From the beginning Hwang has worked as a performer and composer, but he has also consciously used his art to explore, create, and discover his own identity as an Asian American. He credits a 1992 trip to Korea with awakening his sense of ethnic distinctiveness, but he does not simply see himself as Chinese; his perspective is both Western and pan-Asian, and he embraces many different forms, from jazz to classical to folk. As he once expressed it, “With our now global culture, all of us possess multicultural qualities, none of which are the exclusive possession of any one ethnicity, but determined by choice, willful or unconscious, for reasons deeply rooted in personal history. These qualities flow into each other like water.”
Hwang continues to play the violin, but he works with musicians who play both Western and Eastern stringed instruments; this has led him to learn about their unique qualities and even adjust his own technique to play with them. His recent composition “In the Garden of Morning Glories” features the Chinese erhu (a two-string violin), pipa (lute), yanqin (hammered dulcimer), and guzheng (twenty-one-string zither), as well as his own violin.
Hwang’s many talents will be on display at the avant Edgefest, where he will lead his aptly named group Edge on Friday, October 17, at the Firefly Club.
[Originally published in October, 2008.]