Dean's Message
Summer 2014 No.25
We Love Music
Three School of Engineering students share their thoughts on why they are passionate about music
Kenny Tsun Yat Lam
Dual Degree Program in Technology and Management – BEng Logistics Management & Engineering + BBA General Business Management (2015)
One of the two full-time students selected by Musicus Society to compose a new work as part of Musicus Fest in 2013
I hope that in the future, HKUST will offer more music courses because the current ones are very interesting! A music composition course I took in summer 2013 with Prof Bright Sheng coincided with the inaugural Musicus Fest calling for original scores, from which they selected students to compose new works. Musicus Fest not only aims to cultivate young musical talents, but also to promote sites of historical and cultural significance. I was invited to write a piece inspired by the Asia Society Hong Kong Center, situated at the Former Explosives Magazine site in Admiralty. I composed a piece for a piano trio, which was my first time composing for string instruments. It was challenging and very exciting at the same time. My work was world premiered by internationally renowned violinist Latica Honda-Rosenberg, cellist Jens Peter Maintz and Hong Kong pianist Colleen Lee last December.
I started playing the piano when I was four, and later on I also took up the recorder. I started singing in an a cappella group in Form 6, when I tried my hand at music arranging. Since entering HKUST, I have taken several music composition courses offered by the School of Humanities and Social Science, because I wanted to explore different areas in music.
Entering university, I am becoming more involved in music. Apart from the music courses I took in HKUST, I live in Hall VII, where we have a community called Arts a-LIVE, which gathers residents who love performing arts. We organize events like music sharing nights and dance workshops. It is an immersive experience to live in a community with friends who share similar interests. Outside school, I sing in a chamber choir Die Konzertisten, as well as a contemporary male a cappella group Set Tone Men. Music has become an integral part of my life.
I am now attending the Royal Institute of Technology in Sweden for an exchange program. This has so far been an eye-opening experience to immerse in Europe's rich musical history. I am looking forward to learning about their arts scene and sharing it with my friends.
Chuck-jee Chau
PhD, Computer Science and Engineering (2017)
MSc, Computer Science and Engineering (2011)
I decided to do my PhD at HKUST because Prof Andrew Horner, the only computer music researcher in Hong Kong, is based here at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering. Exploring computer software and hardware was my hobby since primary school, and while I was at secondary school I started developing websites and programs. I have been playing the piano since I was five or six, and I have tried different instruments since then – most recently I am working on the marimba, which is a big kind of xylophone with rich and mellow bass sounds.
So with this background in music and computers, I had a hard time determining which to study when I left secondary school. I took advice from my family and friends and for career reasons I chose computer engineering with a music minor. After all, engineering and music are both "arts" – yes, even engineering – with delicate craftsmanship and communication vital to both.
For my PhD, I am carrying out research on the synthesis and analysis of sound. Together with Prof Horner, we dismantle sound – for example, the pure sound that comes from a violin, which we then rebuild using software programs. We are now working on timbre – or tone color – and emotion of various instruments. For example, do guitars and harps sound sad? Do xylophones have a happier sound? 
There is a lot of freedom here at the School of Engineering, especially in the relationship with my research advisor. I benefit from abundant valuable experience outside of studies: I am involved in the HKUST Summer Musicals, for instance – I helped as the rehearsal pianist, and I encountered so many talented musicians, singers and actors here in the university. It was simply fun to make music with these students. I perform as a collaborative pianist and percussionist at my leisure.
Being involved in music and computers is rewarding because cross-curricular study has increasing prominence recently. We always need to ensure that our minds do not get too narrow. Achieving a balanced life is certainly challenging yet satisfying. There is hardly a measurement for a successful life, but for me, success is about making a difference in the lives of others – with arts which communicate emotions and thoughts, and with technologies which connect and enhance the communication.
Crystal Suet Ying Yuen
BEng, Logistics Management and Engineering (2014)
Simply put, my life in music is based solely on one thing – faith. The most important lesson music has brought me is that faith makes a difference. It motivates you to try harder, encourages you to enjoy the process, and leads you to success. I don't have an affluent family background, I don't have great connections, but I always believe that even without support, I can achieve much more – and I have.
Music plays an important role in my life. From learning to performing, then to composing, teaching and developing talents, music is my lifelong companion. I used to take part in many local and international competitions, and was often lucky enough to be awarded. Although I studied at the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts when I was younger, for several years I studied piano on my own, partly for financial reasons, but also because I believed that I could do it on my own. One year, I studied and then passed a diploma with distinction just with the help of YouTube! I won Best Original Music Award 2010 at the Hong Kong 5th Inter-School Film Festival, even though I had never studied composition, and most adventurous of all, I managed to get myself a place in international piano competitions, including the 15th Ettlingen International Piano Competition in Germany in 2010. That’s how far faith can take you when you are really determined.
Engineering does not seem to be related to music in any way. But I chose to study it because I wanted to be proficient in both sciences and arts. In fact, possessing knowledge in both areas gives me the chance to think in a more creative, critical and innovative way because of the different skills needed; the ability to appreciate the arts, in particular, raises my inner quality.
Having experienced the life of self-learning through music, I don't really care about "success" anymore. Seeing myself growing day by day is already a rewarding process.