Chinese-American composer Chou Wen-chung was born in Yantai on 29 June 1923, growing up in China and developing an early love for music, studying various instruments including violin, erhu, mandolin, harmonica and the musical saw. Influenced by Ruskin's 'architecture as frozen music' comment, Chou Wen-chung studied architecture and also found time to compose and also study Western music.
He moved to the United States of America in 1946 and studied music with Nicolas Slonimsky at New England Conservatory and composition with Edgard Varèse and Otto Luening at Columbia University in New York. The connection and friendship with Varèse was important and lifelong.
Chou is known as one of the first Chinese composers to translate authentic oriental material into modern Western music. Influenced by Varèse, Chou's own music moved beyond Varèse's Western concepts to incorporate Eastern and Western ideas.
Using a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, he spent two years researching classical Chinese music and drama.
He taught at Columbia and became vice-dean of the School of the Arts and director of the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music.
Chou Wen-chung died on 25 October 2019, aged ninety-six.
Ensemble. Exquisitely Beautiful - Music for percussion by Chou Wen-chung, Chinary Ung, Lei Liang, Michael Pisaro and Edgard Varèse, heard by Ron Bierman