I’m Malaysian composer Dr. CHONG Kee Yong, welcome to my website!
I am Malaysian-Chinese composer Dr Chong Kee Yong. My musical language embraces not only a rich palette of constantly expanding instrumental colours. I never stop looking for new colours and I am keen to dig into past traditions with its lyricism, rhythmic vitality and tonality and work these into my austere contemporary language, which is enriched by my own Chinese culture as well as the multi-layered ethnic and cultural Malaysian heritage influences. I am deeply interested in how the East-West aesthetics in multi-layered cultural and ethnic heritages can influence music. This has played a large part in my compositional approach and philosophy.
As a Malaysian composer living in a multicultural tradition, because of the persistence of the Chinese ancestors on the inheritance of Chinese culture, they founded a Chinese elementary school that uses Chinese mother tongue as the medium of education. At the same time, Malaysia national education policy guarantees that all ethnic groups can open their own mother tongue schools and learn their mother tongue freely, as well as publicly promote cultural customs. Therefore, in the early years, many Chinese immigrants from Fujian and Guangdong also brought the poems, Nanyin, Hakka folk songs, puppet show, calligraphy, and literature that were popular in China to south East Asia.
I learned the classics “Three Hundred Tang Dynasty Poems” since I was a child in the kindergarten and primary school. Our teachers taught us by used of the method of memorization all poems word by word. I didn’t understand the meaning and artistic conception of those poems at all!
But in year 1994, I was so lucky able to go Xi’an (China), the ancient capital of the Tang Dynasty for my Bachelor of Arts studies, I was exposed to the music, poems, literatures, paintings and calligraphy from the ancient Tang Dynasty (689-740). I began to understand those poems I learned when I was a child! I start inspiring by the poets of the Tang Dynasty who were good at creating various metaphors about the world by borrowing the natural landscape or scenes. I personally love the poetry of Tang dynasty famous poet Wang Wei, his poem always describes as “Paintings as poems and poems as paintings! I have used his poems in two of my works, “Lui Xu Fei” for oboe and cello; and “Hollow Mountain” for Western Chamber ensemble. I have been deeply inspired by this Tang dynasty culture and till today, my music reflects all these influences, ensemble grouping, instrumental setting, musical form, and unique tuning temperaments.
Most of my compositions, I focus more on the importance of Chinese sources of poetry and philosophical thinking and the key compositional roles played by elements such as sonic mobility and spatialisation, interplay and interchange of roles, the concept of ‘living ornamentation’ in creating heterophony and vocalisation. Sonic mobility and spatialisation, as realised through unique instrumental layouts in my compositions, are deeply informed by my childhood experience of listening to the acoustics of nature in the woods. The interplay and interchange of roles between instruments through their alternations of similar passages in an improvisational style are inspired by oral traditions in the teacher-student mentorship relationship in the study of music.
I hope that during my stay in the residency program, I can learn from the local cultural to know how the ancient folk tunes of the Swiss traditional mountains folk melodies are passed down through oral traditions methods. At the same time, I hope with all the cultural interaction and activities during the residency period, I can integrating the picturesque scenery of the Swiss mountains together with my love of Tang poetry to creates a beautiful poetic composition for human voice, recorders and pre-recorded environmental sound.
Although the imitation of the outward features of other cultures is an important part of the attempt to compose cross-cultural pieces, such imitation is only one part of the learning process. The most difficult task is to make a meaningful cultural confluence out of these influences. For several years, I have been researching on East and Southeast Asian traditional music to further broaden my horizons and to explore my heritage as a Malaysian-Chinese composer. My music demonstrates the integration of Western and Asian musical traditions and thinking while referring to a wider context that involves theatre, philosophy, rituals, and spirituality.