David Lang

Doris Duke Artist Award, 2013
Dance, Multidisciplinary Performance

New York, NY

Pulitzer Prize winner David Lang is one of the most sought after American composers for new works in dance, creating music for among others, Benjamin Millepied, Shen Wei, Edouard Lock/La La La Human Steps, and Susan Marshall—a collaboration for which he received a Bessie Award. His work is recognized for expanding the ways in which choreographers and composers can work together to create dance. His newest project with Marshall is a postmodern dance-theatre meets rock-and-roll on both real and virtual stages and just received a 2013 grant from NEFA National Dance Project. A prolific composer in multiple musical genres, he is the co-founder and co-artistic director of New York's legendary music collective Bang on a Can and was just cited as Musical America’s 2013 Composer of the Year. Lang’s existing scores have also inspired choreographers to make dance—from the minimalist music of men featured in Big Dance Theater’s Supernatural Wife to the two percussive compositions that led to new dances by Jessica Lang and Pontus Lidberg as part of the 2010 Guggenheim Works & Process series. His scores have also been central to award winning dance films such as Pontus Lidberg’s Labyrinth Within (2010) and Edouard Lock’s Amelia (2005), which also featured lyrics by Lou Reed. A committed mentor and teacher, he often introduces young composers to writing music for dance. In addition to his dance compositions, he has also created music for many theatre works including, with NY-based Ridge Theater, the OBIE Award winning multimedia piece, Carbon Copy Building (which also received a 2002 MAP Fund grant) and the music drama Difficulty of Crossing a Field (2006 Arts Presenters Ensemble Theatre Collaboration grant).

  • Photo Credit: Peter Serling
  • David Lang- Play/Pause, work-in-progress: http://vimeo.com/64412962
    Play/Pause, work-in-progress
  • David Lang- “Sunray,” Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (Bang on a Can All-Stars) (Cantaloupe, 2011): https://soundcloud.com/cantaloupemusic/02-david-lang-sunray
    “Sunray,” Big Beautiful Dark and Scary (Bang on a Can All-Stars) (Cantaloupe, 2011)
  • Photo Credit: Big Dance Theater Mike Van Sleen
    Supernatural Wife (2011)
  • David Lang- Lang: this was written by hand (Cantaloupe, 2011) : https://soundcloud.com/cantaloupemusic/01-this-was-written-by-hand
    Lang: this was written by hand (Cantaloupe, 2011)

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

The biggest challenge for me as a composer is to focus my classical music training in interesting directions. We can get very isolated—in classical music we revere the past so much that sometimes the past is the only place we look for inspiration. It is easy for us to forget that we need to work with people in other disciplines, in order to refresh ourselves and our field. For me, that other discipline is dance. One thing I love about working with choreographers is that dance is just as abstract as music—to make music for dance is to make abstractions collide. There are few things more satisfying to me than using music's communicative powers to hint at the emotional underpinnings of bodies pushing abstractly through space.