First Person: Pulitzer Prize winning composer David Lang on the original Jewish love story

October 12, 2023

I wouldn’t say that I am super religious, but I am definitely religion-curious. It is a big part of my family background, and, to be honest, a big part of the history of my chosen field, Western classical music. For the past 1000 years, the church has been the most powerful commissioner of Western music, and its most active employer of musicians.

Because of this, much of our foundational repertoire is explicitly on the subject of how music helps a listener get in the mood for a religious experience…

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September 22, 2016

In 1998, I wrote music for a production of Friedrich Schiller’s play Mary Stuart at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco.  The director was my friend Carey Perloff, the music was sung by the spectacular men’s vocal ensemble Chanticleer, and the translation of the text was by the writer and Village Voice theater critic Michael Feingold.  There can be a lot of down time for a composer and a translator during theater rehearsals so Michael and I passed the time telling each other stories about books we should be reading, and Michael suggested I read Thomas Bernhard’s The Loser

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December 9, 2015

I had two jobs my senior year in high school—a music-related job and a film-related job. All these years later, both are on my mind, since I have been spending time in Los Angeles helping to promote Paolo Sorrentino’s new film Youth, for which I wrote the music

I live in New York, but I grew up in Los Angeles, in Westwood, which is the neighborhood that surrounds UCLA. These days Westwood is a kind of anonymous shopping district, but in 1973, when I worked there, it still felt like a college town…

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The Guardian UK

June 5, 2014
More than 20 years ago I was performing in London and staying at a friend’s flat near the Arsenal stadium. One day, between rehearsals, I decided to go and watch a match. I’m not a big football fan, and I was there alone, feeling lonesome and a bit miserable. But as the match began, an amazing thing happened. Everyone in the stadium started to sing, and I found myself in the middle of a giant 38,000-strong choir…continue reading

NYT Op-Ed Article

June 3, 2012

I didn’t like it.

School was over and I was sick of it, and I thought it was about time to go to work. I had gone straight from high school to college to graduate school, and I was pretty burned out. I had loved everything I had been doing in school, but as I got further along I became confused.

The paradox of a musical education is that the more sophisticated you become about how it all works, the further away you move from the things normal listeners actually hear…

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NYT Opinionator Blog

May 11, 2011

It’s spring and baseball season is under way again — for me, always a welcome event. Lately, I’ve been thinking about the game and its history. Which reminded me of the recent passing of the baseball legend Duke Snider. And, surprisingly, that made me think of classical music. Honest! I grew up in the 1960s in Los Angeles, a die-hard fan of the Dodgers. I loved baseball, loved going to the games, but I identified with the team in other ways as well…

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Donald Martin Jenni (1937-2006): A Remembrance

July 28, 2006

Two weeks ago I received a sad email, telling me that the composer Donald Martin Jenni had died, from a long and painful cancer. My first thought was that I was sorry I had not kept in closer contact, my second was that I was surprised to read in his obituary that he had ended up in New Orleans, with a new life and an adopted family. His life had changed so much since I had known him. I had been a masters student of Martin's from 1978 to 1980 at the University of Iowa, and although we had stayed in touch after I left Iowa—we would send each other music and he would come visit whenever he was in New York—the second that he retired he vanished…

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Steve Reich MacDowell Colony Medal Day Speech

August 14, 2005
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I want to begin this speech with a little aphorism translated from the Hebrew: ”Say little, and do much.” This is from an early book of the Talmud called Sayings of the Fathers. I wish I could say that I learned it from my own Hebrew studies, but I
can’t. I learned it from Steve Reich. This little phrase — say little and do much — is the entire text of the last movement of Steve’s most recent and remarkable piece, You Are Variations

Jacob Druckman’s Horizons

January 1, 2000
Jacob Druckman’s Horizons an article for an unpublished Druckman memorial edition of Contemporary Music Review, (2000), Harold Meltzer, editor.   What we are celebrating with this festival is all the new music.   So wrote Jacob Druckman in the program booklet for Horizons ’84, The New Romanticism – A Broader View, the second festival of three that Druckman curated for the New York Philharmonic in 1983, 1984 and 1986.  The statement is not totally true – the Horizons Festivals were never supposed to be about all the new music…continue reading