Classical/Jazz composer/rabble rouser Fred Ho passed away over the weekend. A self described "revolutionary matriarchal socialist and aspiring Luddite," Ho would probably be unfamiliar to many who seek the safety and sterility of pop-commercialism in their musical arts, but radical opera has lost a significant figure far too soon. The titles of his works alone can give you an idea of Ho's ideology.
His 1980's jazz records:
“Tomorrow Is Now!”
“We Refuse to Be Used and Abused”
In the 1990's he turned to opera, including:
The Chinaman's Chance
Warrior Sisters: The New Adventures of African and Asian Womyn Warriors
After the bump is video and more:
Ho's jazz work was often quietly subversive, here in the video below, he plays the familiar spiderman theme in a piece called "Celestial Green Monster" (making satire out of comics and manga was a recurring theme of his work.)
This piece became something of a signature, and his band was named the Green Monster Big Band after it.
He also wrote two operas based on the Chinese mythological character Monkey, which were thinly veiled polemics against the corporate oligarchy. His compositional work has had a significant slowdown over the last few years as he's battled the cancer that took him so prematurely. However, Ho's had a significant impact on other artists, including yours truly, in showing us opera can still be an effective medium for the exchange of powerful ideas. He will be sorely missed.
Below is another video of a choreographed piece in progress he wrote in 2011 in tribute of Muhammad Ali and is representative of his later works, several of which are left unfinished by his untimely passing:
His full NY Times obituary can be found here: