Who: Composer Emily Koh, 25, whose original work, byte, is a set piece for the contenders in the ongoing National Piano and Violin Competition.

The miennial music contest, which often kickstarts the careers of local classical musicians, ends this evening at the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory of Music Concert Hall.

Three other works by local composers are also being played at the competition: Denise Lee’s Two Perspectives On Refraction, Bernard Lee Kah Hong’s And It Happens To Drop From Beneath and Eric James Watson’s Aftermath.

Each of the four selected composers will receive a $2500 award today.

Koh is working on other commissions for semi-professional and college ensembles, including a new string quartet Wellesley College in the United States.

The eldest of four children born to a businessman and an administrative officer, she has a bachelor’s degree in music from the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory. She has completed a double masters’ degree in composition and music theory pedagogy and is doing her Ph.D. in the same subjects at the Peabody Institute in Baltimore.

What are you reading now?

Proust Was a Neuroscientist by John Lehrer and Zero: The Biography of A Dangerous Idea by Charles Seife.

In Proust Was A Neuroscientist, six stories about how art triumphed over science, Lehrer takes a group of artists–a painter, a composer, a poet, a chef and a handful of novelists–and shows how each discovered a certain truth about the mind that science had not yet uncovered.

Lehrer did a good job blending art into science but I feel he could have delved deeper into some neuroscience discussions, even for a layman read.

Zero: The Story of A Dangerous Idea tells the history of zero from ancient to modern times. It is a light read, but not for the mathematically squeamish, and treads the fine line between fiction and non-fiction very well by using descriptive and somewhat “flowery” writing in a scientific/historical field. I felt that at times, his hyperbolic writing style got to me, but that stopped once I convinced myself that I wasn’t reading an article in a scientific journal.

What book would you save from a burning house?

I have a mid-19th century German dictionary I bought from a garage sale for $2. It is probably the only book I will save from a burning house since it is the only book in my collection that I know will be imposible to replace.

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