Du Yun receives the Vilcek Prize in Music for her open approach to composition, which subverts the boundaries of traditional classical music by incorporating oral traditions, along with influences ranging from punk, electronic, and experimental music. She is equally known for her arresting operas and her protean artistic outputs. Her virtuosity is evidenced in the diversity of her oeuvre: from her work with her band, Ok Miss, to the visceral A Cockroach’s Tarantella, to her Pulitzer Prize-winning opera, Angel’s Bone.
Born in Shanghai, China, Du Yun began studying piano at the age of 4, and pursued studies in piano and composition at the preparatory school of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music at age 6. She moved to the United States to attend Oberlin College, where she received her Bachelor’s of Music in composition. Du Yun then attended Harvard University, where she completed her PhD in music composition.
Upon graduating from Oberlin’s conservatory program, Du Yun co founded the International Contemporary Ensemble. The organization is a contemporary classical music ensemble committed to advancing experimental music. Du Yun debuted her first opera, Zolle, with the ensemble in 2005. Zolle established Du Yun as a leading force in contemporary classical music, and explores aspects of the human condition that have become defining themes in her work: solitudes, belonging, and the innate desire for human connection.
Through her music, Du Yun seeks to expand the boundaries of what is possible in art. Her work bridges sound art and traditional composition, and has had a profound influence on the expansion of classical music. Her operas, compositions, and the work she is doing through her FutureTradition initiative artfully defy and interrogate the genre’s conventions and the power structures that established them.
A leader in contemporary music, Du Yun champions the work of other innovative performers. She served as the artistic director of the Music at the Anthology (MATA) festival from 2014 to 2018. In 2018, she founded the Pan Asia Sounding Festival to challenge and subvert Western presentations of Asian artists. Held in 2018 and 2019, the festival embodied the spirit of Asian futurism, presenting new works on the cutting edge of contemporary performance at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, New York.
Awards and Accomplishments
- Elliott Carter Memorial Resident in Composition, American Academy in Rome (2023)
- Creative Capital Award (2022)
- Foundation for Contemporary ArtsGrants to Artists Award(2021)
- Best New Opera, Music Critics Association of North America (2021)
- Fellow, American Academy in Berlin (2021)
- Artist of the Year, Beijing Music Festival (2019)
- Guggenheim Fellowship for Creative Arts (2018)
- Carnegie Corporation Great Immigrants, Great Americans (2018)
- Grammy Award Nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Album (2018)
- Asian Cultural Council Award (2017)
- Pulitzer Prize in Music (2017)
- NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Music/Sound (2016)
- Civitella Ranieri Foundation Award (2015)
- Detroit Symphony Orchestra Elaine Lebenbom Memorial Award (2009)
- Chamber Music America (2008)
- Fromm Music Foundation (2007)