photo by Peter Serling
Passionate, prolific and complicated, composer David Lang embodies the restless spirit of invention. At the same time, he is also deeply versed in the classical tradition, and committed to music that resists categorization, all while constantly seeking out and creating new forms. In the words of The New Yorker, "With his winning of the Pulitzer Prize for the little match girl passion (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 is Musical America's 2013 Composer of the Year and recipient of Carnegie Hall's Debs Composer's Chair for 2013-2014 — testament to his standing as one of America's most performed composers. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, ranging from the hauntingly soulful death speaks (sung by Shara Worden and featuring The National's Bryce Dessner, pianist Nico Muhly and violinist Owen Pallett) to the playful, wistful love fail (with Anonymous 4). Lang's opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and emotionally direct. Much of his work seeks to expand the definition of virtuosity in music — even his deceptively simple pieces can be fiendishly difficult to play, and require incredible concentration by musicians and audiences alike.
“I came out of the modernist era,” Lang told eMusic's Wondering Sound in 2014, “when people were making statements like 'I write what needs to be written, not what people want to hear,' and 'Music is powerless to express anything.' I don’t believe that. For me, the compositional act is not sitting in my studio thinking about being a genius; it’s about communicating something to musicians that they can communicate to audiences.”