David Lang (composer)

David Lang (composer)

David Lang (born January 8, 1957 in Los Angeles, California) is an American composer living in New York City. He was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music for The Little Match Girl Passion.



Lang holds degrees from Stanford University, the University of Iowa, and Yale University (DMA, 1989). His teachers have included Donald Jenni, Richard Hervig, Jacob Druckman, Hans Werner Henze, and Martin Bresnick.

His first recognition came from the BMI Foundation's Student Composer Awards in 1980 and 1981. Together with Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, Lang co-founded Bang on a Can in 1987.[1]

In 2002 he was awarded a grant from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award.

In 2008 he joined the Yale School of Music composition faculty.[1] He is also currently the Distinguished Visiting Professor of Composition and Composer in Residence at the Oberlin Conservatory.


Lang's music is informed by modernism, minimalism, and rock - and can perhaps be best described as post-minimalist or totalist. His music can be in turn comic, abrasive, and soothing, and it usually retains elements of conceptualism. He sometimes gives his concert pieces strange and even iconoclastic titles such as Eating Living Monkeys (1985) and Bonehead (1990).

He was a major contributor to the music performed by the Kronos Quartet in Requiem for a Dream being the arranger in studio. He is also well known for his work with choreographers Shen Wei, Benjamin Millepied, Susan Marshall and Édouard Lock / La La La Human Steps.

Collaborative works

In 1999 he collaborated with composers Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon and librettist/illustrator Ben Katchor in the composition of the "comic strip opera" The Carbon Copy Building. The production won an Obie Award for Best New American Production. Lang, Wolfe and Gordon subsequently collaborated on the 'oratorio' Lost Objects, the recording of which was released in summer 2001 (Teldec New Line). Their next collaborative project was Shelter, a multi-media work with librettist Deborah Artman,for the Scandinavian vocal group Trio Mediaeval and the German ensemble musikFabrik, which was performed in Germany and the U.S. in 2005.

The Difficulty of Crossing a Field

Also in 1999, Lang based his opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, about an Alabama planter named Williamson who purportedly vanished while walking across a field in 1854.[2](Bierce's story reoccurs in urban-legend form, in which, coincidentally, the vanished man is often given the name David Lang.)

Pulitzer Prize

Lang was awarded the 2008 Pulitzer Prize in music for his piece The Little Match Girl Passion, composed in 2007.[3] The piece, based on Hans Christian Andersen's fable "The Little Match Girl" and inspired by Bach's St. Matthew Passion, was co-commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation and The Perth Theater and Concert Hall and premiered on October 25, 2007 in Zankel Hall in New York City. Tim Page of the Washington Post wrote that "I don't think that I've ever been so moved by a new...composition as I was by David Lang's The Little Match Girl Passion, which is unlike any music I know."[4]

The recording of The Little Match Girl Passion on Harmonia Mundi received a 2010 Grammy Award for Best Small Ensemble Performance.

Recorded works

Lang's music has been released on the Argo/Decca, BMG, Cantaloupe Music, Chandos, CRI, Naxos Records, Point Music, and Sony Classical labels. His solo albums for Cantaloupe include "The Passing Measures" (2001) with the Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, "Child" (2003) played by Sentieri Selvaggi, and "Elevated" (2005) featuringing performances by Audrey Riley and A Change of Light, and Lisa Moore. His music has also been represented on recordings by Icebreaker, So Percussion, Bang on a Can All Stars and Evan Ziporyn. His scores are published by Red Poppy Music (available from G. Schirmer, Inc.)


  • Are You Experienced (1989)
  • The Passing Measures (2001)
  • Child (2003)
  • Elevated (2005)
  • Pierced (2008)
  • The Little Match Girl Passion (2009)
  • (Untitled) Music from the Film (2009)
  • This Was Written By Hand (2011)
  • The Woodmans - Music from the Film (2011)



  • New York Composers: Searching for a New Music (1997). Directed by Michael Blackwood. Produced by Michael Blackwood Productions, in association with Westdeutscher Rundfunk. New York, New York: Michael Blackwood Productions
  • (Untitled) (2009)


External links


  1. ^ a b "David Lang". Yale School of Music. http://music.yale.edu/faculty/lang.html. Retrieved 18 March 2010. 
  2. ^ Review of The difficulty of Crossing a field in Andante magazine
  3. ^ Pulitzer Prizes in New York Times, 7 April 2008[dead link]
  4. ^ "David Lang". G. Schirmer Inc.. http://www.schirmer.com/default.aspx?TabId=2419&State_2872=2&composerId_2872=882. Retrieved 14 January 2011. 

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