Interview: Ambassador and Visionary Chou Wen-chung

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As part of our China in New York festival, from Monday, January 23 to Friday, January 27 at 12 noon with repeats at 7 pm on Q2 Music, composer Huang Ruo interviews a different Chinese-born composer who has lived in the United States and become prominent to New York City audiences.

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of Chou Wen-chung when it comes to contemporary music. Not only has he developed over the course of his almost 90 years a shimmering, pointillistic yet lyrical style, but he edited and completed many of his teacher Edgard Varèse's works.

He also helped to develop the composition department at Columbia University into an internationally recognized institution, served as a cultural ambassador between China and the US by bringing over many China-based composers (Chen Yi, Zhou Long, Tan Dun and Bright Sheng), and was the president of the forward-thinking record label CRI. Besides Varèse, his teachers have included Otto Luening, Nicholas Slonimsky, and Bohuslav Martinu.

In this interview with composer Huang Ruo, Chou discusses how he came to know and study with Varèse, his understanding of how the arts bridged China-US relations when politics could not, and how Chinese culture underpins his musical aesthetic to this day. Chou also provides cautionary advice to today's composers by deconstructing the notion and place of experimentation. 

The complete Q2 Music China in New York festival interviews

Monday, January 23 at 12 noon and 7pm: Zhou Long
Tuesday, January 24 at 12 noon and 7 pm: Du Yun
Wednesday, January 25 at 12 noon and 7 pm: Lei Liang
Thursday, January 26 at 12 noon and 7 pm: Chou Wen-chung
Friday, January 27 at 12 noon and 7 pm: Min Xiao-fen