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Classical 101

Ten 20th-Century Composers to Check Out - David Lang

David Lang (right) receives the 2008 Pulitzer Prize from Pulitzer Board co-chair Richard Oppel.

Being a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer puts you in a rarified place in the world of music. Samuel Barber and Gian-Carlo Menotti each won two, as did Elliott Carter and Walter Piston. In Jazz, Ornette Coleman and Wynton Marsalis each picked up a Pulitzer. There have been a total of 67 awarded. When you look at the sheer volume of music written since 1943, having one of these on your resume is an amazing feat.

David Lang won a Pulitzer in 2008 for the little match girl passion(lower-case title is the composer's), based on Hans Christian Andersen's familiar tale. Lang uses a chamber choir plus four soloists, each of whom plays a percussion instrument.


The fascinating thing about much of Lang's music is that it defies categorization. Respected long-time Los Angeles Times music critic Mark Swed wrote "There is no name yet for this kind of music."

Lang has made the manuscript available for review at issuu.com at no charge. He also authorized the above performance for release on the web to allow it to be seen and heard. If you go look at the score, he gives a detailed synopsis of the story.

He has written for film, teaming with Lou Reed and director Édouard Lock...


David Lang's music is beautifully accessible, thought provoking, and evocative. He has written for film, most recently a Paolo Sorrentino production called Youth, which stars Michael Caine and Harvey Keittel.


In his piece This Was Written By Hand, you'll find yourself creating scenes in your mind as the music plays.


Lang is also co-founder and co-artistic director of New York's legendary music collective Bang on a Can. This offers an outlet for all sorts of musical experimentation. The Bang on a Can All-Stars will perform at Ohio State's Weigel Hall Monday, February 29th.


David Lang is a composer who does much with little...a composer worth exploring further.