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From Hollywood to Asia, a life of making music for the movies

By Chen Nan | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-20 12:41

His father, who played violin and clarinet, then introduced him to jazz artists, and after studying composition with famed composer Morten Lauridsen at the University of Southern California at nine, he graduated from the University of Southern California at the age of 13.

He received a Fulbright scholarship to continue music graduate studies at Oxford University, England, in 1979.

When he returned to the US in 1981, Wang started playing jazz piano in a five-star restaurant, where he was noticed by a television producer and invited to play for an actress auditioning to sing on a television show.

Then he got the opportunity to work at Warner Brothers. As a young composer then, Wang's job was to write scores for a 40-piece orchestra to record.

"There is nothing more thrilling than to write music and then hear it on the big screen in front of an audience and see how they react. Sometimes I hear laughter, and sometimes a sniffle. I try to associate with that, and hope that my music has something to do with that reaction," Wang says.

The Warner Brothers job let Wang work with renowned directors and producers and be associated with many movies which he is proud of.

Among the films are kung fu star Jackie Chan's movies.

Wang grew up watching Jackie Chan's movies.

So, when he got a telephone call from Hong Kong film director Stanley Tong asking him to write music for his Jackie Chan movie, Rumble in the Bronx, in 1995, Wang was thrilled.

And since that first collaboration, Wang has worked with Tong on other Jackie Chan movies such as Who Am I?, The Myth, Chinese Zodiac and most recently Kung Fu Yoga.

"It's always a fun time writing for Jackie's action packed movies because the work a hybrid of lighthearted, zany as well as fast paced and energetic music. Each movie to me must have its own theme and signature, and I always try to make sure that the music has its own style and brand," says Wang.

In 1999, Wang collaborated with German film score composer Hans Zimmer on the music for Steven Spielberg's The Last Days, which won an Academy Award for best documentary.

Besides movies and TV dramas, the prolific and versatile composer was also commissioned to write in 2000 for the Los Angeles Opera, spearheaded by artistic director Placido Domingo, and wrote Faye Wong's hit song, I Trust You.

Speaking about his plans, he says: "I think that I would be depriving myself of many challenges if I shut myself from any genre. Music is music, whether it is classical, pop or any other style. I try to be as productive as I can every day, every hour. I love music, so I live music. Writing animation, then a dramatic movie, then a young, hip TV show, and then pop songs or rap songs, that's what writing is all about."

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