For Hwang, Western habits of theme & reiteration, etc. have grown so familiar & obvious that to call on them would feel intellectually cute. He’s come instead to designate less & less while shaping a compositional matrix. Melodic sketches, sometimes built from unusual interval combinations, might get reworked by ear, over & over, until an irreducible identity arrives. Critical call & response, ever alert to his collaborators’ propensities, to their individual sounds & to their combination, helps discover what might come before—or after—each of these constellations.
The geological irregularity of Hwang’s construction is entirely deliberate. His procedures incorporate strategies kin with assemblage & with subtractive sculpture—the subtractive an especially decisive agent in the music’s aura of transverbal mystery. Pruning intensifies the phenomenological presence of what one hears, while the echoes & shadows of what’s been removed never fully disclose themselves. What bends & transforms around all of this is the “group mind” plasticity specific to this particular gathering of musical actors.
For Jason Kao Hwang, music stages that active imagination within which “we imagine who we are.” He’s chosen throughout his musical work to engage & make relationship with his total sound history, & in that, (to paraphrase James Baldwin’s conception) accept & achieve his own temporal identity. It’s hard to find anything more valuable to admire in an artist (or in a person) than an accomplished willingness to do just that.
–Patrick Brennan, composer & saxophonist
The music is a house, with the score’s quintessential melodies, rhythms, harmonies, and textures offering rooms in which musicians extemporaneously sing. In this dramatic architecture, the unique voice of each musician is empowered to individually interpret and also, transcend interpretation to become an originating spirit that is inextricably unified to the composition’s destiny. This is how music grows greater than the imagination of one to become a meta-language of memories, dreams, and hope. Though this is the first CD of Sing House, my new quintet, we have worked together in various constellations for over ten years. Andrew and Ken were in my past quartet EDGE, and current octet Burning Bridge, project VOICE and string orchestra, Spontaneous River. Steve is also a member of Burning Bridge. Chris and I have performed as a duo and with Steve’s bands. My thanks to all of them and patrick brennan, for their friendship, creativity, and artistry.
–Jason Kao Hwang
Jason Kao Hwang (composer, violin/viola),has created works ranging from jazz, “new” and world music. In 2015, Roulette (NYC) will present an evening of his music, and his symphony, Tiananmen: The Challenge, which was commissioned by the Multicultural Music Group, will premiere at Lehman College (NYC). In July 2015, his trio Amygdala will perform at the Red Hook Jazz Festival(NYC) and his quintet, Sing House, at the Vision Festival. In 2014 the New York Historical Society commissioned Mr. Hwang to create music and sound design for their exhibition Chinese American: Exclusion/Inclusion, which will tour nationally in 2015. Zilzal, his duets with Ayman Fanous (guitar/bouzouki) was named one of the Top CDs of 2014 by All About Jazz/ Italy, and was voted into the second round of the Grammy Awards. In 2013 and 2012 the El Intruso Jazz Critics Poll voted him #1 for Violin. The 2012 Downbeat Critics’ Poll voted him “Rising Star for Violin.” Burning Bridge, his octet of Chinese and Western instruments, commissioned by Chamber Music America, was chosen as one of the top CDs of 2012 by numerous publications, including Jazziz and the Jazz Times, and featured on National Public Radio’s Fresh Air. Burning Bridge has performed at the Chicago World Music Festival, was Vision Festival (NYC), Edgefest (Ann Arbour, MI), the Bop Shop (Rochester, NY) the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery (Washington, D.C.). In May, 2015, they will make their international debut at The Festival International de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada. The recording of Mr. Hwang’s Symphony of Souls for his improvising string orchestra, was chose one of the Top CDs of 2011 by El Intruso. Symphony of Souls was performed at Edgefest, the Vision Festival, Living Theater (NYC) and Brecht Forum (NYC). In 2011, he composed If We Live in Forgetfulness, We Die in a Dream, premiered by the Momenta Quartet at the Museum of Chinese in America. His quartet EDGE toured Poland, with concerts in Posnan, Katowice, and Krakow. They have also performed at the Vancouver International Jazz Festival, Discover Jazz Festival (VT), Edgefest, Vision Festival, An die Musik (Baltimore), Transparent Productions (Washington, D.C.), Brooklyn College (NY) and many other venues. Stories Before Within (Innova), the second release by his quartet EDGE, was included in the Top Ten Recordings of 2008 by Coda Magazine. All About Jazz selected their first CD, EDGE (Asian Improv), as one of the Top Ten CDs of 2006.
In 2010, the New York Jazz Record selected Commitment, The Complete Recordings, 1981-1983 (NoBusiness), from a collective quartet that was Mr. Hwang’s first band, as one the “2010 Reissued Recordings of the Year.” In 2005, New World Records released Mr. Hwang’s chamber opera The Floating Box, A Story in Chinatown, which was named one of the “Top Ten Opera Recordings of 2005” by Opera News. Mr. Hwang’s long-standing ensemble, The Far East Side Band (1990-2004), which featured taiko, kayagum, tuba and his violin, released two CDs, Urban Archaeology (1996, Victo) and Caverns (1994, New World).
Mr. Hwang has received support from Chamber Music America, US Artists International, U.S Embassy in Poland, American Music Center, Meet the Composer/New Residencies, National Endowment for the Arts, New York State Council on the Arts, New Jersey State Council on the Arts, Rockefeller Foundation, New York Community Trust, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Greenwall Foundation, and Puffin Foundation. As violinist, Mr. Hwang has worked with Anthony Braxton, William Parker, Pauline Oliveros, Oliver Lake, Henry Threadgill, Butch Morris, Vladamir Tarasov,, Sirone, Jerome Cooper, Dr. Makanda Ken MacIntyre, and many others.
Jason Kao Hwang has been artist–in-residence at the University of Southern Connecticut, Music From China, Museum of Chinese in America, and Asia Society. Mr. Hwang has lectured at Westminster, Brooklyn, and Queens College. Mr. Hwang taught Asian American Music, a course he originated for the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis at New York University.