Chong Kee Yong, Malaysia's leading contemporary music composer, is one of the most exciting voices in new music today. Few composers can manage to fashion a truly individual sound from the experimental techniques of today, and Chong belongs to this special class of talents who can turn a melange of exquisite timbres into a compelling piece of music with his own fingerprints. Composer Peter Eötvös calls his music "imaginative and poetic" and composer Jonathan Harvey comments his music as “very inventive and artistically pure” while Belgian pianists Jan Michiels and Inge Spinette describes his music as "very personal voice, very deep and convincing."
His musical language embraces not only a rich palette of constantly expanding instrumental colours - and Chong never stops looking for new ones - but is also unafraid to dig into the past traditions with its lyricism, rhythmic vitality and tonality and work it into his austere contemporary language, which is enriched by his own Chinese as well as the multicultural Malaysian heritage. For example you can find traces of Beijing Opera and Gamelan in his Monodrama for Oboe, Ensemble and Electronics (2004), hints of kabuki and Asian funeral rituals in his devastatingly moving symphonic work Tearless Moon (2006), and elements of calligraphy in his poetic I Hear The Wind Calling (2003). Reaching deeper into his Chinese roots, Chong also explores the sonic possibilities of traditional Chinese instruments in his Metamorphosis VI - Wind Prayer for Sheng, Gu Zheng, Pipa and Ensemble.
Chong was born in the small town of Kluang at the heart of Malaysia's southern palm-oil plantation state of Johor, where his parents were simple farmers. Growing up in this rustic environment has left an indelible mark in Chong's artistic outlook, where the sounds and wonders of nature never cease to inspire his music. His musical education in the Malaysian Institute of Arts introduced him to the more cosmopolitan city life of Kuala Lumpur, and his formative studies in China with Prof Rao Yuyan and Prof Zhang Dalong at the Xian Conservatory brought him full circle with his Chinese heritage.
Upon completion of his Bachelor of Arts in Xian Professor Rao encouraged Chong pursue his final studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music of Brussels (Flemish & French section) under the guidance of Prof Jan Van Landeghem and Prof Daniel Capelletti. There he acquired the tools for his compositional style today, which is a delightful balance between the most cutting edge modern techniques and a poetic beauty that originates from deep within the soul.
In 2001 Chong received his Master of Composition with the Highest Honours from the Royal Flemish Conservatory. His post graduation studies include numerous composition master-classes with Brian Ferneyhough, Daan Manneke, Peter Eötvös, Salvatore Sciarrino, Henri Pousseur, Hanspeter Kyburz and many others.
Chong's distinctive style has won him an unending series of awards and commissions, from his first success in Belgium with the Prix Marcel Hastir awarded by Belgium Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters & Fine-arts (1999, and then in 2003) to his triumphant debut in his home country at the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra International Composers' Award (MPOICA) 2004. The return of his music to Malaysia is particularly significant, as Chong is now regarded as the leading figure in the country - indeed the region's - budding art music scene.
Chong's distinctive style has won him an unending series of awards and commissions. His list of prizes at various competitions is remarkable, for example the Prix Marcel Hastir by Belgium Royal Academy of Sciences, Letters & Fine-arts (1999, 2003), the 4th International Andrzej Panufnik Competition for Young Composers in Poland (2002), the Grand Prix at the 2nd Seoul International Competition for Composers (2003), the Max-Reger-Tage International Composition Competition in Germany (2004), the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra International Composers' Award (2004), 2nd Lepo Sumera International young composer prize (2006), Lutoslawski award (2006), BMW award in the International Isang Yun Music Prize in Korea (2007), Second prize in the Preisträgerkonzert des Internationalen Kompositionswettbewerbes "global music – contemporary expression" in Germany and the prestigious commission grant award by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation (USA).
He receives numerous commissions and grants, for example from Ensemble Prometheus (Belgium), Het Collectief (Belgium), Ensemble Spectra (Belgium), Quatour Danel (Belgium), Spiegel Quartet (Belgium), Transit New Music Festival (Belgium), Ensemble Modern (German), Akademie der Künste (Berlin), Herrenhaus Edenkoben (Germany), Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra and the ministry of Culture, Arts & Heritage of Malaysia and Koussevitzky foundation (USA)
Chong has also worked with distinguished musicians such as pianist Jan Michels, Amy Lin, Yutaka Oya, violinist Wibert Aerts, violist Paul De Clerck, Yoshiko Sato, Stephanie Griffin, Oboist Piet Van Bockstals, flutist, Rikke Peterson, Toon Fret, conductor Etienne Siebens, Ivo Venkov, Pierre-Alain Monot, Jonas Alber, Kevin Field, Bart Bouckaert, Filip Rathe, Enno Poppe and ensemble like Het Collectief Ensemble, Ensemble Prometheus, Ensemble Spectra, Quatour Danel in Belgium; Amsterdam Sinfonietta, Nieuw Ensemble in Holland; Kairos Quartett, Trio Jean Paul, Ensemble Aventure, Ensemble Mosaik, Ensemble Intégrales in Germany; Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain, Ensemble fur Neue Musik Zurich in Switzerland & SORI ensemble in Korea.
In 2006 Prof Peter Eötvös nominated Chong for the half-year composer’s residency at the Herrenhaus Edenkoben Foundation, Germany, which has yielded yet another masterpiece: Hidden Eternity for 4-Hands Piano & Ensemble. Written in memorial of Gyorgi Ligeti, a composer whom Chong deeply admires, it marks yet another milestone in this exciting composer's growing portfolio as he takes solo piano writing and the concept of the concerto to the farthest limits.
In 2007 the Spiegel Quartet (Belgium) was touring Belgium with Chong's 3rd String Quartet "Inner mirror" and the Ensemble Modern world premiered his "Splattered landscape II"-Cloud echoing- for large ensemble in Frankfurt. At home the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra world premierd his " Ocean's pulse" for orchestra and 5 local traditional musicians (Featured "Hand percussion group" and Dizi soloist Yii Kah Hoe) as part of Chong's residency with the orchestra.
The highlight of 2007, Chong's debut in the United States under the invitation of American composers Chou Wen Chung and Chinary Ung, while his solo viola work Temple Bell Still Ringing In My Heart was heard at the Asia Pacific Festival 2007 in Wellington, New Zealand.
n 2007, He received a visiting artist fellowship to live in New York for 6 months (May-October 07) from the Asian Cultural Council (New York). In the same year his “Horizon’s chants” for Sheng, Gayageum & Koto was commissioned and first performed at the Musica Viva 2007 Festival (Munich) and a concerto “Shui.Mo” for 4 Chinese instruments and orchestra for Ensemble Dragon and Vlaaderen Symphonie Orkest. (2008, Belgium).
In 2009, Chong was awarded the prestigious commission grant award by the Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation (USA), a Special prize in the Giga-Hertz-Award 2009 at ZKM-Institute for Music & Acoustics (Karlsruhe, Germany) and the prestigious "The Outstanding Young Malaysian Awards" in the Cultural Achievement category by Junior Chamber International Malaysia.
Chong was the festival artistic director/Chairman of jury of 1st KL Contemporary Music Festival 2009. This festival represents the first regional contemporary music festival of its kind in Malaysia and indeed the region, and is the premiere contemporary music event of the year. It serves as a platform where Malaysian and South East Asian composers can meet, exchange ideas and celebrate our region's rich musical talent.
His upcoming projects included the artist in resident in the Centre de Recherches et de Formation Musicales de Wallonie Electronic studio of Liege (Belgium) with a new commission for cello solo, live painting (Video projection) and live electronic (2010, Belgium); String Quartet no.4 for Momenta String Quartet (Serge Koussevitzky Music Foundation, USA); and invited by famous flutist Robert Aitken to curate a “Malaysian’s Voices” concert with a new flute concerto for Robert Aitken at the New Music concerts. (8th May 2011 Toronto)