David Lang, Composer of the Year

David Lang receives two of America’s highest musical honours in 2013. He is the recipient of Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year Award, an apt distinction for one of the country’s pre-eminent compositional voices. Additionally, Carnegie Hall has appointed Lang to the Richard and Barbara Debs Composer’s Chair for the 2013-2014 season. As a key element of his season-long residency, Mr. Lang will lead a special collaborative workshop in November 2013, offering commissioning opportunities for composers and chamber ensembles.

Photo by Peter Serling

“A composer who is creating one arresting work after another and shows no signs of peaking,” (Philadelphia Inquirer, 23/10/2012) Lang has written over 125 pieces spanning all genres and manner of inspiration. His unique brand of post-minimalism transcends any sense of distance or separation. Instead, he has found a truly individual way to continuously reach directly to the listener’s heart, evoking a strong emotional response, whether that be sweet, gut-wrenching, passionate, or peaceful. To meet David is to understand why his music has this quality. Although highly intelligent and talented, he has a natural tendency towards humility, kindness, and generosity. Furthermore, he is the kind of person who sees deeply and infuses his interactions with gratitude and heartfelt sincerity. Lang’s music is frequently programmed, being loved by performers and audiences alike. With the help of various initiatives like Bang on a Can, the BoaC Marathon and summer festival, Cantaloupe records, and film and dance collaborations, David Lang is on the verge of attaining cult status.

On December 6-8, New York City sees the arrival of Lang’s most recent concert-length work, love fail atBAM. Written for Anonymous 4, the ravishing female vocal quartet known for their adaptations of early music, love fail is a re-rendering of the tragic, courtly love story of Tristan and Isolde. In this work, Lang takes elements from various medieval versions of the tale and intersperses them with settings of his own texts, Richard Wagner’s libretto, and stories by Macarthur Prize winning author Lydia Davis. The resultis a fascinating meditation on love’s lyricism, its almost mystic force, and its surprising moods and shifting desires… love fail is a stunning exercise in vocal precision, polyphony, overlapping voices, and hypnotic variations on simple lyrics.” (New Haven Review) Presented in a theatrical setting and directed by the composer, the work makes use of lighting, simple sound enhancement, and a range of small instruments including autoharps, whistles, bells and simple percussion. love fail is produced by Beth Morrison Projects.

Also not to be missed at BAM this season is the New York premiere of fellow Bang on a Can composer Michael Gordons epic new percussion piece, Timber. Scored for six graduated wooden Simantras, instruments first devised by Xenakis, the piece explores possibilities in polyrhythm and texture, creating an engaging yet trancelike, meditative listening experience for the audience. Totalling 55 minutes with unrelenting roles for the players, the piece brings the physicality, endurance, and technique of percussion performance to a new level. Hear Michael talk about the piece and listen to excerpts on theBAM website.

Lang’s Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece, the little match girl passion, receives its due with a number of high-profile performances for the holiday season. Staged by the innovative Opera North and performed by I Fagiolini, the piece will appear in London at the Spitalfields Winter Music Festival, in Leeds, and in Coventry on December 14, 15 and 21 respectively. For more information, visit the Opera North website. On December 23, Donald Nally will lead superstar choir The Crossing in an unforgettable New York performance in front of the Metropolitan Museum’s Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche in the Medieval Sculpture Hall. For details and tickets, visit the Met Museum website.