"Music is the world these people live in," says Njo Kong Kie who has composed the score for Hannah Moscovitch's new play Infinity. Music is also the world Kong Kie lives in, his resumé he admits, "Is all over the place. I really like to collaborate so I do a lot of dance and theatre. It works well for me, I'm a pretty social person."
One of the collaborators on Infinity is Lee Smolin who is a "Consulting Physicist." This appears to reference the tagline:
Music, math, sex, love and theoretical physics come together in this bold new play
Kong Kie laughs, "I'm trying to, in a very basic way, use a mathematical formula for the music. People don't have to know that, may not notice it, it's very subtle. It was a starting point, a blueprint, for me to start. Music is an important part of the characters' lives, one of them is a composer, and both the mother and the daughter play the violin. Some of the text is written, if I'm not mistaken, by the consultant but it is a drama about people's lives and things that concern everyone. One of the characters talks about wanting to be accessible and my work has to be accessible. Make it visceral, that's my aim."
Kong Kie is no stranger to visceral work. He has composed for La La Human Steps, an opera on same-sex marriage called Knotty Together, and collaborated with Sunny Drake (X) on his current touring piece Transgender Seeking. As well Kong Kie is working on a new opera, "I used to live in Macau and I wanted to get away, there was not much of an arts scene at all. Now there is an active and passionate and enterprising scene and I go back at least once or twice a year. This musical drama is based on the lives of the characters who inspired M Butterfly. We examine what happened and where and why and how. It's sung in Mandarin, my first time working with a Chinese libretto. The presentation and music are slightly unusual, it's a totally different interpretation."
Asked if he seeks out challenges, Kong Kie admits, "I like problem-solving. The original track the director Ross Manson (A Synonym for Love, A Beautiful View) chose was scored for piano, cello and violin. Infinity is for just violin, there is a live violinist, Andréa Tyniec, on stage, so I had to re-work the piece. But I'm never in this alone. People provide ideas or scenarios and help to generate how I can contribute. The science aspect has been a challenge, trying to find an entry, to make sure the music has a mathematical aspect." He laughs, "All music is inherently mathematical but this music has to relate viscerally. With dance or opera you don't have to compete with the lines or actors, balancing the action and music. There have been a few rewrites . . . I'm excited to be working on a play that allows me to write complete pieces of music, as short as they are they are self-contained, not just transitional all the time. It's been very satisfying."