Ma Shui-long was born in Keelung, Taiwan in 1939. In 1959 he was accepted at the National Taiwan Academy of the Arts where he studied theory and composition, graduating in 1964. Following graduation he was engaged in a number of teaching positions, including Keelung City Junior High School, Keelung Vocational High School and the Chungyu Institute of Technology. In 1972, he was awarded a scholarship to study with Dr. Oscar Sigmund in Regensburg at the Kirchenmusik Hochschule, in what was then West Germany, graduating with distinction in 1975. Upon his return from Germany, Ma was appointed Associate Professor of Musicology at Soochow University, becoming full professor in 1980. In 1981 Ma helped to organize and found the Department of Music at the National Institute of the Arts, later becoming head of the department. Ma was selected to serve as president of the National Institute of the Arts in 1991, and was later elected president of the Republic of China Composers Association in 1997.
As a young artist growing up in Taiwan during the 1960s and 70s, Ma’s experiences were as every bit as fraught as those of his mainland colleagues. Taiwan’s “Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement”, conceived as a corrective and reaction to Mao’s Cultural Revolution on the mainland, ultimately produced similar results: namely that art and cultural production was conscripted to serve the ideological demands of the state. Prior to the late 1970s, Taiwanese composers were given the nearly impossible task of “creating a new, national music” while being forbidden to draw on the musical heritage of the mainland as well as indigenous Taiwanese musical traditions. It was only following his return to Taiwan in the 1980s that the political and cultural environment has sufficiently relaxed to permit Ma to find his own compositional voice. Throughout his career, Ma has distinguished himself as an exceptional educator and administrator, teaching generations of Taiwanese composers and musicians. Ma’s major works include: Rondo (1963), String Quartet (1970), Peacock Flies Southeast (1977), the ballet The Injustice to Dou E (1980), and the Bangdi Concerto (1984).