Fred Ho’s Wicked Theory and Naked Practice

  • David H. Anthony III Temple University Press


To speak of someone as unparalleled often seems trite; in Fred Ho’s case, it seems mandatory. A composer, musician, performance artist, and scholar, he really lived a life beyond categorization. In 2009, with the collaboration of Diane C. Fujino, the University of Minnesota Press published a retrospective anthology of his writings titled Wicked Theory, Naked Practice. Sadly, that volume is now also a memorial: a self-written festschrift. On April 12, 2014, Fred Ho succumbed to cancer, leaving behind an astonishingly innovative body of work. 

Fred Wei-Han Houn, or Hóu Wéihàn, later more popularly known as Fred Ho, was extraordinary. A virtuosic talent, he was a renaissance person without being limited by the masculinist modifier “man.” Wicked Theory, Wicked Practice offers a cross-section of Ho’s passionate written work over a decade. This collection is divided into four parts: 1) “The Movement and The Self,” 2) “Music Aesthetics and Artistic Production,” 3) “Asian American Pacific Cultural Theory and Criticism,” and 4) “Wicked Theory, Naked Practice.” However, the book really may be read in any order. In fact, tackling it out of order or choosing a random article might be in keeping with the improvisatory quality of much of Ho’s work. It is evocative of a quotation attributed to Cecil Taylor to the effect that “If a man plays for a certain amount of time—scales, licks, what have you—eventually a kind of order asserts itself.”