Celebrating six works by Malaysian women composers

Interweave: to bring together, to marry different strands, to create a fabric of delightful colours. This is the theme of the new CD compilation of six works by Malaysian women composers to be released this month. The CD will be launched at an official press conference in at Komtar, Penang on 4 October, 12.30pm. Venue: Penang Deputy Chief Minister II P Ramasamy's office.

ABOUT THE CD: Women composers have made an indelible mark on Malaysian contemporary music. On this CD, they are shown in all their colourful diversity, from modern art music to ethnic fusion and film, from Western and Indian classical to traditional Malay music to Sabahan folk.

They paint every nuance and mood imaginable, exploding with the exuberance of creation and revelling in the richness of human emotion and experience. This homage is dedicated to all our sisters, who truly hold the key to life and all its wonderful possibilities.


1 Jessica Cho - Five Little Pieces for Piano
2 Adeline Wong - Interweaves for string quartet *
3 Jyotsna Prakash - Sukhi
4 Isabella Pek - Jambatan Tamparuli for orchestra
5 Jessica Cho - Hypnagogic II for chamber ensemble
6 Adeline Wong - Chermin, excerpts from the film score

   - Opening Title / Death of Zara / Nasrin

*world premiere recording

Produced by Jessica Cho 2016 for the Malaysian Composers Collective (MCC)

Adeline Wong’s Interweaves was composed and recorded specially for this CD. All other tracks are drawn from the composers’ personal archives.

This project is made possible through the generosity of main sponsor Prof P Ramasamy with Pertubuhan Masyarakat Sihat Tanpa Alkohol Pulau Pinang.

Additional thanks to extra contributions by Goh Teck Tong and Carol Low, to the composers for their recordings, specially to Susan Loone for tirelessly working to get the project off the ground, to Loh Chan Wai for the layout and art direction, and to DRB Printing Solutions.

This recording of Adeline Wong’s Interweaves was made possible with funding from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore.

Cover and CD paintings ‘⁠⁠⁠Music from the garden of Eden’ specially created by Susan Loone. Visit Loone's website for more artworks.

Jessica Cho dedicates this CD to her parents Mr & Mrs Cho.


Jessica Cho

Pianist-composer Jessica Cho was born in 1987, Kuala Lumpur. Cho received her Bachelor of Music degree at the Middlesex University, London, majoring in piano performance and her Masters of Music at University of Sheffield, United Kingdom as a research student on composition and modern repertoire for piano.

 Her works have been premiered and performed worldwide including United Kingdom, Vienna, Japan, Taiwan, Singapore and Malaysia. Cho teaches piano and has lectured part time at various institutions such as Bentley Music Academy, Universiti Teknologi Mara (UiTM) and Yamaha.

In 2010, Cho was invited to participate in the MPO Forumplus 2011 and her orchestral work for a scene from a Malaysian film was premiered on July 9, 2011 by the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kevin Field.

In November 2011, Cho won Third Prize in the Asian Composers League Young Composer Competition in Taiwan with her solo piano piece 'Five Little Pieces for Piano'.

Cho was also featured in a number of publications in Malaysia including The Sun newspaper and news portals such as Malaysiakini.

She has been interviewed and featured in a numbers of local magazines including - Top 10 of Malaysia, Top 10 of Asia, Convergence Experience 'The World @ Malaysia Airports', and Elle magazine Malaysia.

Cho is currently specializing in writing miniature works for solo piano and ensemble.

Nimble-fingered composer Jessica Cho combines passionate piano-playing ability with an imaginative mind for composition, penning short, exciting burst of music such as Five Little Pieces for Piano and Landscape. Here works are a combination of gently flowing melodies punctuated by sharp jolts to keys and to the listeners sense…” – Convergence Experience -The World @ Malaysia Airports

Cho is a dynamo on the piano. Sounds crash out with the intensity of her playing, the music discordant, tense and mysterious, her whole being focused on her instrument.” – ELLE Magazine Malaysia – The Music Issue (May 2015)

Five Little Pieces for Piano

Performed by Carol Tsai at the 2011 ACL Festival in Taipei.

This is the second piano piece Cho has written. Unlike the first one Landscape, which explored the colours and the sonorities that the instrument can produce, this is a set of strongly contrasted miniatures. It is written after György Kurtág’s Játékok. Each piece is concisely structured and could stand on its own.  >> Top

Hypnagogic II 

Performed by Ensemble Clumusica in Kyoto, Japan.

This is the second piece after the title Hypnagogic, written a year after the first one for winds.

‘Hypnagogic is a phenomenon which occurs between sleep and waking, though we  are not always aware of it. In this state, one might see familiar faces, complex patterns, geometric shapes, moving images from one side to another, etc. 

This piece was written for the Malaysian Philharmonic Youth Orchestra’s Chamber Players. Collaborations with the conductor Kevin Field from Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra, for the MPO Forumplus Phase II - Reel Time Composer. >> Top

Jyotsna Prakash

Jyotsna Nithyanandan Prakash is a composer and pianist whose music compositions blend classical Indian raagas with the piano. A senior teacher at the Temple of Fine Arts Kuala Lumpur, Jyotsna has composed the musical score for several of TFA's dance drama and musical productions. She has also performed at several prestigious venues around the world including the Lincoln Centre in New York.

Her compositions have earned her many Boh Cameronian Arts awards. She has also recently completed her Masters in Performing Arts at University Malaya.


This is a piece inspired by the graceful dancer Sukhi Shetty, in her role as the Swan Princess in the Temple of Fine Arts reimagination of Swan Lake. The piece invokes melancholic musings, tender thoughts, dreams and desires - their rememberance and their renewal. >> Top

Isabella Pek

Isabella Pek teaches at Akademi Seni Budaya dan Warisan Kebangsaan (Aswara) in Kuala Lumpur. From 1994-2008, she served as a pianist, music arranger /orchestrator and combo band leader in Orkestra Radio TV Malaysia, during which she has also served Orkestra Simfoni Kebangsaan in their popular music series.

Recently, she has started working closely with Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia where the creative use of Malaysian instruments is the focus. She studied jazz piano and commercial arranging at Berklee College of Music (1990-93), Master of Business Administration (2007) at Universiti Malaya and she is due to complete her mixed mode PhD at Middlesex University, UK.

Jambatan Tamparuli ( Tamparuli Bridge )

Performed by RH Sinfonietta and musicians from the Orkestra Tradisional Malaysia at Middlesex University, The Grove, London in 2012.

Jambatan Tamparuli is a folk tune about the suspension bridge in the town of Tamparuli, on the west coast of Sabah state, which relates the story of a villager crossing the bridge in high (heeled) shoes.

The Jambatan Tamparuli melody:

This piece has a metronome marking of crotchet equals 69, and the bonang starts the piece softly with the typical quaver figure, with the pitches of C, D, and G, implying C chord with added ‘2’, and with the pitches of Bb, C and G, this time implying C7 chord. Here at the introduction and at the end of the piece, ‘toy’ instruments produce the sounds of frogs croaking and of rainfall in an attempt to recreate the atmosphere of a tropical jungle.

For the first 14 bars, or 49 seconds duration, the melody that is accompanied by only the bonang, with its incomplete chord structure, settles down only when the strings enter in bar 15. I have harmonized the melody to adopt the sounds of Lydian b7, with the use of suspended 4th secondary dominants and otherwise diatonic chords.

In the following section, all the string instruments, excluding the contrabass, play the melody in unison, in the mid-range of the violins and high range of the violas and the cellos, thus creating the expressive, mellow, and thick timbre unique to the string family. As the melody dives into the lower range, I have the violins play pizzicato figure echoing the melody, to avoid open string long notes on G, the last note. Only the violas and cellos coupled with clarinet persist with the melody towards the last phrase, thus creating a tapering effect. The clarinet enters immediately after the flugelhorn solo, with a notated solo part with extensive syncopation, while the two horns play selective guide tones to outline the harmonic progression. This creates a bridge into the next section, which employs a parallel minor tonality.

In the final section, the key signature changes into three flats, implying a tonality of C minor. The result is a ‘sad’ melody played by the sweeping harmonized string section, only to be dovetailed by the flugelhorn playing the melody with the two horns and bassoon as harmonic pad. The piece ends with the last phrase repeated twice, once by the violas, cellos, flute and bassoon, and the last with the full ensemble playing the harmonized melody, ending with a contrabass pizzicato figure, coupled with bass and bonang in unison.

The use of only the bonang from the Malaysian traditional instruments reflects the music tradition of kulintangan in Sabah. I was also consciously searching to pair the notable timbre of the bonang against the lush strings palette and solo flugelhorn colour – I had deliberately constructed the ‘extreme simplicity’, by which I mean the melody remains intact – free from modulation, appropriation or tampering. >> Top

Adeline Wong

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian composer Adeline Wong received her Bachelor of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music, USA; later received a scholarship from the Royal College of Music London, where she obtained Master of Music and was awarded the Cobbett and Hurlstone Composition Prize.

Wong’s involvement in Malaysian new music scene in the late 2000’s resulted in a number of compositions including Snapshots (2005), Chermin (2006,) Empunya yang beroleh Sita Dewi (2007), Longing (2010; revised 2012).  Although her work has no direct Malaysian influences, one can hear its undertones set in western soundscapes.

Wong is a faculty member of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore.  Her works have been performed by the Belgian National Orchestra, Orkest de ereprijs, the Netherlands, Bang on A Can USA, The Song Company, Australia, New Zealand Symphony Orchestra and the Malaysian Philharmonic Orchestra.

Interweaves for string quartet

Performed and recorded by SKYE Quartet in Kuala Lumpur in 2016.

Interweaves is written in a series of episodes.  While the form has a mosaic character, each episode draws its material from the central section, which is inspired by the voice of Azan (call to prayer).  From a musical point, the phrases and form of the prayer are beautiful.  The voice has a limited range, uses melisma and each repetition may be ornamented and extended. Throughout the work, the strings play glissandi, 2-note slides, melismas and short motifs.  The episodes are also framed by two important pitches, E flat and A flat.   

The work opens with dissonant, jarring and harsh chords which is later transformed to a slow, tranquil passage.  The materials in the first half of the work are never developed and presented in fragments paving the way for the longer central passage. The work ends with short repeated gestures recalling the two important pitches, E flat and A flat.

This recording of Adeline Wong’s Interweaves was made possible with funding from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music, National University of Singapore. >> Top


The music for Chermin, a Malaysian horror film (2007) directed by Zarina Abdullah was commissioned by Starry Eye  Productions. In this film score, Wong uses the rebab  (the most important bowed lute in Malay folk music) as well as voices and strings.

This recording is taken off the original soundtrack for the film. >> Top

Susan Loone

Loone hails from Penang and is a journalist and passionate artist whose colourful ink works primarily revolve around themes of women, nature and other subjects. The paintings for the cover and CD sleeve were prepared specially by Loone for this collaboration.

Her involvement in the CD forms an essential part of the project, complimenting the theme and programme with her explosion of vibrant colours and audacious tones which are playful, cheeky flights of fancy.

A collection of Loone's artwork can be found on her blog The Seventh Sense