David Lang is one of the most highly esteemed and performed American composers writing today. His works have been performed around the world in most of the great concert halls. Many of his works resemble each other only in the fierce intelligence and clarity of vision that inform their structures. His catalogue is extensive, and his opera, orchestra, chamber and solo works are by turns ominous, ethereal, urgent, hypnotic, unsettling and very emotionally direct. Much of his work seeks to expand the definition of virtuosity in music — even the deceptively simple pieces can be fiendishly difficult to play and require incredible concentration by musicians and audiences alike.
Lang’s simple song #3, written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film YOUTH, received many awards nominations in 2016, including the Academy Award and Golden Globe.
His opera prisoner of the state (with libretto by Lang) was co-commissioned by the New York Philharmonic, Rotterdam’s De Doelen Concert Hall, London’s Barbican Centre, Barcelona’s l’Auditori, Bochum Symphony Orchestra, Bruges’s Concertgebouw, and Malmö Opera, and premiered June 2019 in New York, conducted by Jaap van Zweden. It is a dark retelling of a portion of the story of Beethoven’s only opera Fidelio, in which a woman alone must change her identity to survive within the state.
Lang’s simple song #3, written as part of his score for Paolo Sorrentino’s acclaimed film Youth, received many honors in 2016, including Academy Award, Golden Globe, and Critics Choice nominations, among others. Lang’s the little match girl passion won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Music.
His most recent opera note to a friend premiered at the Japan Society in New York as part of the 2023 PROTOTYPE Festival. Co-commissioned by the Japan Society and the Tokyo Bunka Kaikan, and with music and libretto by Lang, note to a friend combines and reimagines three texts by Japanese novelist Ryunosuke Akutagawa — his story “Death Register,” the last chapter of his “In a Grove,” and his suicide note “Note to a Certain Old Friend” — as a monodrama that addresses the eternal human fascination with death, love, family and suicide.
Other recent works include the writings, commissioned by Carnegie Hall and the Netherlands Kamerkoor, and premiered by Theatre of Voices; the mile-long opera co-created with architect Elizabeth Diller and premiered in New York City’s mile-long elevated park The Highline, with texts by Anne Carson and Claudia Rankine; the loser, which opened the 2016 Next Wave Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and for which Lang served as composer, librettist and stage director; the public domain for 1000 singers at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival; the concerto man made for the ensemble So Percussion and a consortium of orchestras, including the BBC Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; mountain, commissioned by the Cincinnati Symphony; and death speaks, a song cycle based on Schubert, but performed by rock musicians, including Bryce Dessner from The National, Shara Nova from My Brightest Diamond, Owen Pallett from Arcade Fire, and composer / pianist Nico Muhly.
Lang is a Professor of Music Composition at the Yale School of Music, and is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York’s legendary music collective Bang on a Can.