Music: Telling Stories with Music

When composer George Lam A.M. ’08, Ph.D. ’11 wanted to produce an original opera as part of his dissertation, he started the Duke New Music Ensemble to ensure the work would be presented to a wider audience than just his peers and professors. “The Persistence of Smoke,” which ultimately involved several Duke departments and programs, meshed music with oral history and documentary to tell the story of Durham’s tobacco industry.

[Credit: Jianghai Ho]

Lam now lives in New York, where he’s a production associate for Gotham Chamber Opera and Music-Theater Group and co-director of Rhymes With Opera, a group he helped found in 2007. This past summer, he premiered new works for three distinct audiences: Transfiguration Sunday, an anthem he wrote for Christ Church United Methodist in Manhattan; his multimedia chamber opera The Love Song of Mary Flagler Cary, which was performed at Manhattan’s DiMenna Center for Classical Music; and a commissioned arrangement of a Cantonese folk song that was performed by Hong Kong’s Sinfonietta as part of its “Good Music for Babies” concert series.

For his next project, Lam is working with New Morse Code, a Connecticut-based trio, and members of Rhymes With Opera to compose and produce a work that focuses on expatriates living in the U.S.

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