Israel Lai | composer
About

About

Israel Lai is an award-winning composer, collaborative pianist, and conductor from Hong Kong. His music, rich in harmony, deeply personal, and acclaimed as ‘thought-provoking’, ‘visceral’, and ‘unreservedly powerful’ in The Oxford Student, has been widely performed in Hong Kong and the UK, as well as abroad in Taiwan, Italy and North America.

Israel’s style is best characterised by his natural sensitivity towards harmony and colour. The evolution of his subject matter is closely linked to his journey moving to and settling in Europe. He often draws inspiration from places and memories of places: he has written two pieces for the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, Dusk in Chiufen (2019) and Summer (2020), sparked by unforgettable experiences in the Taiwanese mountains and at the Swedish midsummer celebrations respectively.

The turmoil in Hong Kong and his subsequent move abroad have left an indelible mark on his output, most notably in the form of his opera in one act, Bou6 (2019), a commentary on current events, produced with fellow Oxford students. Over lockdown, he also provided the soundtrack for a Hong Kong documentary film and was commissioned by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council to explore creative possibilities on virtual performing platforms.

As he gradually integrates into European and British culture, his music started asking questions about who he is as a composer, and what it means to make art in a foreign land. This was first sparked by Zerfernte Gedichte (2019), a song cycle on the experience of being removed from one’s home and beloved. His latest piece for the University of Manchester Symphony Orchestra, Mind the Gap (2023), puts his journey into perspective, questioning the complexities of his cultural makeup and reliving overwhelming moments in his past.

Israel’s passion for intercultural communication also plays a part in his exploration of musical identity. Having studied around a dozen languages, he shares his passion not only through his blog and channel Rhapsody in Lingo, but also through compositional issues that interest him, including but not limited to drawing inspiration from linguistic phenomena, and writing music in under-represented languages. He is also a prolific speaker on musical, cultural and language issues, having given numerous talks and presentations on topics such as protest music, linguistic diversity in the arts, and art forms in transcultural social contexts.

Israel is currently pursuing a PhD in Composition at the University of Manchester under Prof. Camden Reeves, after an MPhil in Music (Composition) at the University of Oxford as an organ scholar, and a first-class honours Bachelor of Arts in Music at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He was previously an exchange student at Lund University, Sweden. He is a member of the Hong Kong Composers’ Guild, the PRS, and the Royal College of Organists.

Nowadays, he plays an active role in the local contemporary music scene, having been part of Britten Sinfonia’s Opus 1 scheme and composers residencies at the Cheltenham Music Festival and Vale of Glamorgan Music Festival, and earlier at highSCORE Festival in Italy.

As a hyperpolyglot and translator, Israel maintains a strong interest in language acquisition and linguistics. He has studied over 10 languages, and currently hosts the Rhapsody in Lingo podcast in Cantonese, alongside a language-related blog and YouTube channel of the same name.

Qualifications

  • MPhil in Music (Composition)
  • BA (Music)
  • LTCL (Piano Performance)
  • LTCL (Organ Performance)
  • AMusTCL (Music Theory)

黎渺揚為香港年輕作曲家,亦從事編曲、伴奏、指揮及翻譯,現為曼徹斯特大學作曲博士生,師承Camden Reeves教授。2018年從香港中文大學音樂系以一級榮譽畢業,先後師隨李允琪教授、陳啟揚博士及陳偉光教授修讀作曲,其後於牛津大學隨Martyn Harry教授及Robert Saxton教授修讀作曲哲學碩士學位,亦曾為瑞典隆德大學交流生。黎氏為香港作曲家聯會、香港作曲家及作詞家協會、美國管風琴家協會香港分會會員。

黎氏於基督教家庭長大,多年來擔任教會鋼琴及管風琴伴奏;近年更擔任詩班副指揮及駐團作曲家,編制室內樂版聖詩,如《聖誕組曲》(2016),亦潛心探索現代粵語聖樂可能性,2018年為《十架七言》譜曲。

作曲方面,黎氏對揉合古典、現代和民族等各種音樂語言甚有興趣。其作品編制各異,以木管和大型室內樂居多。因喜愛大型古典曲式,創作《瑞典狂想曲》系列室內樂團作品(2015-2018),以及《單簧管協奏曲》(2015-17)、管弦樂作品《九份日落》。最近開始探索聲樂樂種,曾獲委約創作藝術歌曲、聯篇歌曲,及室內歌劇《暴》。

黎氏重要演出包括畢業音樂會,不但首演其藝術歌曲、獨奏作品、單簧管協奏曲,更彈奏斯丹哈瑪鋼琴協奏曲。亦包括歌劇《暴》,以音樂評論香港時事。另外,佢曾辦獨奏會,演出鮮為人知二十世紀作品,以及多次演出其聯篇歌曲《流離詩集》。曾與多個著名音樂團體合作,包括BBC合唱團、米費斯四重奏、克魯采四重奏、牛津愛樂樂團,及Psappha,而且兩度進入香港電台「音樂新一代」總決賽。

室內樂方面,其木管五重奏作品《迴旋曲》(2017)由香港管樂雅集首演,廣受歡迎。而《序奏與間奏曲》(2017)於音樂新一代2017決賽首演,其後於電台播出;單簧管作品《變奏曲》(2017)於義大利帕維亞highSCORE音樂節演出,而其《劇作家》(2018)更由著名米費斯弦樂四重奏拉奏。黎氏仍在積極學習,對各種風格和新意念均抱好奇心,特別有興趣研究多調性嘅應用。

音樂以外,黎氏對語言學習、語言學甚有興趣,迄今曾涉獵十幾種語言,目前主持《絮言.狂想》語言podcast節目,亦製作Rhapsody in Lingo語言、旅遊、生活blog,同埋同名YouTube頻道