Du Yun

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Du Yun
Du Yun in Shanghai.jpg
Du Yun at Daguan theatre, at Shanghai Project opening
Background information
BornShanghai, China
GenresAvant-garde, experimental, punk, classical, crossover, folk, electronics, alternative rock
Occupation(s)Musician, composer, performance artist
Years active2006–present
LabelsNational Sawdust Tracks, Oxingale, Pentatone, New Focus Records, Deutsche Grammophon
Associated actsOk Miss

Du Yun (traditional Chinese: 杜韻, simplified Chinese: 杜韵) is a Chinese born international composer, multi-instrumentalist, vocalist and performance artist. She won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music for her opera Angel's Bone.[1] She was a 2018 Guggenheim Fellow.[2] Du Yun was named as one of the 38 Great Immigrants by the Carnegie Corporation of New York in 2018[3] and received a 2019 Grammy nomination in the category of Best Classical Contemporary Composition for her work Air Glow. [4] [5] [6]

Early life and education[edit]

Du Yun was born in Shanghai, China. She began studying piano at the age of four, attending the primary school Shanghai Conservatory of Music for piano. She studied composition at the middle school Shanghai Conservatory of Music with Deng Erbo. Du Yun later moved to the United States and graduated from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music with a Bachelor of Music degree in composition, under Randolph Coleman, and received a Ph.D. in music composition from Harvard University, with Bernard Rands, Mario Davidovsky.

In 2006, Du Yun joined the composition faculty at the State University of New York-Purchase. In 2017, she joined the composition faculty at Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University.[7] The same year, she was also appointed as the distinguished visiting professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. [8][9]

On her earlier years growing up in Shanghai, Du Yun recounted, in her contribution to WQXR, that neither of her parents went to college and both were factory workers in China.[10]

She uses her whole name Du Yun, not Du, for professional and personal uses.

“An indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge.” The New York Times has called Du Yun a leading figure in China’s new generation of composers, and her music is championed by some of today’s finest performing artists, ensembles, orchestras and organizations.

-The New York Times

Du Yun's music growth in China

When Du Yun studied in junior high school in Shanghai, she collected cassette tapes from singer Faye Wong, Chen Sheng, Dou Wei, and then Michael Jackson appeared on the radio along with the national billboard charts. She counts Dou Wei and Wang Fei (Faye Wong) the two Chinese pop musicians among who have had the most influences on her music life. She credits filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai as one of the major influences that impacted her styles. [11]

The music of Du Yun, who won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 2017, is difficult to classify, including aspects of, to quote her own website, "orchestral [music], opera, chamber music, theatre, cabaret, pop music, oral tradition, visual arts, electronics and noise."

-All Music

Du Yun

When she studied in high school, she began to cost pocket money for buying CD that have beautiful album cover. Pink Floyd, Cocteau Twins, Sinead O’Connor and Kraftwerk entered into her world all at once. She indulged in the Kraut rock (German Rock), and psychedelic rock

During her first year of college, British band Portishead released a new album, and Du Yun fell into the world of trip-hop. Her psychedelic style was later used in many of her works, and in 2012, she released her first studio album, Shark in You, which featured a variety of styles, from experimental dance music to cabaret and jazz electronic music.

Director Stan Lai has cooperated with Du Yun twice. He said her music not only has the background of classical music, but also is multifaceted, influenced by pop and folk music.[12]


In my mind, I don’t discern whether it’s in English or in Chinese. I remember when I first came here, in my early years, I realized that this word was in English or this word was in Chinese, but I no longer have those differences anymore.

- Du Yun[13]

Her works include compositions for solo instruments, electroacoustic music, chamber music, orchestral works, opera, indie pop, punk, theatre, oral tradition music, sound installations, and performance art pieces. Du's works have been performed internationally in venues such as Carnegie Hall, the Guangzhou Opera House, the Salle Pleyel Paris, the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, Escola de Música do Estado in São Paulo, the Darmstädter Ferienkurse in Germany, and London Southbank Centre. She has written for the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, and solo artists Hilary Hahn and Matt Haimovitz.

She has been selected by the National Public Radio as one of the 100 most influential young composers under 40 in 2011. The Washington Post listed her as one of top 35 female composers in classical music.

From 2014-2018, Du Yun was the Artistic Director of the MATA Festival in New York City. In 2018, she was appointed as the visiting distinguished professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

Du Yun lives and works from New York City.

I think artists should have the absolute freedom to work with however they want and however they wish to express. I also think that creating works engaging social topics is equally important and those things are not exclusive. More and more, I am concerned about human condition. Art just happen to be the means I know how to engage.

- Du Yun [14]

Theatrical works[edit]

On April 10, 2017, she was awarded Pulitzer Prize for Music for her second opera, Angel's Bone.[15][16][17][18] The citation for the prize reads: "Premiered on January 6, 2016, at the Prototype Festival, 3LD Arts and Technology Center, New York City, a bold operatic work that integrates vocal and instrumental elements and a wide range of styles into a harrowing allegory for human trafficking in the modern world. Libretto by Royce Vavrek."[19]

She is the composer of the musical Dim Sum Warriors, based on a graphic novel and bilingual iPad app series about Kung Fu-fighting dumplings by the Singaporean filmmaker, satirist and cartoonist Colin Goh and Yenyen Woo.[20] Dim Sum Warrior was made into a Chinese musical which was produced by Stan Lai. The musical debuted on Aug 11, 2017, to sold-out audiences at Theatre Above in Shanghai, and went on to tour in 25 major cities in China the following year.[21]

As a performing artist[edit]

Du Yun at rehearsal

Du Yun's performing persona on stage has been called "utterly extraordinary, unrestrained performance." [22]

Performances in the visual art world[edit]

Du Yun has done works for the Guangzhou Triennial,[23] The Shanghai Project,[24] Cordoba Contemporary Arts Center,[25] and the Sharjah Biennial.

“Practice means many things to me simultaneously, together. It means artistic practice, though not what I sing, play on piano, or write down on the staff. It has to do with critical thinking. How do I think about my relationship to working and what does the end product mean? How do you train — or trick — the mind to keep tackling your work in diverse ways to expand the ways that people think. It’s about an approach.”

- Du Yun [26]

Social causes[edit]

Du Yun is an advocate for women, racial equality and social justice. In an interview with National Public Radio on the gender issue in classical music, she said: "I think this is the issue — larger and deeper than the debate of discrimination at hand. Any sustainable and viable career paths cannot and should not depend on a few people's luck." [27] Speaking to Foreign Policy on art's power in politics, she said: “A lot of times politics, global issues, are very black and white... There is a place for that, but it’s also fantastic to have art side by side, from different viewpoints open for interpretations.” [28]

Curatorial outputs[edit]

Du Yun founded and curated the Pan Asia Sounding Festival at National Sawdust in March 2018, as part of the Spring Revolution.[29] “I want to demystify Asian culture. I want to question who owns the culture and bring together the divisions we have in society,” she told the New York News Channel PIX11.[30]



Studio albums


Critical reception[edit]

Du Yun is regarded as "leading force on the New York Scene,"[44] "one of China's leading young composers."[45] Her onstage performing persona has been described as "adventurously eclectic" and "an indie diva with avant garde edge"[46] by The New York Times. She was named one of the top 35 female composers in classical music by The Washington Post.[47]


Notable collaborations include with visual artist Shahzia Sikander, flutist Claire Chase, and librettist Royce Vavrek.

Honors and recognitions[edit]


  1. ^ Robin, William (13 April 2017). "What Du Yun's Pulitzer Win Means for Women in Classical Music". Archived from the original on 27 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via www.newyorker.com.
  2. ^ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Guggenheim_Fellowships_awarded_in_2018
  3. ^ https://www.carnegie.org/programs/great-immigrants/
  4. ^ https://www.grammy.com/grammys/news/2019-grammy-awards-complete-nominations-list
  5. ^ https://www.etonline.com/2019-grammy-nominations-see-the-complete-list-114740
  6. ^ https://www.latimes.com/entertainment/music/la-et-ms-2019-grammy-winners-nominations-2019-story.html
  7. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2017-08-11. Retrieved 2017-06-21.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  8. ^ "Top Chinese, U.S. music schools team up for contemporary music institute - Xinhua - English.news.cn". news.xinhuanet.com. Archived from the original on 20 June 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  9. ^ "Berklee and Shanghai Conservatory of Music Establish Institute - Berklee College of Music". www.berklee.edu. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Composers and Their Dads: A Father's Day Special". wqxr.org. Archived from the original on 24 September 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  11. ^ https://www.inmediahk.net/node/1060599
  12. ^ http://www.sohu.com/a/157901602_562031
  13. ^ https://staythirstymagazine.blogspot.com/p/du-yun-conversation.html
  14. ^ https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/blog/inside-mind-artist-du-yun
  15. ^ a b "The Pulitzer Prize". www.pulitzer.org. Archived from the original on 24 February 2008. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  16. ^ "Du Yun's 'Angel's Bone' Wins Pulitzer Prize For Music". npr.org. Archived from the original on 8 July 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  17. ^ a b "Du Yun Awarded 2017 Pulitzer Prize for Music". newmusicbox.org. 10 April 2017. Archived from the original on 1 July 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  18. ^ Fonseca-Wollheim, Corinna da (1 January 2018). "Review: In 'Angel's Bone,' Terrified Seraphim at the Mercy of Mortals". Archived from the original on 28 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018 – via NYTimes.com.
  19. ^ www.pulitzer.org http://www.pulitzer.org/winners/du-yun. Archived from the original on 18 September 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  20. ^ "Dim Sum Warriors". Colin and Yen Yen. Archived from the original on 15 September 2014. Retrieved 15 September 2014.
  21. ^ hermesauto (19 August 2017). "Kungfu dim sum musical written by Singaporean couple takes off in Shanghai". straitstimes.com. Archived from the original on 28 August 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  22. ^ Lentjes, Rebecca (2 November 2017). "A Catalyst, an interview with Du Yun". Van Magazine.
  23. ^ "The Unseen: the Fourth Guangzhou Triennial - Announcements - e-flux". www.e-flux.com. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  24. ^ "Du Yun - 上海种子". shanghai-project.org. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  25. ^ "De la densidad a lo ténue. Du Yun y Claire Chase en concierto - Actividad - Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía". www.c3a.es. Archived from the original on 26 December 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  26. ^ https://www.southbankcentre.co.uk/blog/inside-mind-artist-du-yun
  27. ^ "Looking For Women's Music At The Symphony? Good Luck!". npr.org. Archived from the original on 23 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  28. ^ "Opera Composer Thrusts Grim World of Human Trafficking Back Into the Spotlight". foreignpolicy.com. Archived from the original on 5 September 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  29. ^ Simon, Alexandra (March 2018). "Sounds of spring: Composer creates a Pan-Asian music festival". Brooklyn Paper.
  30. ^ Hickey, Magee (10 March 2018). "Pan Asia Sounding Festival celebrates the voices of multicultural women". PIX11.
  31. ^ http://www.kennedy-center.org/calendar/event/MTNMA#tickets. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  32. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2019/04/12/arts/music/american-composers-orchestra-review.html. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  33. ^ "Du Yun. Shanghai Project Chapter 2, 2017. Eröffnungsperformance". universes.art. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  34. ^ ""见所未见"——第四届广州三年展主题展". artspy.cn. Archived from the original on 19 June 2015. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  35. ^ http://www.philamuseum.org/collections/permanent/339071.html?mulR=482088750%7C13
  36. ^ https://dailytimes.com.pk/136781/karachi-biennales-popular-choice-disruption-rapture/
  37. ^ https://www.guggenheim-bilbao.eus/en/exhibitions/shahzia-sikander-parallax-2/
  38. ^ https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/theater-art/2015/10/01/sikander-animated-art-evokes-worlds-uncertainty/t1Knas56fSnEcmaJSnxYjN/story.html
  39. ^ https://www.pamm.org/calendar/2014/05/last-post-video-shahzia-sikander-score-composed-and-performed-live-du-yun
  40. ^ https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/du-yun. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  41. ^ "Sounds Heard: Du Yun—Shark In You". newmusicusa.org. 31 May 2011. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  42. ^ https://junoawards.ca/nomination/classical-album-of-the-year-solo-or-chamber-matt-haimovitz/. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  43. ^ https://www.grammy.com/grammys/artists/hilary-hahn. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  44. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2018/11/08/arts/music/classical-music-in-nyc-this-week.html
  45. ^ Kozinn, Allan (July 2012). "Made in China, With Plenty Of Western Parts". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2017-07-08.
  46. ^ Kozinn, Allan (July 2014). "Peak Performances to Offer 14 Premieres". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2014-07-18.
  47. ^ Midgette, Anne (August 2017). "The top 35 female composers in classical music". The Washington Post.
  48. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-08-27. Retrieved 2011-06-22.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  49. ^ "Classical Commissioning Program - Chamber Music America". www.chamber-music.org. Archived from the original on 16 October 2017. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  50. ^ "Elaine Lebenbom Award Winners". www.dso.org. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  51. ^ exhibit-e.com. "Du Yun - Fellows - Civitella Ranieri". www.civitella.org. Archived from the original on 1 January 2018. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  52. ^ https://www.nyfa.org/Content/Show/Past%20Fellows
  53. ^ https://www.gf.org/fellows/all-fellows/du-yun/
  54. ^ https://www.carnegie.org/news/articles/july-fourth-tribute-carnegie-corporation-new-york-recognizes-contributions-38-distinguished-immigrants/
  55. ^ http://sputniknews.cn/opinion/201903211027982359/

External links[edit]