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David Lang searches and selects 301 phrases for new work: 'The Day' / THE Nation

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David Lang, the Pulitzer Prize–winning composer of the oratorio The Little Match Girl Passion and other works of rigorous idiosyncrasy, lives in the creative realm where quasi-gimmicky ideas can lead to serious, often moving art. Over the 31 years since he co-founded, with the composers Julia Wolfe and Michael Gordon, the Bang on a Can festival of avant-garde music and performance, Lang has devised such works as Crowd Out, a choral piece for 1,000 singers; The National Anthems, a collage of snippets from the anthems of various countries, with the lyrics translated into English; and Symphony for a Broken Orchestra, designed to utilize the flaws in faulty instruments stockpiled by the Philadelphia school system. For his latest work, The Day, which was released in January by Cantaloupe Music (a label he co-owns), Lang mined the lyrics from the Internet, a method he'd already experimented with on Crowd Out. The result is a piece of music so potent that it makes the underlying idea seem not merely clever, but smart.  PHOTO: David Lang. (Photograph by Chris Pizzello/AP)