Beneath the Surface

Beneath the Surface is a project that explores the cultural identity of Singapore with a suite of music composed around the themes of ‘diversity’ and ‘relationships’ for an ensemble comprising western, ethnic and newly created ceramic instruments. 

This project takes ethnic instruments out of the traditional context to create a fresh sound for the modern ear. The difficulty lies in retaining the flavor of each instrument and leaving room for individual expression yet simultaneously working together to achieve a harmonious outcome. This challenge encapsulates the delicate relationships within Singapore’s multicultural society. 

A special ceramics section comprises new instruments designed and made for this project. In the name of efficiency, almost everything we use is produced in a factory by somebody else. The intention of this effort is to inspire people to reconnect with our in-born ability to engineer and create. 

The music describes familiar relationships with the world around us - relationships often experienced, but not always discussed. In this digital age, I want to give people a reason to interact with each other, discover our roots and hold on to the relationships that make life worth living. 

The Straits Ensemble

In a country of 6 million people more than a little inclined towards math, science and classical music, The Straits Ensemble is a rare gem born of trying circumstances. 

 

Influenced by the ever-changing global music landscape, jazz sensibilities and Asian roots, this contemporary jazz ensemble exists as a vehicle for the exploration of original works for large ensembles by composer Felix Phang.

"Beneath the Surface" Promotional Video
String Quartet, Oud, Sanxian & Percussion
The Straits Ensemble
"Light a Thousand Candles" 
The Straits Ensemble
Excerpt of "Let the Children Play"

THE ARK ROYAL

Sextet the Ark Royal defies conventional genre classification with its brand of original Mandarin jazz/folk/rock/pop music.

 

The band's debut album of curious stories about animals and vegetables earned positive reviews in the local press, but was denied radio airplay for not being suited to mainstream ears. 

Rat in the City - The Ark Royal
00:00 / 00:00

IMAGINARY FORCES​ - EARTH & ROOTS

A special feature of “Beneath the Surface” is the making of musical instruments specifically for this project. Together with ceramic artists Steven Low and Ivan Lee, Felix will create ceramic instruments for a ceramic instrument section that will form part of the performance ensemble.

IMAGINARY FORCES x YOUNG COMPOSERS​ 

Composer Felix Phang teams up with young composers he has mentored through the Hummingbird Internship Programme, to present new works written for and performed by The Imaginary Forces. This project will feature a special lineup of flutes, clarinets, violin, oud, piano, guitar, bass and percussion.

 

IMAGINARY FORCES ORCHESTRA

In a country of 6 million people more than a little inclined towards math, science and classical music, The Imaginary Forces is a rare gem born of trying circumstances. 

 

Influenced by the ever-changing global music landscape, jazz sensibilities and Asian roots, this contemporary jazz ensemble exists as a vehicle for the exploration of original works for large ensembles by composer Felix Phang.

 

2. ABOUT THE COMPOSER

 

Felix Phang

Ba. Music (with Honors)

Berklee College of Music

                                                                       

Born and raised in a typical middle-class family in Singapore, Felix trained privately to play classical violin,

while playing trombone in his secondary school concert band. At the age of 17, he was one of 6 Singaporean

representatives at the Sydney Olympics, performing in the combined Olympics band. While reading Jazz

Composition at Berklee College of Music in Boston, USA, Felix picked up the double bass, which has now

become his primary instrument. He also plays the steel pan and electric bass guitar.  

                                                           

Since returning from the USA in 2008, Felix has established himself as a musician of note, performing and recording for many diversely different bands including gypsy jazz trio “The Lost Tribe” and world music outfit “Qilin Group” touring internationally and performing at festivals like Java Jazz and Singapore International Jazz Festival. As a bandleader, he has put together groups to capture authentic sounds from eras gone through thoughtful arrangements, like “The Shanghai Jazz Club” and New Orleans-style septet “Sidewalk Orleans”.

 

Known for his unconventional instrumentations that carry a distinct Asian flavour paired with contemporary western sound, Felix is navigating tradition, change and a confluence of cultures. In his latest project 'The Straits Ensemble', he seeks to make sense of his environment by exploring the cultural musical landscape of Singapore with a suite of music composed around the themes of ‘diversity’ and ‘relationships’ for ensembles comprising various folk and western instruments. Inspired by The Silk Road Project, Phang is motivated to share culture through composition, performance and education. 

 

In 2015, Felix recorded his debut album “Seeing Sounds” of his original compositions with his 10-piece band, The Imaginary Forces, that drew praise from his contemporaries and support from the National Arts Council of Singapore. Felix’s work has been presented at international music festivals and his piece “49 Days” and "Light a Thousand Candles" were selected to be featured as part of the New Music Workshops 2017 & 2019 International Jazz Composers’ Symposium organized by the International Society of Jazz Arrangers & Composers (ISJAC) in the USA. Felix presented his original work ‘49 Days’ at the 2017 ISJAC clinic facilitated by Grammy Award-winning composer Billy Childs and "Light a Thousand Candles" at the 2019 ISJAC clinic facilitated by Grammy nominee Bill Frisell and Ron Miles.

 

Felix produced, composed and arranged on singer-songwriter Dawn Wong's 2016 mandarin contemporary jazz album 'Marco Lopo', later touring Taiwan and playing Singapore festivals as music director. With its distinct nanyang flavour bearing hints of the multicultural metropolis of Singapore, this collection of original tunes drew inspiration from innocence and the imagination to create a world where rabbits can captain ships and vegetables dance the samba. More details at https://www.dawnwong.sg/marco-lopo.

 

Felix currently heads the 200-strong Music & Drama Company, producing both live and digital content for Singaporeans and high-profile government events. He also holds an adjunct position at LASALLE College of the Arts, and mentors young writers in his own time.

For leisure and inspiration, Felix indulges in pottery at his compact home studio.

8. Core Musicians

Kailin Yong

Violin

Tan Wei Xiang

Piano

Kim Eun Hyung

Violin

Tamagoh

Drums

Lim Chun

Violin & Viola

Alvin Wong

Guitars

Tan Wen-Bin

Cello

Govin Tan

Tabla & Percussion

 

9. CONTACT INFORMATION

 

 

Felix Phang (Producer/Composer)

E. felixphang@gmail.com

 

 

Dawn Wong (Co-Producer)

E. dawnwong@gmail.com

 

 

// END.

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