can create so naturally and beautifully. I believe that here we begin to sense a basic difference

Like the piano sound, most western musical training is definite. Musicians learn to play “correctly”, composers learn to write down their ideas “clearly” as a set of specific instructions. Freedom is confined within the form or within a set of definite notes. It is no coincidence that in Western culture, jazz is the only musical medium in which the art of improvisation still thrives. It is also no coincidence that an inherently harmonic instrument, the piano, has such a central role in all Western music.

I submit that the problem is created from such fundamental differences of musicality which of course also imply fundamental differences of aesthetic outlook. A lot of ambitious good intentions get derailed because they fail to account for such splits and devise ways to bridge them. Co-existing side by side –unprocessed- the incompatible elements tend to cancel each other out, giving an impression of confusion and indecisiveness.




The pieces that we heard in the concert of the Taipei Chamber Singers at the City Hall (24-11-07) were from Estonia, Taiwan, Australia, Italy, Sweden and Hong Kong. All of them displayed some interesting thinking about new choral writing: Polyphony against monophony, heterophony, hocketing, drones, ostinati in the upper voices, long passages of static harmony: These were some of the “attention grabbing” devices, variously employed from piece to piece, that made us sit up and listen. For me however, the best composition by far, was the “Invisible Mantra” by Jesper Nordin (b. 1971, Sweden). The ultimate atmospheric sound! Beautiful use of glissandi and drones. Without any specific reference, the spirit of Ligeti was present. Music that comes from a deep and intimate knowledge of the material and the medium.


In the high class performances of the two European ensembles, the Luxembourg Sinfonietta under Marcel Wengler (28-11-07) and the Dutch group ‘Insomnio’ under Urlich Pohl (25-11 & 27-11-07), given at the H.K. City Hall, most pieces were of European origin. Each group gave two concerts, but since the Sinfonietta presented the Young Composers Competition Award, there were three programmes in which we had the chance to sample an informative cross-section of present-day, mostly European creation. ‘Insomnio’ presented pieces from Romania, The Netherlands, Spain, Estonia, two from Hong Kong and one from Turkey. The Sinfonietta presented pieces from Slovenia, France, the Czech Rebublic, UK, Ireland, Luxembourg and Israel.

Here we had the chance to listen to interesting and beautiful works as well as boring repetitions of dated recipes. The later were either copies of modernistic (and often unsuccessful), formulas or that other very specific genre of “pieces suitable for international festivals and competitions”. Another problematic aspect of a modernism could be seen in a piece using folk material, which however was so deeply embedded in the texture and so heavily transformed as to become undetectable..

Very important and commendable, were the high performing levels of both groups. In these concerts all the usual excuses about insufficient preparation in the presentation of new music (supposedly the main cause of its negative perception), had been taken away. We could hear what was there, whether we liked it or not, understand the logic of a piece and the composer’s intentions. This was proven by audience reception through the warm applause that followed some very difficult pieces.

Particularly interesting was “Chromophores” by Roderik de Man (b. 1941, The Netherlands) presented by ‘Insomnio’. This 12 minute composition for live electronics and instrumental ensemble, metabolized in an intelligent way a lot of modernist gestures and displayed an imaginative use of the electronic sound, alongside that of acoustic instruments which were also variously transformed through the use of electronics.

This work made me think something important regarding new music presentation. How possible or easy is it for such a work to be played from another ensemble? How necessary is the presence of particular performers, installations or indeed the composer himself, during rehearsal? These are not idle questions. The standardization of performance practices was a big facilitating factor behind the dissemination of European art music worldwide. In addition, the experiences of 20th Century modernism have shown that there is a large number of works, many of them very interesting and good, which are almost never played because of production obstacles of this kind.



(…what are you going to play?) [1]


There was one concert of electro-acoustic and one of multi-media music (26-11-07 & 28-11-07 respectively). For the multi-media concert we had to travel all the way to the New Territories, way inside on land that used to be part of the Republic of China.

The music I’ve heard (and seen), made me consider some other issues of style and aesthetics, which in the case of traditional acoustic instruments are usually less apparent. Whatever the musical medium, there is always one essential issue that in most people’s minds (whether professionals or just music lovers), constitutes the acid test of any new work or style: It must have something to say and do so in a convincing way. How it’s done is –in the end- secondary.

From the very start, electronic music was at the forefront of progress, growing up and developing together with the unprecedented technological breakthroughs that initially gave birth to it. In a way, it has always been the “crème de la crème de la modernite”: the ultimate frontier of the avant-garde, a fertile ground of a new breed of composers. No other 20th Century trend, gave such importance to perennial progress and in many cases no other modern technique was able to create such unprecedented effects of awed surprise.

In this respect it is rather disappointing to hear so many pieces that -thanks to the laptop- recreate with more ease (and maybe more subtlety), the sound images that Stockhausen and others had already discovered in the ‘60s. This ease in the manipulation of the material has another unwanted side effect: many of the pieces tend to be over-long. On the other hand, the few exceptions are extremely interesting. The flexibility and power of present day digital techniques, takes away a lot of the forced artificiality and crudeness which was sometimes present in earlier compositions out of technical necessity. These good examples demonstrate that the recently acquired technical means have a lot of potential ahead of them. Let us wait and see!




The culmination of mass participation and public involvement was the one hour open air concert at the Olympic Square of Hong Kong Park (25-11-07). Under the general title “Song of the Warrior”, three composers wrote pieces which were performed in one continuous flow of 13 sections: Lo Hau-man (The Horn Call), Law Wing-fai the (Song of the Warrior) and Li Kar-Yee (Song of Victory). This vibrant event, which involved 800 school children, was structured around a small group of musicians: a brass quintet, ten pipa and ruan (Chinese lutes), players and four Chinese percussion groups. This enormous mass of performers was held together by Ronald Chin Kwok-wai, the centrally-placed conductor/coordinator, who also played a Chinese bass drum (jiangzhou dagu). The children created broad sonic textures, in juxtaposition, dialogue or acting as background to the written parts of the music. The textures, forming soundscapes in various degrees of intensity and duration, were hand clapping, murmurs, speech, shouts, roars ripping and rustling of paper, and other similar effects. Surely this was the only concert in which the performers outnumbered the audience!



(A controversial proposal)


The ten member ensemble ‘Fronteras del Silencio’ from Argentina, presented two programmes that were an extremely well rehearsed and idiosyncratic mixture of music theatre and multimedia, based on the usage of Latin American folk instruments and live electronics (27-11 & 29-11-07). Quite often the over-reliance on performance techniques (coloured lights, usage of darkness, stage props & projections, exaggerated theatrical movements & dance, stage tableaux, material recorded live on the field, electro-acoustic sound as a constant backdrop), made music a small fraction of an overall spectacle. This dissolved almost completely the concept of “the musical work” as most of us perceive it. It is no coincidence that the composers of most pieces were members of the group.

It was a very original proposal, which however created much controversy, with a lot of colleagues being extremely critical of the final result. My own reaction was somewhat more tempered. If the title of the Hong Kong Days was “Music and Beyond”, then surely this was one of the “beyond” proposals. Surely it went against many principles that we consider important or even dear. But then, was there ever a new breed that did not do just that?

My own reservation is that many of these “performance pieces” tended to display quite similar sets of effects and situations, in similar combinations and more or less similar time spans. The result was that as predictability was setting in, the element of surprise and “newness” tended to fade out.




Before closing this report, I will mention a few more pieces that made a favourable impression on me.

“Triplex in Eight Parts” for 8 violins, by Peter Hansen (b. 1958, Sweden), was presented by the strings of the Academy Contemporary Music Ensemble under Clarence Mak (29-11-07, H.K. Academy of Performing Arts). Using canonic techniques, which often create mobiles, the piece incorporates in its textures music by J. S. Bach and F. Schubert, which I could not hear. It hardly matters. “Triplex” belongs to these refreshing examples of a totally new musical aesthetic, which seems to come with increasing eloquence from Scandinavia and the Baltic states.

In the same concert we heard “Glimpses-Five Miniatures for Piano” by Stefans Grove (b. 1922, South Africa). Well written, short, to the point and with good contrasts among the short sections, the “Miniatures” revealed an experienced compositional voice.

“Arabesque” by Zygmunt Krauze (b.1938, Poland), was performed by the Academy of Performing Arts Symphony Orchestra under Alan Cumberland and the composer himself as soloist (30-11-07). The piece was a refreshing trip down the memory lane of the Polish avant-garde. It is written for electroacoustically amplified piano and string orchestra. Theatrically, the lid of the keys is kept shut and the pianist uses a set of specially shaped stones, to press the stings on the edge of the sound board while plucking them and using the pedal, thus creating various types of resonant and glissando-like sounds and interacting in this way with the strings. Listening to “Arabesque” the question I had while listening to “Chromophores” about performance possibilities came back: Could it be played without the composer at the piano?







The Festival closed in the casino island of Macao (1-12-07), with two concerts: The first by the Macao Chinese Orchestra, the second by the Macao Symphony Orchestra under En Shao. Nothing much can be said about the first either in terms of the pieces heard or about the performance…

In the second concert we were lucky to hear three short concertos, by three relatively young composers, all of them real gems of newness and imagination. The first “Beyond the Solar Fields”, for bassoon and tape by Tonu Korvits (b.1969), from Estonia. The second “Qilaatersorneg” for violin, by Soren Nils Eichberg, (b.1973), from Denmark. The final one “Concerto for alto sax & orchestra”, by Sebastian Fagenlund (b.1972), from Finland. Almost impossible to decide which of the three was the best!  In addition, all three soloists (Martin Kuuskmann-basoon, Dennis Kim-violin & Olli-Pekka Tuomisalo- alto sax) extremely good.

The concert closed with a work by Doming Lam (b.1926, Macao): “Thanksgiving to Joe-Kwan, Kitchen God”. In this, the orchestra was enhanced by the use of Chinese opera percussion instruments which entered the stage towards the end. The piece displayed the composer’s ability in combining and balancing with skill and imagination elements stemming from different cultural traditions and his ability to unfold his music with freedom and ease.


The night closed with the farewell party. Time to relax and enjoy –for the last time- a delicious buffet… Afterwards  a few colleagues chose to try their luck at the tables and had a chance to admire from close quarters, the fantastic (post modern?), kitsch of the casino buildings.

The morning sun of December 2nd saw a bunch of bleary-eyed ISCM delegates get on the buses that would transport us back to the ferry for Hong Kong. For almost everybody the long homeward trip had already started. Next meeting place: Vilnius, Lithuania on the 24th of October 2008. A bientot !

[1] With a slight tongue-in-cheek, the title of this section is taken from the lyrics of a  Beatle song: “Baby You ‘re a Rich Man”