Skip to main content

Chou Wen-chung

Fritz Reiner Professor Emeritus of Musical Composition in the Faculty of the Arts; Director, U.S.-China Center for Arts Exchange
School of the Arts
423 W 118 St Apt 1E

Chou Wen-chung founded the U.S.-China Center for Arts Exchange in 1978 and has served as its Director and driving force since that time. Over the past 30 years, Chou has maintained close contacts with artists and major arts institutions in China and has similarly broad contacts with artists, teachers, and professional organizations in the United States. He has designed and carried out conferences, research seminars, public lectures and concerts in both the U.S. and China in conjunction with scholars and artists from other institutions. Professor Chou, an accomplished composer and professor of musical composition, frequently travels and leads delegations to China.

Born in Yantai, China on June 29, 1923, Chou Wen-chung is a citizen of the United States, where he has resided since 1946. Although he arrived with a degree in civil engineering to pursue architectural studies at Yale University, he became a student in composition at the New England Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Nicholas Slonimsky. In 1949, Chou met the late Edgard Varese, became his pupil and friend, and later served as his literary executor.

Chou completed his graduate work at Columbia University under Otto Luening, 1952-54. He taught composition to an increasingly international student body at Columbia from 1964-91. He succeeded Luening in 1969 and developed the composition program into one that became internationally renowned. Chou chaired the Music Division at Columbia’s School of the Arts from 1969-89 and served as Vice Dean for Academic Affairs at the School of the Arts from 1976-87. In 1984, Chou was appointed the first Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University. He founded the Fritz Reiner Center for Contemporary Music and served as its director from 1984-91.

Chou’s compositions, published by C.F. Peters, have been featured at a variety of international festivals and performed by orchestras throughout the world, including the New York Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Orchestre National (Paris), Sinfonica de Radio Nacional (Buenos Aires), Japan Philharmonic Symphony (Tokyo), and Central Philharmonic (Beijing). In 1996, the String Quartet “Clouds” premiered in New York at The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, by the Brentano String Quartet. Chou’s latest work, the Second String Quartet “Streams”, premiered in New York City in April 2004.

Chou is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and an honorary member of the International Society for Contemporary Music and of the Asian Composers League. He was honored in 2001 by the French government with the order of Chevalier des Arts et Lettres. Most recently, he was awarded the 2005 Robert Stevenson Prize for research on the relationship between ethnomusicology and composition. He has received many other awards, grants, and commissions over the years. Chou has also contributed numerous articles to periodicals and encyclopedias, and has lectured extensively on contemporary Asian music. A frequent speaker at international conferences, he is particularly concerned with the total integration of Eastern and Western concepts and practices in music, as well as in other arts. Chou lives in New York City with his wife Yi-an. He has two grown sons, Luyen and Sumin, and two grandchildren.

In the news

Submit Content

Share your research or scholarly works to be posted on the site.