Isaac Zee

Isaac Zee: Winnipeg New Music Festival

Isaac Zee is a Vancouver based composer, violinist, educator, and media performer.

Originally from Hong Kong, Isaac started his music training at the age of four with piano and violin and gained an interest in music composition soon after. In 2018, Isaac acquired his Undergraduate degree in composition at the University of Manitoba, and proceeded to obtain a Master’s degree at the University of British Columbia in 2020. Isaac writes in a wide range of musical styles, most notably instrumental music inspired by the spectralist movement, jazz, minimalism, and interactive computer music. Isaac’s music exhibits a curious speech-like quality while maintaining a sense of instrumental virtuosity that together with his taste for microtonal harmony creates a unique and intriguing musical fingerprint.

Embracing the impossibility of theoretical absolutes and yet rejecting pure romanticism in music, Isaac’s works come across as quirky, bold, but still somewhat relatable. While he favours writing for small ensembles, especially string quartets, the style of his music takes inspirations from many different genres, including contemporary western classical, Balinese gamelan, swing, spectral, and computer-generated music.

Throughout his music education, Isaac had the opportunity to work with various ensemble across Canada and internationally, including the Turning Point ensemble, Quatuor Bozzini, Chroma Quartet, and the Rose Gellert String Quartet.

The piece Conversations was the humble recipient of the Canadian Music Centre Barbara Pentland Award for Outstanding Composition in 2019. It features quartertones, irregular phrasings, extended techniques, with an emphasis on the natural contour of each individual phrase, like those found in human conversations. This style represents Isaac’s latest composition flavour, with the frequent involvement of spectral analysis and computer assisted composition in the creation process.

Isaac was also part of the UBC Laptop Orchestra as a MaxMSP programmer and composer, where he collaborated with musicians and dancers from the Philippines and successfully created and performed an interactive multimedia performance in the University of Philippines, Diliman (2020).