I met Ursula Mamlok when she was in her early 70s, and initially I didn’t know how to define her. Who was she? Coming from Colombia, where I had only heard about one other woman composer of classical music before me, I didn’t realize—in all its dimensions—what it would mean for me to study with her. It took me a long time to realize the levels of her strength.
Creation is messy. Artistic inspiration without the mess (and an incredible amount of work and planning) will never see the light of day. Our finished work is only as good as it is because of the untidy part. Art needs us to bravely embrace our inner slob, even though most of us prefer a little primping before going outside.
In my opinion, the most exciting new music being composed and performed in East Asia is for traditional Asian instruments. I’m particularly intrigued by the new music people are writing for Chinese instruments. The best works engage with these instruments’ cultural associations as well as contemporary thinking.
From ancient stone idiophones to singing kites, Cambodian traditional music offers tons of fascinating possibilities for contemporary composers. But the music is no longer developing and now more closely resembles a museum rather than a living art. Chinary Ung hopes to change that through several initiatives he has organized there.