While both composers are deeply concerned with the substance of sound itself—its ''physicality'' (Macklay) or ''materiality'' (Ming Tsao)—each has realized this fascination through highly individual musical pursuits. Ming Tsao, who has studied the Chinese guqin as well as the violin and viola, composes music that interrogates both European and Chinese musical traditions, while the music of Sky Macklay, an oboist and installation artist in addition to composing, takes abstract formal processes to surreal or even humorous extremes.
Born in the United States—Ming Tsao in Berkeley, CA and Sky Macklay in Waseca, MN—both currently reside in Europe, where Ming Tsao is on faculty at Göteborg University, Sweden and the Hanover University of Music, Drama and Media in Germany, and Sky Macklay is a fellow at Columbia University's Institute for Ideas & Imagination in Paris.
Founded in 1925, the Guggenheim Foundation each year offers grants to artists and scholars who have demonstrated exceptional abilities in their respective fields, with no restrictions as to its use. Designed to offer its laureates total intellectual or creative freedom for a period of six to twelve months, it is among the highest honours in American humanities, arts and sciences