Hope Lee | The Canadian Encyclopedia


Hope Lee

Hope (Anne Keng-Wei) Lee. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Taiwan, 14 Jan 1953, naturalized Canadian 1974; B SC (Toronto) 1973, B MUS (McGill) 1978, M MUS (McGill) 1981. Hope Lee was raised in Taiwan of mainland Chinese parents, and began studying piano at five.

Hope Lee

Hope (Anne Keng-Wei) Lee. Composer, pianist, teacher, b Taiwan, 14 Jan 1953, naturalized Canadian 1974; B SC (Toronto) 1973, B MUS (McGill) 1978, M MUS (McGill) 1981. Hope Lee was raised in Taiwan of mainland Chinese parents, and began studying piano at five. She moved to Canada in 1967, and studied piano (with Patrick Li) and theory 1970-3 at the Royal Conservatory of Music. She intended to pursue a career in medicine but in 1974 switched to 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 the first of five Canada Council grants, the most recent in 2004).

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 qin (Chinese seven-string plucked zither), on which she became proficient. Beginning with Ballade of Endless Woe (1978-9), she has incorporated the findings of this research into many of her own 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).

Since 1983, Lee has received many commissions (see "Compositions"), 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 five times 1993-2004, 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 only piece still to be completed - the tenth, Secret of the Seven Stars, dealing with the present - was begun in 2010. According to Lee, all of the pieces incorporate Chinese poetry or qin 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's Music

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, formerly self-published, are now published by Furore-Verlag in Kassel, Germany, which publishes a catalogue of her complete works, Hope Lee Werkverzeichnis. Her works are also available through the Canadian Music Centre.

Lee is a member of the Canadian League of Composers and the Association of Canadian Women Composers, is an associate of the Canadian Music Centre, and is affiliated with SOCAN.


Text in square brackets indicates the person or organization that commissioned the work.

Chamber Music
Ballade of Endless Woe. 1978-9 (rev 1987). Vocal quartet, percussion ensemble; version with piano, 1987

Onomatopoeia. 1979-81. Comprising Chan Chan, chamber string orchestra; Jia Yuan children's choir, 15 instruments; Tiao Tiao, chamber orchestra

Nabripamo. 1982. Piano, marimba

Nohr. 1983. Brass sextet

M-Nabri. 1983. Flute, clarinet, mandolin, harp, guitar, viola, double bass, marimba

Liú Liú. 1984. Pipa, percussion, baritone, string orchestra [Toronto Chinese Chamber Orchestra, Ontario Arts Council]

Luminare. 1984-5. Flute, oboe, harp, piano, percussion (2 players), viola, cello, double bass [Ars Omnia, Canada Council]

Konductus. 1985. Clarinet, piano, percussion [Arraymusic, Ontario Arts Council]

Jygge - Somebody's. 1987. Soprano and alto saxophones

Jygge - Somebody's & Nobody's. 1987. Any 2 melodic instruments

... I, Laika ... 1988-9. Flute, cello, piano [Ensemble Daedaleus, Canada Council]

In the Beginning was the End. 1989. Accordion, harpsichord [Joseph Macerollo, Vivienne Spiteri, Canada Council]

Hsieh Lu Hsing. 1991. Guzheng, erhu, sho, dizi for 2 players [Zhang Yan, Canada Council]

arrow of being, arrow of becoming. 1997. String quartet [Innovations in Concert, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

no word no whisper no cry. 1997. Flute, clarinet, percussion, piano, violin, viola, cello [GroundSwell, Canada Council]

flashing into the dark. 1998. Bass clarinet

Duo Solista. 2000. Violin, piano [Duo Solista, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

forever after. 2000. Flute

Two Sketches for aXiØ. 2000

Fei Yang. 2000-1. String quartet, accordion. [New Music Concerts, CBC]

Days Beyond. 2002. Alto saxophone, piano [Jamie Syer, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

dancing shadow autumn moon. 2003. 2 guzhengs [Han Mei, Canada Council]

Parting at Yang Kuan. 2004. Erhu, guzheng, marimba [Orchid Ensemble, Canada Council]

Prelude to and the end is the beginning. 2006. Violin, B-flat clarinet, piano [St Crispin's Ensemble, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

Rubbing Stone. 2006. Alto saxophone

Secret of the Seven Stars. In progress (begun 2010). Strings, accordion, percussion

Dindle. 1979. Piano

Melboac. 1983. Harpsichord [Vivienne Spiteri, Canada Council]

Flake Upon Flake Upon ... 1989. Pieces for young pianists [Alliance for Canadian New Music Projects, Ontario Arts Council]

von einem fremden Stern. 1993. Organ [Heidi Emmert, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

gently rings in autumn wind. 1995. Organ [Karen Holmes]

MO SHÚILE TÓGAM SUAS (I WILL LIFT UP MINE EYES). 2008. Fanfare for 3 trumpets in C [University of Calgary]

and the end is the beginning. 2008-9. Free-bass accordion [Stefan Hussong, Canada Council]

Voice and Choir
Four Winds from Heaven (poems in English and Chinese by Robert Louis Stevenson; Amy Lowell; Will. H. Ogilvie; Hope Lee; Bible). 2005. Women's choir

This Song of Mine. 2007. Soprano

Electronic (Mixed Media)
In a Mirror of Light. 1988. Early-music ensemble, synthesizer/sampler, tape [Toronto Consort, Canada Council]

entends, entends le passé qui marche ... 1992. Piano, tape [Rita Gauthier, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

Tangram. 1992. Bass clarinet, harpsichord, tape. Contemporary Anthology of Music by Women (1997) [Annelie de Man, Harry Sparnaay, Canada Council]

March 3rd, 1911. 1993. Bass clarinet, piano with or without tape [New Works Calgary, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

Voices in Time. 1992-4. Flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, trumpet, horn, harp, percussion, accordion, strings, soundfiles, live electronics (version for chamber orchestra, accordion, soundfiles, live electronics, 1995) [New Music Concerts, Canada Council]

across the veiled distances: Ling's Dream (in one thousand curves ten thousand colours, with David Eagle et al). 1996. Piano, optional aXiØ [Colleen Athparia, Alberta Foundation for the Arts]

shadows of an uncounted journey (poems by Yang Mu, trans Hope Lee) (in one thousand curves ten thousand colours, with David Eagle et al). 1996-7. Violin, bass clarinet, soprano, piano, aXiØ, soundfiles, live electronics [Ensemble Resonance, Canada Council]

Two Studies for aXiØ and AudioBox. 1999

Two Sketches for aXiØ. 2000


Lee, Hope. "A Time for Soul-Searching: A Composer Considers the Last ISCM World Music Days Festival," Musicanada 61, Spring/Summer 1988

Lee, Hope. "Eine Tür, durch die wir gehen müssen," Positionen 63, May 2005


Hope K. W. Lee: Musical Portrait: CAPAC Musical Portrait, Series 5/No. 21. 1986. AR731

Melboac: New Music for Harpsichord from Canada and the Netherlands. 1988. Vivienne Spiteri, harpsichord. SNE-542-CD

... I, Laika ... (excerpt). 1993. New Works Calgary Ensemble. Canadian Music Centre (Calgary) CD 359

... I, Laika ... and entends, entends le passé qui marche ...: e-motion: Acoustic/Electroacoustic Works [with David Eagle]. 1994. New Works Calgary Ensemble, Colleen Athparia piano. New Concert Discs NCD-0294

entends, entends le passé qui marche ...: Polaris. 1996. Colleen Athparia piano. UNICAL UC CD9601

Tangram. 1997. Contemporary Anthology of Music by Women, Bloomington, Indiana University Press

Voices in Time (with Tim Brady). 1999. Musicworks 75, Fall 1999

Flake Upon Flake Upon... (2 pieces). 2000. Elaine Keillor piano. Studea Musica, BR1336

flashing into the dark: Namaste Suite. 2003. Aurait [Italy], Mnemes HCD/102

Duo Solista (excerpt). 2005. Land's End Chamber Music Society, DMP-0182

Fei Yang and Voices in Time: renew'd at ev'ry glance. 2008. Centrediscs CERE 13708

Tangram: Ladder of Escape 10. 2008. Attacca Records 28120

Rubbing Stone and Days Beyond: Rubbing Stone. 2009. Centrediscs CERE 14909

In the Beginning Was the End: jalsaghar. 2010. Centrediscs

Further Reading