Part I Early Fusion (2007 - 2010)
[Write up to be inserted]
"I think it's important to be curious first, and then the next step is to find out more, learn and think. There comes a point where you will understand why creating, why art, expression is important. It's in a way a concise reflection of the world around you and it shows you corners, perspectives that you may not even be aware of.
I think this awareness is important for personal growth as well as society on the whole. When we started doing our fusion music combining music and instruments of different cultures around 10 years ago, not many people were doing it. But now, it seems like everyone is doing this kind of stuff!"
How we started
(Extracted from Nookmag article, SIFOM 2016: Interview with Singaporean Composer Tze Toh, by Arman Shah, 21 Sep 2016)
An award-winning composer who founded the TO Ensemble, Tze Toh helped paved the way for other classical artists in Singapore who dare push the envelope through experimenting and fusing different sounds together. Here, he discusses his group’s upcoming performance at the 2016 Singapore International Festival of Music (SIFOM).
Q: What changes have you seen in Singapore’s music scene over the years?
A: We started performing original fusion music at the Esplanade around eight to nine years ago, and I have noticed that our audiences here have grown more open-minded when it comes to new and experimental music.
Back then, if people came across one of our outdoor performances, they will leave after 10 seconds if they don’t think that they can understand our music. Now, people will sit and listen for a while to give the music a chance. I think that’s fantastic, because when you have a society that’s open-minded, that’s when anything is possible.
Q: How did the TO ensemble first come together to make music?
A: I initially had two groups that experimented with fusion music – one combined Jazz with Indian music, while the other combined Chinese with other forms of improvised music. I eventually combined both groups to create Tze n Looking Glass, the ensemble’s original name that was partly inspired by the otherworldly journeys of Alice in Wonderland.
Violinist Lazar T. Sebastine and saxophonist Teo Boon Chye are the two key members of the group. I don’t think that music can happen unless you really connect with another person, so I’ve been very fortunate to have played music with them these past 10 years. Over time, new key musicians and soloists have also joined us, including violist Benjamin Wong and violinist Christina Zhou, who is now our assistant music director.
Read full article here.
3 Kingdoms performed at Esplanade Concourse in 2008 - A Singaporean Composer/Jazz pianist, a Chinese Sze Chuan Er Hu player, a French Saxophonist.
Lazar and Boon Chye
"When I met Lazar and jammed for the first time, we immediately connected. Lazar was introduced to me by a friend working at Esplanade when we were putting together a fusion performance for the concourse.What was supposed to be a short rehearsal of 1-2 hours became a jam of 3-4 hours! I was extremely fascinated by the intricacies, rich tradition of Indian music and had a lot of questions. Lazar as ever, was so gracious, generous to share. I was trained in jazz which was like Indian music - very much improvisation-centric, and hence almost immediately we discovered various ways of playing together (the rhythmic language is remarkably compatible), even though technically we are from different musical traditions."
"Boon Chye and I met under rather unusual circumstances. He lived at the block where my parents had a supermarket in the basement. My mother upon realizing he was a jazz musician in a casual chat connected us and since then we have been playing together. I was really new to jazz that time and he gave me such “eye-opening” insights into the world of a jazz improviser – how sound, melodies, scales, chords are perceived. I learnt a lot from both Lazar and Boon Chye and certainly would be a very different musician, had I not met them. They both were and are still a very important influence for me."
Boon Chye and I met under rather unusual circumstances
Film. Music . Dream (影.乐.梦)
Hua Yi Arts Festival (华艺节), Chinese Festival of Arts
Hua Yi Arts Festival - Chinese festival of arts is the first of Esplanade's major annual festivals. Spreading over 10 days of festivities, Hua Yi presents diverse arts programmes by some of the most outstanding Chinese performing artists including Tze n Looking Glass.
Tze n Looking glass performed at the festival for Esplanade, Theatres at the Bay, Feburary 2010
Chang'e's Ascent to the Moon
The song captured the last movement of 3-movement Chang'e composed by Tze (Pianist).
The 3-Movement Chang'e 嫦娥 -
1. The Land of Tens Suns 十个太阳/十兄弟
2. Houyi Shoots Down the Sunds 后羿射日
3. Chang'e's Ascent to the Moon 嫦娥奔月
Kalaa Utsavam - Indian Festival of Arts
Kalaa Utsavam is an annual festival that celebrates Indian arts during the festive period of Deepavali – the Festival of Lights held by Esplanade, Theatres at the Bay.
Our First Overseas Performance
Journey of the Youth Olympic Flame 2010 (Auckland) Singapore showcase
The Singapore Showcase began with “Tze n Looking Glass” who debuted an original piece, ‘Fly With Me’, specially composed for the Youth Olympic Games. Their unique brand of fusion music is achieved using an ensemble of piano, Chinese erhu, Indian violin, saxophone, bass and drums, a reflection of the group’s multicultural background.
by Auckland Scoop, August 2 2010