Ming Tsao doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry and information about his biography is not so easy to find. I had never heard of him before chancing on the CD of his works published in 2014 by Mode, “Pathology of Syntax” (recordings made over almost a decade, 2001-2010), which I found quite fascinating and thought-provoking in its exploration of the threshold between “sound” or “noise”, and music (see the review for more on that).
It turns out that, although he seems to describe himself as a “Chinese-American” composer, Tsao is 100% American, born in Berkeley California in 1966, a composition student of Mario Davidovsky and Brian Ferneyhough, that he holds a PhD in Music Composition from the University of California at San Diego, an MA in Mathematics from the San Fracisco State University, an MA in Ethnomusicolgy from Columba University and a BM in Music Composition from the Berklee College of Music in Boston (woof. Those were apparently not idle student days…), that he is “active in Europe” (but not where I dwell) and a professor of composition at Göteborg/Gothenburg University, Sweden.
Very American and a bit shocking to other parts of the world, this habit of qualifying one’s Americanness with an adjective to specify, what? the color of your skin? Afro-American, Chinese-American, Mexican-American and, what? Is it Caucasian-American or European-American? Have they invented “Paki-American” yet? And what exactly is an “Indian-American”, a descendent from the natives or the scion of immigrants from India? So how about just “American”, with no distinction of skin hue, race, or religion?