Chet Canlas, Memories to Light (still), 2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Center for Asian American Media.

Chet Canlas, Memories to Light: Never Brighter (still), 2021. Courtesy of the artist and the Center for Asian American Media.


Memories to Light: Never Brighter

Composers Danny Clay and Theresa Wong perform a newly commissioned score to accompany a film collage exploring Asian American history.

McEvoy Arts commissions local composers Danny Clay and Theresa Wong to compose and perform an experimental score for Memories to Light: Never Brighter, a film by documentary filmmaker Chet Canlas. The film creates a honeycomb lens of Asian America by interweaving home movies from the collection of the Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) with archival images from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation. This panoramic juxtaposition of sight and sound is the first performance in the McEvoy Arts galleries since February 2020.

In Canlas’s film, digitized 8mm and 16mm home movies life capturing authentic scenes of Asian American life come together with images and clips from the Manilatown Heritage Foundation’s extensive archive. Drawing inspiration from the filmic collage, Clay and Wong—who previously performed together in 2018 at McEvoy Arts—work collaboratively to create a richly textured composition that bridges field recordings, spoken word, and live improvisation. The immersive physical space filled by the power of performance and the possibility of togetherness.

Memories to Light was initially conceived as an outdoor screening and performance for Neon Was Never Brighter, the urban festival of artist activations celebrating the resilience and fortitude of San Francisco’s Chinatown postponed. Due to rain, Neon Was Never Brighter was cancelled and is postponed until Spring 2022. The live performance of Memories to Light: Never Brighter at McEvoy Arts marks the closing day of Next to You on December 4. It is an expansive intertwining of moving images and experimental music that extends the exhibit’s celebration of the performing arts.


Chet Canlas is an independent filmmaker and cinematographer who has produced, written and directed documentaries about San Francisco’s Asian American history and traditional Philippine culture. He has also served as the cinematographer for over a dozen short narrative films and one feature film. Canlas is most recently the director of the film “Al Robles Express” (2019), which features five Filipino Americans returning to their motherland to find their indigenous roots of creativity. Canlas works and resides in San Francisco.

Danny Clay is a composer and educator whose work is deeply rooted in curiosity, collaboration, and the sheer joy of making things with people of all ages and levels of artistic experience. As a composer he has collaborated with Kronos Quartet, Eighth Blackbird, Third Coast Percussion, the San Francisco Girls Chorus, Wu Man, Volti, the People’s Music School of Chicago, Sarah Cahill, and printmaker Jon Fischer. His work has been performed nationally and internationally and has been presented by the deYoung Museum, San Francisco; San Francisco Performances; McEvoy Foundation for the Arts, San Francisco; and the Meaney Center for the Arts, Seattle, among others. He has taught at Stanford University, San Francisco State University, the Crowden Music Center, and Zion Lutheran School in San Francisco. In 2020, he designed and implemented the curriculum for Kronos Quartet’s pilot music program for third graders in the SF Unified School District, “Kronos Music: DIY!” Clay works and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Theresa Wong is a composer, cellist, and vocalist active at the intersection of music, experimentation, improvisation, and the synergy of multiple disciplines. Her works include As We Breathe, an installed song commissioned by Long Beach Opera for the 2020 Songbook, and She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees for The Future Is Female project, among others. Her multi-media piece, The Unlearning (Tzadik) premiered in 2013 at Roulette, Brooklyn, and was also presented at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, San Francisco. Current and past commissions include works for Splinter Reeds, The San Francisco Girls Chorus, Vajra Voices, and Del Sol String Quartet. Wong has shared her work internationally at venues including Fondation Cartier, Paris; Cafe Oto, London; Festival de Arte y Ópera Contemporánea, Morelia, Mexico; and The Stone, New York. Wong is a Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellow and has also been an artist-in-residence at the Headlands Center for the Arts, Lijiang Studio, and Yaddo. She currently works and resides in the San Francisco Bay Area.


The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) has been dedicated for 40 years to presenting stories that convey the richness and diversity of Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. As a nonprofit organization, CAAM funds, produces, distributes, and exhibits works in film, television, and digital media. CAAMFest, formerly the San Francisco International Asian American Film Festival (SFIAAFF), celebrates the world’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian film, food, and music programs. CAAM is the recipient of the 2021 Peabody Award for the co-production of PBS documentary series Asian Americans.

Memories to Light: Never Brighter is a co-production of the Center for Asian American Media and McEvoy Arts with the Manilatown Heritage Foundation.