“There is no name yet for this kind of music” writes Mark Swed about Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang. Co-founder of New York’s legendary new music collective, Bang on a Can, Lang’s distinct sound fuses the tradition of classical music with urban aggressiveness, where melodies accompanied by noise and subtle harmonies are pulled apart by pounding rhythms.
Lang’s Pulitzer Prize came in 2008 for the little match girl passion, commissioned by Carnegie Hall for Paul Hillier’s vocal ensemble Theater of Voices. As The New Yorker describes it ” With his winning of (one of the most original and moving scores of recent years), Lang, once a postminimalist enfant terrible, has solidified his standing as an American master.”
Lang was born in Los Angeles in 1957 and has been commissioned by such organizations as the Santa Fe Opera, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Cleveland Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the BBC Singers, and the American Composers Orchestra. His music has performed by the Kronos Quartet, the New York Philharmonic, Icebreaker, Piano Circus and the Netherlands Wind Ensemble, and In the choreography of Twyla Tharp, Susan Marshall, La La La Human Steps and The Alvin Alley Company. In 1998 he collaborated with Bang on a Can colleague Michael Gordon on Link for Icebreaker, performed for a new work by Ashley Page at the Royal Ballet in London, in conjunction with his own Cheating, Lying, Stealing and a work by Michael Gordon.
Other recent projects include: (concerto) world to come, premiered by cellist Maya Beiser and the Norrlands Operans Symfoniorkester; darker, premiered by Ensemble Musiques Nouvelles; plainspoken, a new work for the New York City Ballet; writing on water, for the London Sinfonietta, with libretto and visuals by English filmmaker Peter Greenaway; the difficulty of crossing a field, a fully-staged opera for the Kronos Quartet; loud love songs, a concerto for the percussionist Evelyn Glennie; and the oratorio Shelter, with co-composers Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe, at the Next Wave Festival of the Brooklyn Academy of Music, staged by Ridge Theater and featuring the Norwegian vocal ensemble Trio Mediaeval.
His other awards Include the Rome Prize, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, the BMW Music-Theater Prize (Munich), a Kennedy Center/Friedheim Award, the Revson Fellowship with the New York Philharmonic, and grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Photo by Peter Serling.