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 their 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 the Chinese mother tongue as the medium of education. At the same time, Malaysia’s 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 poems, Nanyin, Hakka folk songs, puppet shows, calligraphy, and literature that were popular in China to South East Asia.
Through many cultural field trips around Asian countries, with all these collective experiences, I have garnered a lot of knowledge and am inspired by Asia’s unique multi-layered ethnic and cultural heritages in my music compositions. Over the past few years, I have composed cross-cultural works for traditional Asian and Western instruments, collaborating with multiple musicians in Asia, the United States, and Europe. The key compositional roles played by elements such as sonic mobility and spatialisation, interplay and interchange of roles, and 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.
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 East and Southeast Asian traditional music to further broaden my horizons and 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.