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Chou Wen-chung: Living With History

March 01, 2013
Few people today, let alone composers, have had as action-packed a life as Chou Wen-chung.

Born in China’s Shandong Province only a decade after the fall of the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) into a family that traces its lineage back to the Song Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.), Chou grew up during a period of social and political transformation in which traditional Eastern and contemporary Western culture briefly co-existed. Shortly after witnessing the horrors of World War II and narrowly escaping the occupying Japanese troops, Chou arrived in the United States on a fellowship to study architecture at Yale. He dropped out before completing a semester, however, since he knew that his true calling was music. After briefly studying in Boston with Nicolas Slonimsky, he then moved to New York City where he met Edgard Varèse. After only a couple of lessons with the legendary French-American iconoclast in his Greenwich Village home, Chou became his assistant, helping to turn Varèse’s byzantine sketches into decipherable and performable musical scores; that home would later be the place where Chou Wen-chung and his wife have lived for decades.

Read the full story at our own NewMusicBox.

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