Du Yun

Future Traditions in Music

Experimenting with Cultural Legacies

“To be a practicing artist is to position ourselves within our communities and unveil another layer of reality through the world around us.”

Composer and performer Du Yun works at the intersections of orchestral, opera, and chamber music; theater, cabaret, and musicals; oral tradition, public performances, electronics, visual arts, and noise. Her second opera, Angel’s Bone (libretto by Royce Vavrek), won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize; in 2018 she was named a Guggenheim Fellow; and in 2019 she was nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Classical Composition category. An avid performer and bandleader of the group Ok Miss, she has appeared in various holes and halls, sites and museums. Her onstage persona has been described by The New York Times as “an indie pop diva with an avant-garde edge.”

Du Yun with Ok Miss
Du Yun performs with her band Ok Miss at National Sawdust as part of the 2018 Pan Asia Sounding Festival. Photo: Jill Steinberg.
Du Yun: A Cockroach’s Tarentella
Du Yun opening an exhibition at the Shanghai Rockbund Art Museum.
Du Yun’s FutureTradition initiative, as displayed in Times Square, NYC.
Du Yun and Julian Crouch make puppets with children in Yushu, Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.

As a mentor, Du Yun is looking to work with artists from diverse cultural backgrounds invested in exploring cultural legacies. She is particularly interested in projects that look at how to experiment with traditional art forms and storytelling specific to their cultural heritages to explore new forms of critical thinking, resonance, and experimentation. This experimentation should be rooted in deep and rigorous research.

Known for her “relentless originality and unflinching social conscience” (The New Yorker), Du Yun says that “to be a practicing artist is to position ourselves within our communities and unveil another layer of reality through the world around us.”

“The barrier between us and the other must be shattered,” she adds. “In the same breath, the barrier between us and ourselves should also be re-examined. Deep collaboration is inviting people to let go of the insecurity of not knowing each other enough. From my practice, it’s always about letting go of insecurity in a way that opens conversation and invites all parties into a dialogue. For the spirit to grow, new ways of contextualizing have to happen and we have to risk our sense of self in the process.”

Du Yun: The Last Pos
Du Yun performs The Last Post, a collaboration with visual artist Shahzia Sikander.
World premiere of Where We Lost Our Shadows, a triple concerto for voices, percussion soloist, video, and orchestra at Southbank Centre in London. Photo: Viktor Erik Emanuel.
Du Yun working with traditional musicians from the United Arab Emirates for the Sharjah Art Biennial. Photo: Art21.

Du Yun is currently Professor of Composition at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, and Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. As a curator, she was a founding member of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE); served as the Artistic Director of MATA Festival (2014–2018); conceptualized the Pan Asia Sounding Festival (National Sawdust); and inaugurated a FutureTradition initiative in China that illuminates the provenance and lineages of folk art and uses these structures to build cross-regional collaborations from the ground up. In 2018, Du Yun was named one of 38 Great Immigrants by the Carnegie Foundation.

Watch the video message to find out more about what Du Yun is looking for in proposals:

Composer and performer Du Yun on her work and role as mentor in Forecast's fifth edition.