Music

The best music to stream right now, according to Vivian Fung

From jazz tuba music to Cambodian metal, here's the music that's been getting the Canadian composer through the pandemic.

From jazz tuba to Cambodian metal, here's the music that's been getting the composer through the pandemic

Vivian Fung won the 2013 Juno Award for classical composition of the year for her Violin Concerto. (Genevieve Caron Photography)

For Juno Award-winning composer Vivian Fung, the COVID-19 pandemic brought with it an unusual task: to write a piece for orchestra, to be played by a virtual symphony comprising musicians from Canada's 28 professional orchestras, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. Oh, and to complete it within a month.

She set to work, and delivered her new piece, Prayer, on time.

When she wasn't toiling away on that project or looking after her five-year-old daughter, Fung, like the rest of us, turned to music for stimulation and distraction from the increasingly alarming headlines.

Below, she tells us about the music that's been getting her through the pandemic.


'O pastor animarum,' Hildegard von Bingen

"In times of crisis and peril, we have but the reliance of faith — from the profound faith in humanity to faith in love, and faith that we will persevere and get through this with dignity. In the end, I chose a chant from my composer heroine, Hildegard von Bingen, as inspiration for my Prayer."

O Shepherd of our souls, O primal voice,
Whose call created all of us;
Now hear our plea to thee, to thee, and deign 
To free us from our miseries
And feebleness.


Standing Wave

"When the shutdown happened, I was in the middle of working on Corona Morphs for the awesome Vancouver-based new music group Standing Wave. They are working on an online release of the piece, since the premiere was supposed to happen in May 2020. I'll also soon be writing a flute concerto for their flutist, Christie Reside, who is also the principal flutist of the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. In the meantime, here is a sample of what Standing Wave can do."


'Kam Knea Doch Chkae,' Doch Chkae

"I have been experiencing a lot of pent-up emotion, and I thought this song by Doch Chkae was a good outlet for the anger and repression that I was facing. I first heard of this Cambodian heavy metal band through my husband, who is a bit of a metal head. I also took a trip to Cambodia last year to understand some of my family history  — my uncle and family were living in Cambodia, they were overseas Chinese living in Phnom Penh, at the time of genocide and fortunately they escaped."


Wayang No. II (Shadowdance), Anthony Davis

"Fresh from his Pulitzer Prize for his opera The Central Park Five, Anthony Davis has been on my mind. I love the influence of Balinese gamelan in his work Wayang No. II (Shadowdance). I, myself, was inspired by gamelan, especially for my album Dreamscapes, which includes the Juno Award-winning Violin Concerto."


Civitas Ensemble

"I am very proud of a recent release of my piece Birdsong for violin and piano performed by members of Civitas Ensemble, based in Chicago. The recording was recently voted by the Chicago Tribune as one of the eight most alluring classical recordings of the year, so far. They called the performance 'sheer technical wizardry.'"


'Kelly Blue,' Howard Johnson and Gravity

"My five-year-old son has been obsessed about the tuba lately, and this is one of his favourite tracks that we have been listening to in the car. It has also been a good entry point to talk about both jazz and recent events happening in our world."

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