Chou Wen-chung, remarkable Chinese-born American composer; b. Chefoo, June 29, 1923. He studied civil engineering at the National Univ. in Chungking (1941–45), then went to the U.S. on a scholarship to study architecture. Turning his attention to music, he studied composition with Slonimsky in Boston (1946–49), Luening at Columbia Univ. (M.A., 1954), and Varese in N.Y. (1949–54). He then held two Guggenheim fellowships (1957, 1959). In 1958 he became a naturalized American citizen. He was composer- in-residence at the Univ. of 111. in Urbana (1958), and on the faculties of Brooklyn Coll. (1961–62), Hunter Coll. (1963–64), and Columbia Univ. (from 1964). During his long tenure at Columbia Univ., he served as chair of the music division of the School of Arts (1969–89) and as the Fritz Reiner Prof, of Music Composition (1984–89). He also founded the Center for U.S.-China Arts Exchange there in 1978, and subsequently served as its director. From 1970 to 1975 he was president of Composers Recordings, Inc., and in 1971-72 he was composer-in-residence at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood. In 1982 he was elected a member of the Inst. of the American Academy and Inst. of Arts and Letters. After Varese’s death in 1965, Chou became the musical executor of his estate. As such, he ed. and reconstructed a number of Varese’s scores. In 1998 Chou prepared two previously unheard Varese works for performance: Tuning Up for Orch. and Dance Burgess for Chamber Orch. His own compositions combine Chinese elements of structure and scale formation with free dissonant counterpoint related to Varese’s theory of "organized sound/’
orch.: Landscapes (1949; San Francisco, Nov. 19, 1953); All in the Spring Wind (1952–53); And the Fallen Petals (1954; Louisville, Feb. 9, 1955); In the Mode of Chang for Chamber Orch. (1956; N.Y., Feb. 2, 1957); Metaphors for Winds (1960–61); Riding the Wind for Winds (1964); Pien, chamber concerto for Piano, Percussion, and Winds (1966); Beijing in the Mist (1985); Cello Concerto (N.Y., Jan. 10, 1993). chamber: Suite for Harp and Wind Quintet (1950); 2 Miniatures from the Tang Dynasty for 10 Instruments (1957); To a Wayfarer for Clarinet, Harp, Percussion, and Strings (1958); Soliloquy of a Bhiksuni for Trumpet, Brass, and Percussion (1958); The Dark and the Light for Piano, Percussion, Violin, Viola, Cello, and Double Bass (1964); Yu Ko for 9 Instruments (1965); Ceremonial for 3 Trumpets and 3 Trombones (1968); Ytin for 2 Pianos, 2 Percussion, and Wind Sextet (1969); Echoes from the Gorge for Chamber Group (N.Y., April 27, 1989); Windswept Peaks for Violin, Cello, Clarinet, and Piano (1990); Clouds, string quartet (1996). vocal: 7 Poems of the Tang Dynasty for Soprano or Tenor, 7 Winds, Piano, and Percussion (1951; N.Y., March 16, 1952); Poems of White Stone for Chorus and Instrumental Ensemble (1958–59). other: Film scores.
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire