duYun
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duYun

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
Band Alternative EDM

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rtistic director Kevin Stalheim delivered on all three points. Dancers (Kelly Anderson), check; Dudes (composer Chris Burns, choreographer Luc Vanier), check. Double check Kelly Anderson as a diva, and Robin Pluer has been a jazz-pop diva for quite a while. Stalheim put composer Du Yun in the diva category, too. He saw Du’s picture on her MySpace page, and it didn’t seem like a stretch.
The composer wasn’t so sure about that at an interview Thursday afternoon.
“That’s just publicity,” Du said.
“It’s not!” Stalheim replied. “You have that spiked, dyed hair!”
Stalheim was disappointed that Du left her diva outfits, including the hair, at home in New York. At the end of the interview, she and Stalheim considered rummaging through old Skylight Opera Theatre costume (PM is a Skylight tenant at the Broadway Theatre Center) in search of divawear.
She’ll probably dress with composerly respectability at the concert, but the fact that this was an issue at all reveals something. All season long, Stalheim has been bringing in composers and groups who possess both scholarly and dance-club cred. Du is among them.
“The diva is how you control the stage,” she said. “I have many sides, many personalities. I sing songs in clubs. And now clubs that stage classical music are everywhere in New York.”
It’s all getting very blurry, in New York and elsewhere, which was the premise behind Stalheim’s 2009-2010 agenda.
Du is a tiny woman with a big presence, a great sense of humor and a quick wit. She is also a formidable pianist and multi-instrumentalist.
She started piano at 4, in Shanghai.
“The teacher in my kindergarten played the organ,” she recalled. “I would just stand there and stare at it. I begged my parents for a piano and some lessons.”

The diva composer in a more workaday setting.
She got them, but her parents gave her a little more than she bargained for. They pushed her to practice for hours. At age 6, she got into the pre-college program of the Shanghai Conservatory.
“It was like being a Juilliard kid,” she said. “It’s so competitive… you have no idea.”
She was on the road to becoming a concert pianist, until an odd and fateful change of course at age 11.
“I had asthma and a very fast heart rate because of it,” Du said. “That made me tend to play faster and faster, but my fingers couldn’t keep up with my brain.”
At a student recital, her racing fingers and brain tangled in a Beethoven sonata. She took a wrong turn going into the recapitulation and got lost. Du kept playing, but just made stuff up.
“I was too afraid to stop,” she said, in a breathless retelling. “I stunned the piano faculty.
“I thought that I would be physically beaten for doing that, or at least yelled at. But my teacher just said, ‘Whoa, I have no idea how you did that. Maybe you should be a composer.’”
A few months later, she wrote a suite for piano. A few years later, she was studying composition at Oberlin College and then earned a Ph.D in composition at Harvard. Now she’s one of the hottest young genre-bending composers in New York. Du teaches at SUNY-Purchase, plays in the prestigious ICE new-music ensemble and keeps up with her many commissions.
Du looks 23; she turns 33 Friday, but don’t let that get around.
“There are so many opportunities for composers under 30, and critics play that game, too,” she said. “They’re always looking for the next thing, the next hipster. I’m super aware that I’m that right now, but that’s here and gone.”
She will have that Harvard Ph.D to fall back on. Du is at work on commissions from the Detroit Symphony and an all-strings piece for the Berkeley Symphony.
“The Berkeley piece will be about melisma,” she said. “I was in Egypt, and heard the chants from minarets all around. It’s like you’re besieged by melisma. That’s what I want to do with this piece.”
And she’ll have the diva thing to fall back on. She posed glamorously at one point during the interview, to conjure up the extravagant hat and glittering opera glove she’d worn in a recent show in New York.
Too bad we won’t see that in Milwaukee.
“No,” she said, “I didn’t even bring my glitter.” - Third Coast Digest


Frank Oteri, the writer and critic who runs the 21st Century Schizoid Music concerts at the Cornelia Street Café, has found an unusual but timely niche. His series, which draws its name from a 1969 song (“21st Century Schizoid Man”) by the progressive rock band King Crimson, is focused on musicians whose work straddles several pop and classical styles and who take on different musical personalities, depending on the setting where their work is to be heard.
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Jennifer Taylor for The New York Times
Du Yun performing in a 21st Century Schizoid concert at Cornelia Street Café on Monday night.
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Mr. Oteri explored this concept at great length in a 2006 essay in the Internet publication World Literature Today. But he could just as easily have pointed to the composer Du Yun as its defining spirit.

This past season, Ms. Du’s calling cards in New York concert halls have included the New Juilliard Ensemble’s reading of “Vicissitudes No. 3,” an energetic but traditional orchestral score; several scores for silent films by Alice Guy Blaché, in which Ms. Du played synthesizer with a jazz-rock ensemble; “Air Glow,” a complex work for the International Contemporary Ensemble and electronics; and a freewheeling collaboration with the cellist Matt Haimovitz. Each inhabited its own musical world.

For her Monday evening performance, Ms. Du played the piano, a metallic percussion instrument and some electronic instruments (including a computer), and she both sang and recited texts. She was joined by Gareth Flowers, a trumpeter, and Phil Moffa, who presided over a laptop and contributed abstract electronic sound and hip-hop beats.

The trio offered two short sets, each essentially a suite of five pieces, played without pause. Given the breadth of Ms. Du’s imagination, it made compelling, even mesmerizing listening. But for the most part, the performance seemed to put a spotlight on only one version of Ms. Du: the inventive, outgoing, quirky indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge. If Ms. Du embraced the Schizoid series’s mandate, she did so subtly.

Part of her program was given to experimental iconoclasm, by way of improvisations on other composers’ works. Each set included a movement from Satie’s “Sonneries de la Rose + Croix” (1891), and though she preserved the essential elements of these simple piano pieces, Ms. Du’s reconfigurations were considerable.

In the “Air of the Grand Master,” she shared the work’s graceful melody with Mr. Flowers (who played it with a muted sound and alluring vibrato) and in “Air of the Head Prior,” she handed him the theme at the start, focusing instead on an expansion of Satie’s harmonies. The second set included an even flightier improvisation on “O Crux Benedicta,” by the 16th-century composer Francisco Guerrero.

Perhaps the Satie and Guerrero glosses were meant to show Ms. Du’s more restrained side. Her own works were assertive and colorful. In “choanoflagellates” and “Angel’s Bone,” Mr. Moffa’s beats and sound washes and Mr. Flowers’s wide-ranging trumpet lines supported Ms. Du’s idiosyncratic vocal performances. Her style takes in throaty whispers, groans and shouts; at times she seems to be evoking Leonard Cohen or Yoko Ono. But mostly, Ms. Du is in a world of her own, and the confident, high-energy theatricality that she brings to her vocal music is woven through her instrumental works just as vividly. - New York Times


The pick: Composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Du Yun

What’s the story? She has a boundless, almost childlike sense of curiosity about the world around her—she reinvents herself daily, and so does her music. This, combined with a fiercely disciplined technique and a total lack of interest in what anyone else thinks, just might make her that rare artist who catapults into international success but doesn’t feel the need to tame her wild side in the process. - TimeOut - New York


Discography

Upcoming LP with Tag Team Records (USA/China)
New Focus (USA)
KouDai (Beijing)
ATMA Classique (Canada)
Last.fm
ArtoftheStates.org

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Bio

duYun is a performing name of the composer Du Yun. She introduces the idea of “Electronic Cabaret,” which is a set of continuous flow of written songs, interspersed with a set of narration texts, with the soundscape ranging from free improvisations, ambient, noise, electronica, to turntablism.

Hailed from Shanghai, China, Du Yun has been described as “electrifying… an attractive score … “ “cutting-edge…to whom the term ‘young composer’ and ‘the pianist’ can hardly do justice ” (by New York Times), “ineffably quaking… stirs a scene” (by La Presse, Montréal); “…a work loaded with subtle lament, spanning from chaotic sonorous atmosphere to structured improvisation…” (by Cervantino, Mexico), “...reconciles savageness and quietness ..." (by Volkeskrant, Amsterdam), "...the strongest impression made yet, a political statement against oppression and violence" (by De Rode Leeuw, Amsterdam), … reinvents herself daily, and so does her music… combined with a fiercely disciplined technique… doesn’t feel the need to tame her wild side in the process” (Time-Out NYC) and “…one senses the exceptional ear, exploration and the results are impeccably powerful” (by Le Devoir, Montréal). Her music have been spotlighted on China’s National Radio Station, Radio-Shanghai, Radio-Canada, Radio Canada Internationale (RCI), Espace Musique 100.7 FM, FBi 94.5 (Australia), Canal 22 (Mexico), Sveriges Radio (Sweden), Ultima Contemporary Music Festival (Oslo), Festival Internacional Cervantino (Mexico) Art of the States (www.artofthestates.org), SinoVision (US), WFMT, WCKR, Radio Suomi (Finland) and l’Union Européene de Radio-Télévision.


Her eponymous band duYun has played across experimental venues across New York, (MonkeyTown, Stone, Galapogos, Issue Project Room and etc); and has been invited to international festival in Shanghai, Beijing, Mexico, Finland; and most recently to the 2009 Canadian Music Week at Toronto, Canada.

Her classical compositions can be heard on labels such as Wugui (Beijing), Shanghai Classical Music, ATMA Classique, and New Focus.