Hope Lee is a Canadian composer of Chinese origin. As a "cross-cultural explorer", her work often reflects her interdisciplinary interests and her views of creativity as an endless adventure of exploration, research and experimentation; a challenge to one's breadth and depth. 'Things change constantly and continuously' she says, 'therefore each work should be approached from a fresh angle. Growth is a natural phenomenon reflected in my compositional technique. Not unlike disciplined organic growth - a most fascinating phenomenon - it is the secret of life, the source of true freedom.'
Hope Lee (14 Jan 1953, Taiwan) was raised in Taiwan of mainland Chinese parents, and began studying piano at five. She moved to Canada in 1967, and studied piano and theory 1970-3 at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She did undergraduate and graduate work at McGill University 1974-81, studying piano with Rose Goldblatt and Louis-Philippe Pelletier, electronic music with Mariano Etkin, Alcides Lanza, and Bengt Hambraeus, and composition with Hambraeus, John Rea, and Brian Cherney. In 1980 she married the composer David Eagle. She studied 1981-3 with Klaus Huber at the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik in Freiburg, West Germany (as a recipient of a German academic exchange scholarship and a Canada Council grants).
Beginning in 1978, Lee participated in music courses and festivals in Austria, France, and Hong Kong, at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics at Stanford University, and elsewhere; the Darmstadt Ferienkurse für Neue Musik (1989) and the Oriental Music Festival in Durham, England (1979) were particularly important in shaping her musical development. The Durham festival inspired her to research ancient Chinese poetry and the history and theory of Chinese music - in particular the ideology, philosophy, and notation of the guqin (Chinese seven-string plucked zither). Beginning with Ballade of Endless Woe (1978-9), she has incorporated the findings of this research into many of her compositions.
Lee attended the first International Women Composers' Conference in West Berlin (1982); was composer-in-residence at the Künstlerhaus Boswil in Switzerland (1985); and was a visiting instructor in composition at Queen's University (1986-7) and the University of Calgary (1999, 2001, 2003-4). She studied Chinese traditional music and poetry, as well as computer music, in Berkeley, California, 1987-90; in 1990 she and Eagle moved to Calgary. In 2000 she held an artist-in-residence fellowship at Die Hoege in Bassum, Germany, and was guest composer at the International Computer Music and Multimedia Symposium, Taiwan. Since then, she has been guest composer and visiting professor of composition at the Wuhan Conservatory of Music, China (2004); composer-in-residence of the Orchid Ensemble, Vancouver (2006, supported by SOCAN Foundation); and guest composer at the Dresdner Musikfestspiele, Germany (2007), the Latina Le form del suono Festival, Italy (2014), the Tessera Music Festival “atarashii−mimi” in Tokyo (2016).
Since 1983, Lee has received many commissions, and her music has been performed at conferences, festivals, and other events around Canada and in the US, UK, Holland, Belgium, Germany, Austria, Italy, Poland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Japan, and elsewhere. She has won many awards, including first prize in PROCAN's Young Composers' Contest in 1979 (for Dindle and Ballade of Endless Woe); two CAPAC William St Clair Low Awards (1979 for Ballade, and 1982, for Nabripamo); the Music Today Award (Japan, 1985, for Melboac); and first prize in the Scotia Festival of Music Boulez Year Composers' Competition (1991, for Nabripamo). Tangram was performed by invitation at the 1995 International Computer Music Conference in Banff. For the International Society for Contemporary Music's World Music Days, the Canadian jury selected works of Lee’s six times 1993-2012, and the international jury did so in 1987 and 2002.
Since 1989, Lee has worked on "Voices In Time," a cycle of 11 pieces inspired by particular periods in Chinese history but also having contemporary relevance. The first nine pieces, completed by 2005 and taking in periods between 2255 BC and 1911 AD, are In the Beginning Was the End; Hsieh Lu Hsing; entends, entends le passé qui marche ...; Tangram; Voices in Time; Fei Yang; arrow of being, arrow of becoming; Parting at Yang Kuan; and Four Winds from Heaven. The concluding piece, and the end is the beginning, dealing with the future, was composed 2008-9; the tenth, Secret of the Seven Stars, dealing with the present - was completed in 2009-11. According to Lee, all of the pieces incorporate Chinese poetry or guqin music from the period represented, and, in terms of materials, techniques, and form, seek to balance continuity and change, the cycle as a whole revealing many layers of musical and philosophical thought.
Lee's interdisciplinary interests and her view of creativity ("an endless adventure of exploration, research, and experimentation") are reflected in her fondness for multimedia projects. She has undertaken several such projects in collaboration with David Eagle, including "Lumina," a multimedia celebration of light and sound (inspired by the Gothic cathedral) held May 1988 in Toronto, for which she composed In a Mirror of Light, convincingly reconciling 14th-century musical language, texts, instruments, and performance practices with 20th-century idioms and technology. The couple also collaborated (Lee contributing two pieces) on one thousand curves ten thousand colours, a live multimedia concert bringing together acoustic and interactive electroacoustic music with projected computer-generated images. The work was performed by Ensemble Resonance in Calgary and Vancouver 1997-8; a version with added choreography was performed in Taipei in 2001, and was dubbed by Allan Gordon Bell a "masterpiece" and a work by "artists with full command of their technique and with access to an enviable breadth of imagination" (Musicworks, Winter 2002). Individual pieces and excerpts have been performed in Taiwan (2000, 2004) and China (2004).
Lee writes complex atonal music that avoids traditional forms, and is often tough, propulsive and forcefully expressive. She exploits conventional instruments imaginatively and in unusual combinations, creating colourful and evocative sonorities. Her ethnic and scientific background and her literary, philosophical and other interdisciplinary interests have greatly enriched her work. Aptly described by Michael Schulman as a "cross-cultural explorer," she is always exploring new sounds and structures, and striving for constant growth, both within individual works and in her output as a whole. Lee's works are published by Furore-Verlag in Kassel, Germany, which publishes a catalogue of her complete works. The Hope Lee Fonds at the University of Calgary Archives & Special Collections, created in 2017, consists of her manuscripts, music sketches, concert program notes, posters, reviews, and audio and videos records, both commercial and non-commercial.
by Kevin Bazzana, 2013, updated by Hope Lee, 2021
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ders.: Hope Lee:"Musik ist Leben" in: Annåherung an sieben Komponistinnen Band VII, Furore Verlag, 1996.
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Feliz, Juro Kim. " A Landscape of Memories through the Music of Hope Lee" https://www.musiccentre.ca/node/152761, July 2018