This essay is one in a series of profiles showcasing artists who will be honored in the 2018 National Sawdust Gala, to be held on May 10 at the Alhambra Ballroom in New York City. For more information, see nationalsawdust.org/gala.
“When we talk about diversity, we really need to investigate why we are interested in hearing other people’s voices. It’s not about, ‘I want to hear more from women,’ or ‘I want to hear more from people of color.’ We need to understand that the drive should be: I want to hear from people who are different from me.”
Long before she won the Pulitzer Prize for Music with her opera Angel’s Bone, a groundbreaking, taboo-flouting musical parable about human trafficking, Du Yun was well established both as an artist of originality and substance, bent on changing the ways we think about presence and access within the cultural sphere.
As a founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble, Du Yun helped to put that vital institution on the map as both a composer and a performer. More recently, as artistic director of the MATA Festival, she has presented an extraordinary cross section of artists from diverse nations and cultures. Her compositions have been performed in concert halls, galleries, and alternative spaces around the globe, and have earned an impressive tally of prestigious awards, including the Pulitzer and, most recently, a Guggenheim Fellowship.
A primary benefit of the wider visibility that results from acclaim, she says, is the opportunity to spark conversation and change. “I think an artist’s role is to keep asking a society questions,” she asserts. “I don’t think of myself as an academic, but I think of myself as intellectual; to me, that means that I use my head to think about questions and issues. And then the artist part comes later: I happen to be a composer, and I happen to know how to write music, and I get paid to do what I do. And sometimes I post something on Facebook and I say something. If I do that on Facebook, I should definitely do that with my music.”
Poised between the cultural norms of her native China and those of her adoptive home, Du Yun has proved capable of negotiating seemingly unbridgeable chasms with agility and ingenuity in her quest to promote meaningful dialogue. During the Pan-Asia Sounding Festival she curated earlier in March at National Sawdust, she presented folk musicians from Shanghai alongside high-tech western innovations. In China she has toured with an original children’s musical, and intends to establish a folk-art festival to help preserve disappearing folk-art traditions.
Central to her worldview, she elaborates, is her focus on examining individual stories, rather than diagnosing societal issues in broad strokes. “I’m interested in the single person,” she says. “When I read about something that makes me sad, or makes me angry, or makes me feel like, oh my God, then I want to address that, because I’m resonant with that human emotion.”
That sense of personal connection guides Du Yun’s work as both a performer and an advocate for change. “Although I might use different approaches to working with [ICE founder] Claire Chase versus working with boys who don’t read music, the roots are the same,” she says. “They’re both equally exciting and invigorating.”
Yellow Barn, the famously intrepid summer chamber music festival, is bringing the concept of “taking the show on the road” to a new level. In October 2015, the center introduced Music Haul, a mobile stage in the back of a truck that allows Yellow Barn’s musicians to perform virtually anywhere it can travel to. Having already visited Boston, Baltimore, and Dallas, Music Haul is undertaking its most ambitious voyage yet: “Music No Boundaries: NYC,” a nine-day residency.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/YB1.jpg26283957David Weiningerhttp://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngDavid Weininger2017-05-23 15:55:082017-12-27 20:02:06Yellow Barn: Taking It to the Streets
As both a member of the highly regarding Mivos Quartet and as a solo artist in her own right, cellist Mariel Roberts has demonstrated an affinity for uncompromising music and a capacity for making even the most challenging works sing. Composer Eric Wubbels is among the numerous beneficiaries of Roberts's advocacy – his gretchen Am Spinnrade, a duo for cello and piano, is featured on Roberts's new CD, Cartography, with Wubbels himself at the piano. In advance of an album-release concert at National Sawdust on May 19, as well as a New York Philharmonic Contact! program that includes Wubbels's katachi coming up at National Sawdust on May 22, the two sat down recently at a neighborhood café to compare experiences and agendas.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/hrbiopic3-2012.jpg37445616Steve Smithhttp://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2017-05-18 06:22:592017-12-27 20:02:13Mariel Robert and Eric Wubbels: Intensity and Immersion
For all that his large-scale works have commanded the spotlight over the last decade or so, David Lang initially burst into the public eye and ear with pithy, concise, and clever chamber works… On 'thorn,' an appealing new CD by flutist Molly Barth, Lang's puckish instrumental miniatures assume center stage.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/DavidLang.jpeg9601440Steve Smithhttp://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2017-05-12 17:32:262017-12-27 18:55:04Album review: David Lang, thorn
Though it's not exactly a case of "opposites attract," those who know the music of composer-performers Tristan Perich and Christopher Tignor might not automatically pair the two creators despite a shared association with electroacoustic music and technical ingenuity. Yet in a recent interview in advance of their joint appearance at National Sawdust on May 5, they discovered a healthy amount of overlap in their working methods and philosophies.
https://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/tignor.jpg9841682Steve Smithhttp://nationalsawdust.org/thelog/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/national-sawdust-log.pngSteve Smith2017-05-04 11:59:072017-12-27 20:02:18Tristan Perich and Christopher Tignor: Intuitive Processes