We had the good fortune of connecting with Ho-Ling Tang and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Ho-Ling, how do you think about risk?
Taking risks has defined my professional life, starting with entering a new career at the age of 26 without much prior knowledge of what exactly it would entail. Composing music is a risky career by nature; there is very little stability, irregular hours and never a guarantee that working the hardest you can will make you the next John Williams. That being said, there is no replacement for being able to do what you love every single day, and the risks become secondary to having such a personally fulfilling career.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I’m quite excited about the work I did recently on The Last Duel, the Ridley Scott film that takes place in medieval times. I wrote additional music for that film, and it was interesting to draw inspiration from styles that I haven’t written in before. I really enjoy pushing the boundaries of my ability and being able to explore new sounds for each project. In this case, we recorded instruments from the medieval time period, which included viola de gamba, period-era flutes and other plucked or wind instruments.
I also had the pleasure of scoring an indie documentary called Refashioned, which follows three people finding their own ways to create sustainability in the fashion industry. It has received its theatrical release in Hong Kong and has also been screened at the Hawaii International Film Festival and the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival in South Korea. For the score, I really tried to experiment to find something sonically interesting, and eventually settled on incorporating sounds created by machines used in clothing factories.
I’ve learned the benefits of stepping outside our comfort zones and actively taking an interest in new compositional methods and technologies. It’s also so important to take the opportunity to learn from the people around you. Being humble and appreciating those who are better than you gives you the chance to analyze your weaknesses and improve yourself. Ego can lead to stagnation, so observing and accepting the ways that you can hone your craft is an essential part of professional development.
Another important lesson I’ve learned is that there is never “perfect.” Composing music is a never-ending learning process. Creating art is a lifelong project, so the key is to be diligent and treat your craft how you would treat working out a muscle- doing it every day to keep your mind “in shape” and in a state of improvement. A good thing to keep in mind as well is that, despite your best efforts, not every piece of creative output will be your best, so don’t be afraid of failure and do not let a single piece of work define you.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There’s so much I love about LA. There are always new places or restaurants to check out and explore. If my best friend was visiting, I would bring her to one of my favourite hikes at Switzer Falls. It is part of the Angeles National Forest and it’s a very scenic trail because you get a combination of beautiful green shades in the woods (which is pretty unusual for LA!) and a wide view of the mountains. At the end of the trail there’s a beautiful waterfall with a small natural pool that’s great for taking a dip to cool down in the summer. I also love the LACMA because there are always great new art exhibitions to check out. I would also bring her to the Griffith Observatory to see both the sunset and the gorgeous bird’s-eye view of the city.
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
There are many people that have helped me get to where I am now. The music of Ryiuchi Sakamoto (Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence; The Last Emperor) has spoken to me since I was little, and has vastly shaped my early development as a composer. I am also very fortunate to have parents who are so supportive and encouraging, believing in my dreams and not discouraging me from taking the risks I wanted to take. Since I began working with my current boss, Harry Gregson-Williams (The Martian, Mulan, The Last Duel), he has been a true mentor to me and has made my professional growth a real priority, and for that I am extremely grateful. Additionally, his music inspires me and pushes me to create to the best of my ability. I also think my partner deserves a shoutout for his constant support and picking up the slack at home when things get really busy for me.
Other: Soundcloud: www.soundcloud.com/holing