Originating from Hong Kong, Ho-Ling Tang is a talented composer, orchestrator and arranger. Based in Hong Kong she is busy working on multiple projects which encompasses film and TV scores, theatre and video games. I posed Ho-Ling some questions about her work, specifically how essential music is to film and TV success.
- At what age did you decide to become involved with music and film?
I started playing music at a young age – I started the piano when I was 6, I taught myself guitar when I was 13. My dad introduced me to film music. He liked to play soundtrack albums in the car. I got to learn about Chinese and Hong Kong’s movie music, such as the soundtrack of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (composed by Tan Dun) and Isabella (composed by Peter Kim). I also started exploring film music from other countries – Ennio Morricone, Ryuichi Sakamoto, John Williams etc. I always liked film music but never thought of doing it myself. It was until a few years ago that I took a wider variety of projects, that I realised I love writing music for other media, especially to pictures. And remembering my love for film music in my childhood, I’ve decided that film music will be my lifelong passion.
- What is your personal favourite piece of work and why?
My personal favourite piece is Eternity. I composed it last year as part of my graduation project at Berklee’s Master’s program. It was composed for a 60-piece orchestra and recorded at the renowned AIR Studios in London. It has a very personal meaning to me. I got the inspiration from the last scene of the movie “Tree of Life”. The movie is very philosophical and the visual elements are very metaphorical and beautiful. I tried to transform the feeling I got from the movie into notes on paper. It consists of a lot of emotions and movement. I also experimented with the orchestration; for example, there’re a lot of flowing lines in woodwinds and strings, to create water current like momentum to the music.
- Mark Hamill has recently stated that Star Wars success was mostly due to John William’s brilliant score, do you agree? What are your favourite film scores?
I totally agree JW’s music has added so much more life to the film and contributed to the huge success of the film. JW is excellent at using thematic materials and they are so catchy that you would never forget after listening the first time. We therefore link up our visual memory of the character to the music, and it becomes almost impossible to separate them from one another. It would be hard to imagine the Darth Vader scene without the Darth Vader music. Don’t you think so?
As I mentioned previously, I first fell in love with film music because of Ennio Morricone’s beautiful score. I love many of his scores and Cinema Paradiso and The Mission are my all time favourite.
- What genre do you prefer writing scores for? How different are they to work with?
To be honest, I really don’t have a preference. I enjoy very much writing orchestral music, but I also enjoy a lot creating electronic or hybrid scores! The best thing about writing music for film is that I got to experiment with a lot of different styles. It’s not just about the music, it’s about how the music fits into the story and helps to bring out the message. The director has a vision, and the composer uses music to help to achieve that vision. I believe every project is unique, and I genuinely enjoy a lot using music to tell very different stories.
- I see that that you were selected as one of the 10 finalists in the Berlin Film Scoring competition 2018. Congratulations! Have you heard anything more about this? Also what other awards have you won/been nominated for?
Thank you! I’ve only made it to the 10 finalists, among 298 contestants. I’m grateful very grateful for it. (No film scoring related awards at the moment)
- What are your sources of inspiration?
I have a wide source of inspirations – because I believe all art are similar in the core – it’s all about humans expressing their thoughts and emotions through a media. That’s why I like to get inspirations from different art forms. It allows more space for my imagination, when the language is something that I’m not entirely familiar with. I love exploring the realm of visual arts, literature, films and more. For music, I listen to a quite a wide range, such as classical, jazz, indie, electronic etc.
- You were based in LA, are there more opportunities in the USA than in SE Asia?
In general, it might be true that there’re more opportunities in the States. However, it is also way more competitive than anywhere else because many people from all around the world go there to pursue their dreams. While in SE Asia, the industry is still growing and developing, so there’re actually more opportunities for aspiring composers. The demand for films and other forms of entertainment in China is also growing extremely fast as well. I think it could be difficult to compare the two markets, but the Chinese market for sure is rising really fast and in high demand for music professionals.
- There seems to be a trend in the UK to watch a film with a live orchestra (I recently attended the Royal Albert Hall to watch Jaws with a live orchestra) – the experience was second to none. Do you see this as a new trend for cinema-goers as a whole?
Yes I think it’s getting more common. I love the idea – nothing beats a live orchestra!
- Do you have any exciting projects coming up?
I have a few projects coming up. I’m working a short film called “Willa”, it’s based on a Steven King’s novel. The crew is extremely professional and I really look forward to working with them. Currently we are pending for a budget to record live instruments. (For more information: https://www.facebook.com/WillaMovie/) There’re some other very exciting projects coming up, but I can’t announce them yet due to the Non Disclosure Agreement.
- I recently watched the film Marie Antoinette and didn’t particularly enjoy the music that accompanied the film – modern music against a historical story. Do you have an opinion of this mishmash of eras on story/music?
I do believe that it is an artistic choice by the director. Many people would think that period drama should automatically go with music from that period, which makes a lot of sense when the director wants to bring the audience into the story of that time. However, I think the director purposely chose a modern style to purposely take us out of the era – to let us relate to the story itself rather than focusing on the era. The rebellious and energetic feel is something that teens from modern era can relate to. I think that it is a very interesting and alternative choice.
Ho-Ling, I really appreciate your time and thank you so much for being part of my blog! I wanted to wish you all the very best with your career and hope to see you perform in the UK soon.
I would encourage anyone to visit Ho-Lings website to hear the beautiful music she has composed and see her incredible catalogue of projects.
You can find Ho-Ling on social media here;