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Byron Au Yong

San Francisco, CA         

As the son of Chinese immigrants in America, I search for ways music connects people with the places they call home. I am blessed to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, where the mountains & water retain power alongside 21st century technology. This informs my songs of dislocation created to honor the ritual of people who gather to listen.

Composer Byron Au Yong  (歐陽良仁) creates musical events the Seattle Weekly calls “as exquisite and imaginative as they are unclassifiable.”

Works include Activist Songbook (presented by The International Festival of Arts & Ideas in 2020, Montalvo Arts Center in 2018, and Asian Arts Initiative in 2018), TURBINE (commissioned by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia with support from New Music USA), Farewell: A Fantastical Contemplation on America’s Relationship with China (commissioned by Donald Byrd and Spectrum Dance Theatre), Occupy Orchestra 無量園 Infinity Garden (Chicago Composers Orchestra), YIJU 移居: Songs of Dislocation (Jack Straw New Media Gallery), The Orphan of Zhao (directed by Carey Perloff), performed at American Conservatory Theatre and La Jolla Playhouse, Piano Concerto—Houston (media sculpture by Susie J. Lee), commissioned by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts for the inaugural CounterCurrent Festival, and Stuck Elevator (libretto by Aaron Jafferis, directed by Chay Yew), premiered at the American Conservatory Theatre and performed at the International Festival of Arts & Ideas. Stuck Elevator was called “a vibrant opera-musical theater hybrid with a story both personally compelling and eye-opening” by the San Francisco Chronicle and “audacious, compelling and hugely imaginative” by the Huffington Post.

Honors include a Creative Capital Award and Time Warner Foundation Fellowship, as well as support from Aldeburgh Music in the UK, the Dragon Foundation in Hong Kong, the Darmstadt Institute in Germany, and Foundation Gaudeamus in Holland. Au Yong has been composer-in-residence with the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU, Center for the Arts at Virginia Tech, Center for Migration and the Global City at Rutgers, International Festival of Arts & Ideas, Montalvo Arts Center, three Sundance Institute Theatre Labs, and the Yale Institute for Music Theatre.

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas excerpt

Kidnapping Water: Bottled Operas is a site-responsive project of 64 musical miniatures for hiking opera singers and water percussionists. The music is available as site-responsive performances and a media installation. Working with eight librettists and eight performers, the 64 bottled operas are prompted by the 易經 I-Ching (Book of Changes). Kidnapping Water has been performed through the Pacific Northwest, including Bumbershoot Festival of the Arts, Seattle Symphony Day of Music, Town Hall Seattle, and Jack Straw New Media Gallery.

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TURBINE, for moving choir along the water, was created for the 200th Anniversary of the Fairmount Water Works, an urban environmental center on the Schuylkill River in Philadelphia. The lyrics come from 18th and 19th century writers who include Elizabeth Margaret Chandler, Charles Dickens, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Caroline Howard Gilman, John Penn, and Mark Twain. This video gives a glimpse into the historic text and creative process for TURBINE, commissioned and performed by Leah Stein Dance Company and Mendelssohn Club of Philadelphia.

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Surrender combines singing with tai qi (太極) to reach a state filled with strength and compassion. Text comes from the Dao De Jing (道德经) for the transformation contained in the Chinese ideograms of Verse 22, by Lao Tzu (老子). These include the character images for missing, confused heart, hands pull apart, sun disappears, claws, chopping sound, crimes of the mouths, and plants rise from the ground. Aaron Jafferis contributes English lyrics. Surrender was commissioned and performed by The Esoterics.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Headlines August 24 2011 | By Byron Au Yong
Bang the Drums: The Eighth Biennial North American Taiko Conference

From August 18-21, 2011, over 500 taiko enthusiasts gathered at the eighth biennial North American Taiko Conference sponsored by the Japanese American Cultural & Community Center, organized by the Northern...

Articles November 16 2005 | By Byron Au Yong
Ban The Piano! A 21st-Century Composition Manifesto

As a Chinese-American composer who writes from the margins, I know that I must abolish the central love of my youth--the piano--and find other tools to survive in a new...