SCA News

Posted on 02 Apr 2014 in

- Howard R. Jang joins SCA

New dual role created for administrator and artist

We would like to welcome Howard R. Jang to the School for the Contemporary Arts in his new role as Professor of Professional Practice and Director of Woodward’s Cultural Unit.

Howard brings to the role great knowledge of artistic practices and practical experience from running large arts companies. His expertise and pasion for the arts will encourage the engagement of SCA students by adopting new approaches within the current coursework, and providing valuable insights on what is happening in the arts scene today.

For the Cultural Unit, he will oversee its ever-growing program of productions, partnerships and community engagement talks and panels.


Howard has demonstrated his strong leadership and advocacy for the arts throughout his career. He has spent the last 14 years serving as the Executive Director of the Arts Club. Prior positions include senior management roles at the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, Ballet BC, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s (New York).

Active in the arts community on both a local and national level, Howard sits on multiple boards including the Canada Council for the Arts, the TELUS Vancouver Community Board, and the Vancouver Foundation’s Arts and Culture Advisory Committee.

Howard’s diverse background, as both an arts administrator and artist will greatly benefit the School and we are thrilled to have him on board. He will join the faculty at SCA on August 1, and teach his first classes in the fall term.

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Posted on 02 Apr 2014 in

- Historic collaboration revisited

Alex Mah performs in Perspective/Retrospective

Alex Mah Photo by Sheng Ho
Native Green Photo by JoAnn Baker, courtesy of the Merce Cunningham Trust

Our spring mainstage dance show, Perspective/Retrospective, opens tonight. Two out of the three pieces in the program will feature live accompaniment. For Merce Cunningham's Native Green, music student Alex Mah will play a score by John King on a prepared violin.

Wednesday, April 2 - Saturday, April 5, 8:00pm
Fei and Milton Wong Experimental Theatre
Tickets: $15 / $5


Alex Mah is a composer and interdisciplinary performer based in the Vancouver area. Chamber music, live and fixed pieces involving acousmatic techniques, and noise music are concentrations. With his group Dissonant Disco, he devises context-based performance pieces. He regularly engages dance and theatre artists in collaboration, which in turn, informs his process as a composer.

Artistically, he is concerned with balance, juxtaposition, and the human element in performance.

We asked Alex about his experience re-creating the work and what to expect tonight.  

- How has the experience working on Native Green differed from other shows you have performed at the school?

I have not been involved in the recreation of a major piece before and especially not one so prized as this. Most of the work that I have performed has been created by myself, my peers, or in collaboration with faculty. Rarely have I even worked directly from a script or score, not counting my studies as a composer. It has been an unusual, but quite rewarding experience re-staging an historic work.

- You had the opportunity to work one-on-one with John King, what was that like? Did it help you with understanding the piece and Cunningham's philosophy on music and dance? What other materials did you have to work off?

Working with John has been great. He's helped me a fair bit over email, but it was quite fortunate to meet him and discuss the piece in person. He's thrilled to have the work performed again and John has placed great trust in me to recreate the music. We spoke about the process through which he composed the piece and I was surprised to hear about the parallel, though incongruent creative structure involved in Merce's pieces. Both music and dance were fully created first and then presented together in performance. The composition was commissioned as a 16 minute piece and the dancers did not hear it until the dress rehearsal!

The materials I've had to work with are from the Merce Cunningham Trust, which include a picture of the prepared violin, the original score, and a package of files for the electronic tape portion.

- Can you explain how your violin has been prepared?

With a picture of John King's prepared violin and John's advice I went about finding two kinds of lead fishing weights, split shot and sinkers as well as metal nuts and pieces of cork. Using that picture and a pair of needle nose pliers, I fastened the weights to the strings as indicated and threaded the bolts onto the A and E strings. Then I placed the two pieces of cork under the two low and two high strings respectively. Then I took a picture and got some corrections from John. I have also amplified my violin with a contact microphone.

- You will perform the piece for the first time with the dancers on opening night. How has it been to rehearse solo for this performance?

It's been a bit odd not to be rehearsing with them weekly. At the very least, I think it might have been helpful to get a sense of the energy of the movement. That being said, I completely understand and approve of the idea behind the separation. As a composer, it is completely normal to work and develop a piece largely separate from the performers. I had a few concerns about the piece - some techniques in the score - but after having a session with John and getting the green light from him, it has been quite manageable.