Krzysztof Penderecki, who conducted the Hong Kong Sinfonietta in a concert at City Hall yesterday, is this year’s resident composer at the University of Hong Kong. Hailed by The Guardian newspaper as being the “horror film director’s favourite composer”, the Polish musician’s work has paid tribute to some of the biggest tragedies of the past century, with compositions dedicated to the victims of Hiroshima, Auschwitz and the September 11 attacks. Penderecki’s Symphony No 3 features in Shutter Island, the 2010 psychological thriller directed by Martin Scorsese …

Born in 1942, Scorsese grew up in the Little Italy neighbourhood of New York with his actor parents, both of whom would go on to make small appearances in some of his films, including Goodfellas. A lapsed Roman Catholic, the Italian-American filmmaker has been married five times, his current wife being Helen Schermerhorn Morris, a descendent of Lewis Morris, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. In 2005, Scorsese compiled a list of what he considered to be the greatest films in colour. On it was The Last Emperor, a biopic about the 12th Qingdynasty emperor of China, Puyi …

Born in 1906, Puyi ascended to the throne at the tender age of two years and 10 months, only to abdicate three years later. In 1934, the Japanese made him the puppet-emperor of Manchuria. Later, in China, he worked as a park attendant. As one historian put it, “The entire tumult of China’s last century can be summed up in Puyi. He went from emperor to gardener.” The Forbidden City, in Beijing, where Puyi spent his childhood, has inspired many literary fantasies. One writer, in a 1917 story, described it as a “glittering and yet mysterious court”. The man behind those words was Franz Kafka …

The son of German-speaking Jewish parents in Prague, Kafka lost his two younger brothers in infancy (his three sisters would later perish in concentration camps). Before his death, at the age of 40, he was engaged on three occasions but he never married. Having allegedly burned 90 per cent of his own work, what remained made him one of the most influential literary figures of the 20th century. Kafka on the Shore is a 2002 novel by one writer who has been greatly inspired by Franz: Haruki Murakami …

The Kyoto-born author claims to hardly ever remember his dreams. He told The Guardian last year, “Once I talked to a very famous therapist in Japan … and I said to him that I dream … almost nothing. He said, ‘That makes sense’ … I wanted to ask him why but there was no time.” The therapist died before Murakami could revisit him to get an answer. Murakami’s 1987 breakout book, Norwegian Wood, has been made into a film, the score for which features a composition by Jonny Greenwood …

The guitarist was three weeks into his first term at Oxford Brookes University when his band clinched a six-album deal and he wisely decided a career with rock group Radiohead was worth sacrificing a music and psychology degree for. Although best known as a rock musician, Greenwood learned the viola before the guitar and has composed several orchestral works. Two of his classical pieces, Popcorn Superhet Receiver and 48 Responses to Polymorphia, are tributes to one of his favourite composers, Krzysztof Penderecki.