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Daniel Lo's "Poids": 2019 HKNME Commission*

Updated: Aug 29, 2019

Daniel Lo: POIDS (2019)*

for flute, oboe, clarinet, percussion, piano, violins (2), viola, cello and bass


07.04.2019 Tongyeong International Music Festival (Korea)

27.04.2019 Wei Wu Ying Contemporary Music Platform (Taiwan)

01.11.2019 Freespace (Hong Kong)

*with sponsorship from the CASH Music Fund

Programme Note:

This piece was inspired by an art work bearing the same title (Poids 1993) by French artist Louise Bourgeois. I was deeply impressed when I saw this installation at an exhibition (A Woman Without Secrets) in Edinburgh’s National Galleries of Scotland a few years ago.

Poids means weight in French. The base of the installation is made up of a mass of metal rods. It is connected to a long, thin, curving rod that rises to a height of about 2 meters above the ground. Attached to the end of the curving rod are a bunch of shiny, feather-like decorations. In addition, there are two blue glass balls hanging from the same end.

This huge exhibit looks simple enough but it provides a stunning picture of delicate balance that is extremely fragile. I was told that the whole structure would collapse, with just one metal rod removed from the base. The weight of the base safeguards against collapse and consequent damage to the delicate decorations hanging from the curving rod. Yet what really touched me was to see how something seemingly light (like feather) or fragile (like glass) serves as well as counterpoise to a compact metal support. Fragility has weight.

The main reason why Poids appeals to me, just as other works of Louise Bourgeois do, is its capability to touch a string – not the kind of instinctive feelings like happiness, fear, anger, sadness... but much more subtle emotions that speak to one’s soul.

Fragility and delicate balance emerge as the two major musical ideas in this work. There are occasional sections in which the instruments are made to play different tempi, creating a space where time seems to remain static. This is what I actually felt as I stood musing on the huge exhibit of Poids.

(Daniel Lo, 2019)

Composer Biography:

Daniel Ting-cheung Lo completed his PhD (Composition) at the University of York in the UK in 2017 under the supervision of Professor William Brooks, fully supported by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Music and Dance Fund. Previously, he studied composition with Dr Hing-yan Chan at the University of Hong Kong where he graduated with first class honours in 2009 and then earned an MPhil (Music Composition) in 2012.

Lo has won various prizes in international contests including 1st prizes at the 7th Musica e Arte Composition Contest (Rome, 2011) and the 3rd Migratory Journeys International Music Composition Competition (Chicago, 2010/2011).

Lo’s compositions have been performed in Europe, Asia, North America and Australia by well-renowned musicians including players from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Bang-on-a-Can, Orchestra of Our Time (US), Janacek Philharmonic Orchestra, Ostravská Banda (Czech Republic), Piccolo Orchestra, Ensemble Suono Giallo (Italy), Internationale Ensemble Modern Akademie (Germany), Quartet Diotima (France), Orkest de ereprijs, Utrechts Blazers Ensemble (Netherlands), Sofia Soloists (Bulgaria), Juice Vocal Ensemble (UK), Song Company (Australia), Hong Kong Sinfonietta and Hong Kong New Music Ensemble.

Lo’s works cover a wide range of musical genres, from orchestral to vocal pieces. The last few years saw the premieres of Home City Dream City for orchestra and field recordings (2014) and Efflorescence – Quasi-Concerto for Orchestra (2016), both commissioned by Hong Kong Sinfonietta; and violin concerto YouHuang (II), composed as part of Lo’s residency at the Ostrava Days Contemporary Music Festival (Czech Republic) in August 2017.

One of Lo’s current compositional interests is to seek ways to integrate music with Hong Kong literature. Recent works inspired by contemporary local writers include two pieces written for Hong Kong Odyssey, commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Festival 2017; a choral work Mary’s Chalk Circle for narration, unaccompanied choir and video, presented by Hong Kong Voices in June 2017; and a chamber opera A Woman Such as Myself (based on Xixi’s short story A Girl Like Me), premiered in New Opera Days Ostrava (Czech Republic) in June 2018.

A staged cantata composed by Lo (based on Ye Si’s short story The Banquet at elBulli) will be presented by Hong Kong Voices in November 2019. Meanwhile, Lo and novelist Wong Yi are collaborating on a chamber opera in Cantonese Two Ladies, adapted from two of Xixi‘s short stories A Girl Like Me and The Cold.

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