It feels like the end of an era for me because my two mentors at Columbia University have both died within a few months of each other. First Mario Davidovsky passed in late August, and now Chou Wen-Chung has died at the age of 96. The New York Times obituary is here. Wen-Chung was not as important a figure in my life as was Mario, but I did have a year of lessons with him, and there are things he said that I ponder to this day. One of them – “This will sound well, but I am concerned about the structure…” – I resented at the time, feeling that not everyone can make music that sounds well. But I have come to realize that there are too many composers who simply make the music “sound well”, and it is the combination of both appealing sonic surface and deep patterning that make for music that you want to live with.
Here are some samples of his work. first, the early Landscapes from 1949:
Yü Ko, uncanny in its emulation of the sounds of Chinese music by Western instruments:
And a late work for percussion ensemble:
Finally, here is a documentary detailing Wen-Chung’s extraordinary life: