A novel initiative involving local and international professionals will put Hong Kong on the world map of new music, organisers say. Dubbed “Asia’s foremost training institute for contemporary classical music”, the Modern Academy, which opens today, features half a month of intensive music-making between faculties and fellows to perform new or rarely performed works for instruments or voices or both. “We are preparing the audiences for the new music experience in a home-grown or Asian-grown environment that happens for the first time in Asia,” said William Lane, founder and artistic director of the Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, which is organising the project. It would be the second major art event the Australian viola player masterminded since the Freespace Festival last year in November at the West Kowloon waterfront. The summer project is meant to further test the water in terms of how a dynamic art group curates a multi-faceted event at the future cultural hub. “The Modern Academy is primarily an education project. The fact that a mini-concert comes out of it is like a by-product. So we have to put the education element first and foremost, invest everything into the students and into the collaborations we encourage to happen,” he said. Linda Yim, a piano mentor at the academy, believed the project would open local musicians to a new horizon of contemporary music. “Hong Kong music students are rarely exposed to new music because they rely on what their teachers teach them, which is mostly from the romantic period with nice melody,” she said. “New music has its own different language and expression. Once you know how to appreciate it, it can be as beautiful as Chopin and you will keep exploring for more,” she added. This is the second year Lane is launching the initiative. With 91 participants from 16 countries or regions, it has grown more than three times over last year’s 28 participants from 10 locations. Local participation also went up by 2 per cent to 57 per cent. The expansion was made possible by sponsors, including the government and local partners. “We are largely subsidised by the government grant. Without that, the programme simply cannot exist,” Lane said, referring to the HK$1 million project grant from the Home Affairs Bureau that allowed some free concerts and even scholarships for the needy. The collaboration with the Goethe Institut for the second year will bring in the renowned Neue Vocalsolisten Stuttgart from Germany as the vocal ensemble in residence, which together with the academy’s fellows will perform the Asian premiere of Etude Pour Espace by Edgard Varese, who died 50 years ago. “I hope this project will bring about new young ensembles in Hong Kong,” he said, noting that two Singapore groups formed after last year’s academy.