Ho Wai-On 何蕙安 aka Ann-Kay Lin

Music is Happiness

CD & book

樂在其中》 音樂光碟和冊子

16 August Update  8月16日更新 (加上頗多中文)

My response to J D Morley's complete comments

Eve Telford ― new addition on Comments



Clark Ainsworth (BBC London)

I've played it many times and have enjoyed what I've heard.

Mark Argent (composer/cellist/editor/designer...)

The CD sounds super – Ann-Kay should be very proud of it.

Dr Uli Bommer (bio-chemist, University of London lecturer & researcher)

I like it – the music and the book. Interesting stuff!

Albert Tang 鄧兆楷 (architect/artist, studied piano with Peter Katin)

FAREWELL MY BELOVEDImpression of An Opera (CD Track 9): I feel an instant rapport with this piece mainly due to my Chinese opera orientated childhood and background. It is really quite courageous and ingenious of Ann-Kay (i.e. Ho Wai-On) to interpret this famous drama with only a single instrument – the clarinet. The range of the instrument was fully explored so as to depict the two extreme characters namely, the strong and powerful Xian Yu the Conqueror and the intimate and serene Lady Yu.  Listening to the work, I could almost visualise the robust facial expressions and gestures of Xian Yu, complimented by the elegant and serene movements of Lady Yu, not to mention the dramatic dialogues exchanged. The application of subtle percussive effect adds to the tension of the drama and is well executed, although a more dramatic and crescendo built-up towards the suicidal finale would be most desirable.

TO YOU (CD Track 8): The sitar-like introductory scale, beautifully played on the piano, sends an instant chill to my spine due to its authentic portrayal of the instrument.  The yearning melodic lines of the voice, echoed tenderly by the delicate piano compliment, can also be heard, from time to time, treading closely  behind the piano like a shadow, with occasional rhythmic punctuation chords resembling the Indian tabla.  It is indeed an extremely innovative, sensuous and hypnotic piece of music which I couldn't help listening to endlessly.  I like every piece and listen to the CD almost daily.  The concept of the CD book is excellent.  

(N.B. Albert Tang's father was a Cantonese opera lead performer and regarded as one of the best, especially in his style of singing. His mother was also a Cantonese opera performer. – HWO)    


New: 12 August 8月12日更新 ― from Eve Telford, folk singer

"Your book and CD have given me such delight. It has helped me to discover wellsprings of art and culture that I know little about, and reminded me of others that I hadn't visited for a long time. Your own biography is so fascinating and moving... Sakura Variations was one that touched me even more deeply than most of your works. I lived in Kyoto from the age of one to the age of four. It had a great effect on me...   My other favourite is Farewell My Beloved. It has given me my first glimpse of Chinese opera, something which I will return to "  


Complete Comments on Music is Happiness by J D Morley

I received the following 28 Oct 2007 email from John David Morley after sending my CD & book Music is Happiness to him:


Serendipitous! At just this moment I was about to write to you about your music.


Now, I found all of these pieces very interesting and enjoyable to listen to. I would not select any particular one as a favourite. The selection is good because it presents such a varied scope of musical intentions.


There is a lot to say. The first is about the qualities I associate with your music from the impression of all eleven pieces.


Strong, with clear lines, decisive, most dramatic - I understand how you have become involved with ballet - intelligent, and well, yes, possessing a kind of masculinity, perhaps surprising in view of the romantic and quite feminine lyricism of the accompanying texts. My one criticism is the obsoleteness of the language in which these texts have been written. You should be using a modern idiom, in accordance with the more modern idiom of the music that the texts accompany.


These last two qualities, namely of intelligence and masculinity, I associate with two other well-known Chinese women I have met in the course of my life. One is Han Su Yin. The other is Margaret Leng Tan. Both are strong women, so I guess that in the course of your life, having begun as anything but a strong person, you have become one. You must have grown and matured in ways you could not possible have foreseen yourself.

(Ho Wai-On: Though I know of her, I don’t know the late Chinese-born Eurasian author Han Suyin 韓素音 personally, yet once I happened to sit opposite her on a London Underground train and was captivated by her striking features. As for the Singapore-Chinese pianist Margaret Leng Tan 陳靈, I met her once when I was in New York, and remember her big hands. I am almost certain I went to her London recital some time after that, where she performed unusual music – probably including music for prepared piano.)

The effect in almost all cases is that of a dramatic performance. The drama is foremost. There is urgency in this music. Making it has mattered to the composer. Listening to it matters to the audience. Thank you for giving me a chance to hear it.


With best wishes,



J D Morley then sent the following email to comment further:

The effect of the lyrics is like reading the translation of something written (perhaps in Chinese?) long ago. If this is what you intend, please ignore the following.

Some of the words are archaic: "alas", " 'neath" are examples. The main problem, however, is that you are using a Romantic idiom that was characteristic of poetry written in the early to late nineteenth century.

Examples: bitter sweetness of love, so wretched and sorrowful, ghostly echoes, I sheathe the sword of my aggression, reminiscing a wonderful yesterday, and so on.

There are also many clichés:

deserting in droves, tasted defeat, stares him in the face, weave its magic, weaving a spell.

Your lyrics constantly make use of tropes (figures of speech) that have been employed by so many generations of poets that they have become limp and exhausted. Examples: cherry blossom, dream and illusion, petals, sorrow, moon, shadow, yearning and so on.

In short, you are not creating language anew, you are using a dead language, and thus giving expression to dead feelings, however alive your own feelings may seem to you to be.

How to do something about this? Read modern poetry, beginning with some of the lyrics written as early as the 1930s by Auden, women poets such as Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath, and why not some of the personal (as opposed to political and social-critical) songs of Bob Dylan. You have to heave yourself in one go into the 21st century, and that will not be easy to accomplish.

"That is a man" was said by Napoleon on meeting Goethe, although he naturally said it in French.

(Ho Wai-On: This was David's response to my telling him as a child in Hong Kong, the very first English sentence I learned in school was “This is a man”, and I have never come across an opportunity to use this sentence.)

I wish you luck with your next ventures,

All the best,


16 Aug Update 8月16日更新:

Ho Wai-On's Response 何蕙安對大衞評語的反應

Ho Wai-On:  It's rather interesting that David (J D Morley) wrote generous comments on my music and yet was quite critical on the writing of the CD book. The fact is, from feedback, many find the book easy and enjoyable to read, while the music apart from Magic Banyan Tree and Bulldozers... (the last two pieces on the CD) do not make easy listening. I think this may due to David being a writer but not a professional musician, hence more critical on the writing. I think another reason was the mutual appreciation of fellow creative artists ― he liked the originality of my music. Whether or not I am any good as a composer, whether or not you like my music, and despite the music including varied styles, I do have my own musical language.


Ho Wai-On: As for the writing of my CD book, it's rather interesting that the English David criticized was all from the much edited version (i.e., not my original writing), and also from what I forgot to acknowledge (i.e., not my writing). Though English was a compulsory subject in school when I was a child in Hong Kong, I was not educated in what Cantonese called an "English School" (i.e., all subjects taught in English, and Chinese being an optional selected subject). I was taught in Cantonese that most Hong Kong people speak. That's my mother-tongue and I identified with Hong Kong Cantonese culture. Though I have lived most of my life in England, I was often reminded by others I was "not from here", hence I do not identify with the English and never feel English is my language. I do not have the confidence to delve into creative writing but aim to write correct English to express what I want to say. I also noticed whenever I am tired, upset and unwell, my English pronunciation, speech and writing all suffer and I can't help making mistakes. I appreciate the edited version by those whose English skill and knowledge is beyond me. Yet, to David who was an excellent writer and scholar, the edited version lacked originality and failed to impress him. I wondered if perhaps he might prefer the unedited, simple but rather austere writing?


Masculine and feminine: It's interesting that David mentioned my music was masculine yet the writing of the CD book feminine. This reminded me of when my Shadow's Farewell for soprano and string orchestra was performed at the Asian Arts Festival held in Hong Kong long ago, a critic said it didn't sound like it was written by a woman. When I used pseudonym to write in Chinese, readers often assumed I was male. It seems that for a long time due to social system, masculine and feminine is defined by personal independence and strength. Due to my difficult start in life I had to fend for myself as a child, and learnt to be streetwise and independent. I did not have a traditional female role model to follow. I learnt to survive rather than to please. My music is not pleasing, and my writing in Chinese is strong rather than pleasing. While my writing in English often reflects the style of whoever edited my writing or worked with me at the time. The combined style was softer and more refined than my original version. I thought that was an improvement, yet it's feminine to David.




From a composer, a film director, and a novelist

Complete comments on Music is Happiness by J D Morley

Music Web Review

Comments from: Andrew Breaks, Derek Foster, James Iliff, John Maver, Peter Renshaw, Professor R D Rubens, Malcolm Singer, Esther Wershof, Kim Wilson Jonathan & Olga Woolf and more

Here's what people have been saying about it... Clark Ainsworth, Mark Argent, Dr Uli Bommer, Albert Tang, Eve Telford


I produced Music is Happiness after surviving cancer for the second time and it was issued under my childhood name, Ann-Kay Lin. The following are comments from people in the arts and cultural circles, from medical professionals and fellow patients, pupils and their parents, and friends and acquaintances.


“Ann-Kay Lin (aka Ho Wai-On) is a multi-talented artist who has the virtue of straddling two major cultures, East and West, both from a profound knowledge.  Her musical work is very direct and speaks clearly to what must be a considerable audience.  There is undoubtedly a need for such well-crafted, delightful, fresh and imaginative work today.”  

Jonathan Harvey, composer; Prof. Emeritus Stanford University; Hon Fellow, St. John's College, Cambridge University.

“I enjoyed every piece. I admire the remarkable intertwining of traditions and styles, and especially the way the Eastern elements contribute to the huge emotional impact of the music.  The narrations stimulate the imagination – the book is fascinating throughout”  

Brian Gilbert, film director of WILDE, TOM & VIV, THE GATHERERING.

“I found all these pieces very interesting and enjoyable to listen to. The selection is good because it presents a varied scope of musical intentions.  Strong, with clear lines, decisive, most dramatic, intelligent, and well, yes, possessing a kind of masculinity, perhaps surprising in view of the romantic and quite feminine lyricism of the accompanying texts. The effect in almost all cases is that of a dramatic performance.  The drama is foremost.  There is urgency in this music.  Making it has mattered to the composer. Listening to it matters to the audience.”

John David Morley, author of PICTURES FROM THE WATER TRADE.


Click blue square on R to view Music Web Review

in PDF format.




COMMENTS FROM:  (Click blue square at bottom R to view PDF)

Andrew Breaks – Visitor Operations, British Museum

Derek Foster – composer

James Iliff – composer & professor of harmony at The Royal Academy of Music

(my composition professor)

Two from John Maver – composer & fellow patient

Peter Renshaw – Gresham Professor of Music emeritus

Professor R D Rubens – Guy's Hospital

Malcolm Singer – composer, conductor, Director of Music emeritus Yehudi Menuhin School & professor at Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Esther Wershof – pupil

Kim Wilson – pupil & Montessori Pre-School proprietor

Jonathan (librarian) & Olga Woolf (pupil)

... and more.