David Lang is a composer, founder and co-director of music collective Bang on a Can. His music isn't for casual classical music fans—or the faint of heart.
Lang earned degrees from Stanford and the University of Iowa, and by the age of 24 had already won two awards from the non-profit BMI Foundation. In 1987, along with Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, he founded the experimental Bang On a Can music collective with a 12-hour performance at a SoHo art gallery. ("There is no name yet for this kind of music," wrote LA Times music critic Mark Swed at the time.) The group has since become famous for these "marathon concerts," which have lasted up to 20 hours, and during which audiences are permitted to get up and leave whenever they feel like it. As a solo composer, Lang is known for the 1999 orchestral opera The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, and his haunting soundtrack for 2000's Requiem for a Dream, directed by Darren Aronofsky. His other notable works include Eating Living Monkeys and Bonehead.
These days, Bang on a Can tours regularly, releases albums under its own label, Cantaloupe, and holds a Summer Music Festival in Massachusetts. The group's been involved in some notable collaborations over the years: Bang has worked on compositions with Steve Reich and Meredith Monk, and performed with Sonic Youth's Thurston Moore. In 2000, Bang collaborated with comic book artist Ben Katchor to write the award-winning opera The Carbon Copy Building. While they have plenty of fans who dig their eclectic music, it's certainly not the sort of thing everyone can take for long stretches. "A few hours of Bang on a Can can approximate the feeling of racing down Canal Street in a cab with bad suspension," the New Yorker's Alex Ross once wrote.
Lang's married with two kids and lives in Brooklyn.
Lang's opera, The Difficulty of Crossing a Field, was based on a short story by Ambrose Bierce, which, in turn, served as the basis for a 1953 hoax in Fate magazine about a man who vanished as he walked across a field. The character's name in the hoax? David Lang.