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Singaporean Composers Collection: TSAO Chieh


Tsao Chieh (Chinese: 曹节; 1953-1996) was born in Singapore and studied piano under Victor Doggett. He obtained the Licentiate of the Royal School of Music for piano performing when he was 18. In the ensuing years, he lived in the UK and USA to pursue further studies in Engineering under various scholarships, all the time continuing his music education through reading and listening to a wide repertory of music.

In his time at Stanford University, he took up music composition lessons under Leland Smith. One of his many compositions during this creative and productive period was called 'Four Songs from Romantic Poets', which won him first prize at the Paul and Jean Hanna Music Competition in 1984.

After his return to Singapore, he continued to pursue his interest in music despite his career in Engineering and later, in a pioneer Internet company in Singapore. Besides writing several works for orchestra, he worked on several pieces employing microtonal tunings for synthesizers and computer. He was one of the first Singapore compoers to explore computer-generated sounds and music using KYMA and other systems. A few of Tsao Chieh's experimental test pieces were eventually recorded.

Plans were in place to write an opera based on the legend of Bukit Merah when Tsao Chieh was diagnosed with cancer. He passed away in 1996 and is survived by his wife.

For more information on Tsao Chieh, please refer to this article published in BiblioAsia.


Works by Tsao Chieh in NUS Libraries:

1. Two little pieces

2. Variations for chamber ensemble (manuscript)

3. Singapore Artillery centennial march (manuscript)

4. Amidst the sough of winds (manuscript)

5. Prelude

6. Four songs from romantic poets

7. Music manuscripts (various)