Composer Ho-Ling Tang uses music to shed light on important causes for RTHK
Ho-Ling Tang’s passion for music began when she was only a child. At just four-years of age, she began writing her own compositions. At ten, she was able to simply listen to a song on the radio once to be able to play it seamlessly on the piano without any sheet music. At fourteen, she and a friend wrote a song and won a singing contest with it. Music is a part of her and has been throughout her entire life. She knew it was the only thing she could pursue as a career, as when you are extraordinary at something, you can’t let that go.
“I have always liked the idea of communicating my ideas with music. Music is such a universal language and it can go beyond language and cultures,” said Tang.
The more Tang immersed herself in music, the more fascinated she became by using the medium for storytelling. She loved the challenge of truly engaging an audience with her work, finding that a great piece of music has to be exceptional on many different levels: from the basic playability, to originality, creativity, structure, depiction of emotions, and more. She found that one of the most creative ways to explore this style of composing was to write music for films and television shows, with consistent worldwide audiences and the opportunity to add to the storytelling element of a script.
Now, Tang is a sought-after composer both in her home country of Hong Kong and internationally. She is known for her beautiful scores in productions like Meiying MG-01, Yours Truly, and most recently, the anticipated adaptation of Stephen King’s Willa, where Tang’s theme song is already gaining attention in the media, without the film even being released yet.
“I love working as a film composer. It has combined two of the things I’m passionate for — music and making an impact through telling stories. It is truly a dream job for me. Not only can I express my creativity through music, I also get to collaborate with people across the globe and help create meaningful messages,” said Tang.
At the end of last year, Tang once again impressed Hong Kong audiences with her work on the hit television series Volunteer Stories for Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). The show tells the true stories of volunteers in Hong Kong, who work selflessly for important causes. In Tang’s episode of Volunteer Stories, the show told the story of a woman who went missing while hiking. Her son and a team of volunteers then began looking for her in the mountains.
“These people are heroes that we seldom know of. Unlike the police, doctors or firefighters, their stories are not as commonly shown on the screen and it’s easy to overlook the importance of their contribution to society. These volunteers help families reunite, and at other times, provide an answer to whether their family member is still alive. It is a meaningful project and I loved being able to contribute to a project that allows the audience to appreciate the effort of these anonymous heroes,” said Tang.
The different dramatic moments in the episode allowed Tang to show Hong Kong what she is capable of as a composer, showing off different musical styles and ideas. There are a lot of subtle moments in the story and they are not told explicitly by the images or the words. In these moments, Tang’s music played a very important role in giving a voice to the emotions of the characters. This is exemplified in many scenes in the episode, such as moments where the son of the missing person is contemplating in silence. Her music filled up those silent moments and brought out the devastated feelings he was experiencing from the loss of his mother. It enhanced his sadness and powerlessness, allowing the audience to truly feel for him and be involved in the story.
At the end of the episode, Tang altered the music, switching the tone from despair to hope. Although the son never found his mother, she wanted the music to portray that he was moving on with his life, and he would always love her and cherish their memories. The music went beyond what was displayed on screen.
“Ho-Ling is genuinely gifted and passionate about what she has been doing. As a friend and co-worker, I can always feel her dedication to music. Her easy-going character makes her such a pleasant person to work with, thus encouraging people to initiate a collaboration easily,” said Fong Kai Chun, Director of Volunteer Stories.
Volunteer Stories was a collaboration between Radio Television Hong Kong and the Social Welfare Department of Hong Kong. It was the 20th anniversary celebration for the Volunteer Movement, aiming to bring awareness to the movement. The episode aired on Dec. 16th, 2018 on TVB Jade, a popular channel in the country. It was distributed by RTHK and the episode was well-received by a wide audience. The episode was also uploaded on YouTube. The series was acclaimed by many newspapers in Hong Kong and was widely supported by volunteer groups and charity organizations.
“I feel very grateful to be part of the project because it was so meaningful, and I really hope my contribution could bring positive energy to the people who watched it. Most importantly, I think it encourages more people to be involved in volunteer works. It shows that people can volunteer in a lot of different ways and how they could make a positive impact in other people’s lives through their kind actions,” she concluded.