As the University’s major arts education provider, the School of Humanities and Social Science (SHSS) is introducing an expanding array of music-related activities. But what is the role of music in a university more usually associated with science, technology and business?
Among the goals of HKUST’s Common Core undergraduate curriculum is the strengthening of students’ aesthetic perception and their ability to appreciate music, art and culture. The increasingly varied music curriculum at HKUST accordingly includes courses on music composition, instrumental and vocal performance, history of classical music, music from around the world, and music’s relationship with other art forms, including film.
Another key impetus is to inspire original thinking. “Students today are creative and ready to explore,” said Prof James Lee, Dean of Humanities and Social Science. “Music can enrich human imagination and resonates with other intellectual activities that also call on creativity and innovation.”
The approach adopted at the School is research-embedded teaching, which means lecturers are active practitioners, with students encouraged to learn about the arts from the perspective of creators and producers rather than critics. Among the renowned composers and performers assisting with HKUST’s curriculum are composer-pianist and conductor Prof Bright Sheng, YK Pao Distinguished Visiting Professor of Cultural Studies; violinist Prof Takako Nishizaki; Composers-in-Residence Profs Matthew Tommasini and Steven Snowden; tenor Prof Oliver Lo; baritone Prof Isaac Droscha; and pianist Dr Amy Sze.
Music performances and special events integrated into the music curriculum are arranged and presented throughout the year by the HKUST Music Alive! concert series. In addition, a broad range of arts programs are presented by the HKUST Center for the Arts, including University concerts as part of the HKUST Arts Festival, which runs over this month and April. There is also the highly popular annual HKUST Summer Musical, founded and directed by Prof Lo, which encourages HKUST students, faculty, staff and alumni to take to the stage to showcase their performing arts talents or to help with the production backstage.
Transforming campus culture
A notable example of HKUST’s wider music initiatives is the internationally acclaimed The Intimacy of Creativity, a celebrated annual event for the University community and the Hong Kong arts scene, founded and directed by Prof Sheng. The two-week workshop brings together emerging composers with accomplished performers to discuss compositions, highlighting the creative process. This year’s event will be held 21 April to 4 May, with open discussions and preview concerts at HKUST and world premiere concerts at the Hong Kong City Hall Theatre.
"In just a few years, music has already transformed our campus culture,” Prof Lee said. “And HKUST, led by Bright, Matthew, and their colleagues, is also making Hong Kong a bastion of New Music.”