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Songs of Portrait

Starting from documentary films on two performers of diverse backgrounds – a Kunqu artist – Yang Yang from China and a female Noh artist – Hikaru Uzawa from Japan, in revealing the challenges they encounter – on how they foster the traditional art forms that they have inherited and have been representing; and how they venture for their own paths in context of the contemporary society. Whilst contemporary vocalist - Olivia Salvadori performs remixed excerpts from classical opera aria, across styles from Giacomo Puccini to vaporwave, in which contrasted with the other two eastern traditional forms of theatre performances, in contemplation of different traditions in experiment.


Each language has its own unique structure. If we understand its structure, we will be able to understand what the language can express as well as its limits. What can an piece of electronic music, which has neither title nor lyrics, say? Can it articulate a philosopher's theoretical thoughts? No, because those thoughts are beyond the limits of musical language. Anything beyond is unable to generate any meanings. Music is abstract as a language, and is especially so when compared with other visual and performing arts. Some things in its structure cannot be put into words, but despite so, they can be shown in a unique way. The contents of music, inexpressible as they are in form, make themselves manifest in a wordlessworld. We can analyze a musical structure, but we can only know its meaning through experience. What really is music? I think it is, as Wittgenstein said, what is the most mystical.

DECADE Ensemble

Chin King, Dennis Wong, dj sniff, HakGwai, Kung Chi Shing, Shadow Kim, Shane Aspegren, Sherman Ho, Steve Hui, Wilmer Chan

DECADE Ensemble is the first experimental music group in Hong Kong that truly defies musical genres and breaks down boundaries between the academics and the underground. The ensemble was initiated by composer/experimental musician Steve HUI. Each member of the ensemble comes from a very different background, ranging widely from academically trained musicians, self-trained experimentalists, street performers to underground noise practitioners. With the tactical use of unconventional composition, improvisation and instrumentation, the ensemble becomes an alchemical lab of sonic transmutation that goes far beyond the original ‘Decade’.


Opera reinterpreted, a betrayal of form. Uncovering anxieties, an exchange of memories. Films depict an absent tense, while opera thrives on presence. Just as theatre can become cinema, cinema becomes the backdrop of an opera. The installation is the telescreen. It is both the medium of transmission and the mirror of surveillance. Music is the language, the story and the will of the work. In the story, language is gradually replaced by Newspeak. Opera invents new songs and methods of singing in an act of revolt. Characters shuttle between live presence and images. Leaping back and forth between 1984 and 2014. Time and space are bound by stage and telescreen. People on stage sing along with people on screen. People from the past perform for people in the present.


In the 19th century, German composer Richard Wagner proposed Gesamtkunstwerk, a concept that suggests the blurring of boundaries between art forms; combining visual arts, music, dance, song, poetry, script and performance to create a brand new audio-visual experience. Gesamtkunstwerk not only played a significant role in the shaping of modern opera, it revolutionized the creation of cross-media art works. Hong Kong is a city of hybridity; the idea of "One Country, Two Systems" per se is an experiment transcending cultures and systems; and "transcendence" in essence is provocative and dialectical to forms and boundaries. "Transcendence" allows us to learn, interact and clash with one another, opening up fresh perspectives and expanding space for development.


Music provides a different perspective for looking at images, while the visual adds a new dimension to the musical experience. In old movies, we watch the past through the lens of the present. In contemporary music, we witness a moment embedded in the fabric of history. Past and present, music and image, culture and society, all intermingle to become something extraordinary. Classic Hong Kong films of 1950s - Family, Spring, Autumn were based on Ba Jin’s series of novels, also known as the “Torrent Trilogy”. These contain stories about young folks struggling to survive the oppressions and repressions of feudalistic family values. How could these social mores of a bygone era inspire our 80s, 90s, or even 70s-born generation in responding to the social phenomena of today? How far has our society moved forward?

Four Infinities

The western musical notation system has a rich tradition in the historical development of music. It permits a composer to express musical ideas in a composition, which can be interpreted by musician. However, the two-dimensional standard printed music has it own limitations. It not only reduces the possibilities of musical expression, but also limits the composers' imagination. This kind of strictly pre-determined system is not an ideal tool for music which involved indeterminacy and improvisation. The meaning of musical score has to be expanded with today’s new technology. The function of notation shouldn’t limit to communication between composer and musician. A new form of notation system can open the doors to many new possibilities for communication in terms of audio and visual experience.

Solstice to Solstice

Seasons of distinct rhythms, seasons also with volatile forms, sounds, scents, tastes and sensations. Seasons as a cycle, yet there is never the same spring. Transformation is the evidence of passing time, but time is invisible. We only discover it at the moment being reminded by the changes of our surroundings. The collaboration between sound and visuals was not aimed at describing the same scenery, nor it was generated from one by another. Only by summoning them up, the whole landscape could finally be seen, and sounds and visuals rejoiced as one in the performance.

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci

Opera as a genre has a long history in the world of Western classical music. This genre of classical music has been strictly defined by tradition as to what does and what does not constitute an opera.  Electronic music, however, with its decades-long only history, is a relatively new form of expression made possible by innovative science and technology. Its aesthetics, techniques and skills as well as parameters are still evolving.Interactive dialogues between electronic music and traditional opera offer ample room for dialectical exchanges, both as a challenge and reaction to established forms of musical expressions and as an inspiration for us to test the limits of crossing over and enriching two totally different disciplines.



Atmospheric Randomness (2016)

Number Song (2016)

Soul Healing (2015)

Martinů Sym#4 Remix  (2015)

84:14 (2014)

Bird’s Opening (2014)

Lion Dance (2013)

Towards, Backwards and Afterwards (2013)

Self Loop (2011)

Butterfly Process (2011)

Four Symbols (2011)

Aeolian FX (2008-2010)

Reflection Attack (2008)


Songs of Portrait (2018)

1984 a cinematic opera (2014)

Experimenting Chinese Music (2012)

Four Infinities (2011)

Solstice to Solstice (2011)


Eight Hundred Heroes (2016)

My Next Step (2015)

Family‧Spring‧Autumn (2012)

Collective works:

Zoo as Metaphor 2 (2018)

Mirror Factory (2015-17)
Absolute Airplane (2013-17)
Zoo as Metaphor (2014)

Pier Windows (2014)

A Wanderer's Autumn Anthology (2014)

Journey to the West (2013)

Hong Kong Water Works: Memory, Water, Architecture (2010)

Collaboration works:

TINY (2017)

25 Minutes Older (2017)

Hi! Houses (2017)

Never-never Land (2016)

Apocalypse Postponed (2014)

Études for the 21st Century (2013)

Melting Solitudes II (2013)

Dan's Exhibitionist (2011)

With Zuni Icosahedron:

Wittgenstein (2017)

Cool Wind Whispers (2013)

Awakening (2013)

Invisible Cities (2013)

One Hundred Years of Solitude 10.0 (2012)

The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci (2010)

Looking for Mies (2009)



Decade (2013)

Soundtracking John Cage 4'33 (2012)

City Odyssey (2009)

Architecture is... Discourse with Music (2009)


Academic Background:

MMus & BMus (Hons), Composition & Electronic Music, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts

Lecturer, Composition & Electronic Music, Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts (2011-now)

Lecturer, Hong Kong International Institute of Music (2007-2010)

Teacher, HKICC Lee Shau Kee School of Creativity (2006-2007)


Nerve is a Hong Kong based multidisciplinary artist whose practice mines the boundaries between contemporary music, sound art, multimedia theatre and underground subcultures. Experimenting with tradition and remixing art forms, Hui's music has been presented at the Hong Kong Arts Festival, Microwave International Media Art Festival and New Vision Arts Festival. He has collaborated with the City Contemporary Dance Company, Contemporary Musiking Hong Kong, Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Hong Kong Sinfonietta, orleanlaiproject, Unlock Dancing Plaza, Wuju Ensemble and Zuni Icosahedron. Recent theatre works include the documentary opera Songs of Portrait, cinematic opera 1984, digital opera The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci, live soundtracks for the 1950s films Family, Spring, Autumn, and the Run Run Shaw Creative Media Centre opening performance Four Infinities. Collaborative works include Zurich x HK Mirror Factory, Tokyo x HK Absolute Airplane, installation/performance Zoo as Metaphor, experimental Naamyam A Wanderer's Autumn Anthology and Shadow of Wind, dance performance Almost 55 and never-never land. Hui is active in the local and international underground scene, performing and djing at 15 Grams, HKCR, CTM (Berlin), LUFF (Lausanne), as well as numerous DIY outdoor parties. He is the founder and artistic director of the experimental music group Decade Ensemble. Hui holds a masters degree in composition and electronic music from the Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, where he is currently a part-time lecturer. He has also held teaching posts at HKICC School of Creativity and Hong Kong International Institute of Music. In 2017 he was an Asian Cultural Council fellow in New York.

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