41. Chen Yi [365 Composers for 2013]


10th February – Chen Yi


Chen Yi (born April 4th 1953) is our composer for 10th February, to mark Chinese New Year.
Nationality: Chinese
Lifespan: Still alive
Genre: 20th Century
Education: Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing
Fame Ranking: 5

Dr. Chen is a remarkable composer who survived the cultural oppression of the Chinese government in the 1960s and went on to have an illustrious international career. Born into a talented family, Dr. Chen began learning the piano aged three. When she was 15, the “Cultural Revolution” started in China. Mao Zedong, the Chairman of the Communist Party, in trying to remove any vestiges of capitalism from Chinese Society, persecuted anybody and anything associated with Western culture. Chen, who had been brought up with the music of Bach and Mozart, found her family split up and banished to the countryside, and education in China was halted for ten years. Chen continued to play, against the odds. She stuffed bed clothes inside her piano to muffle the sound, so that no one would hear her playing. Chen spent two years doing forced labour.

In 1982, Chen gained her B.A. from the Central Conservatory in Beijing. Four years later, she became the first woman ever to achieve a Master’s degree in composition in China, A concert of her music was broadcast on Chinese TV in recognition of her achievements. Soon after, Chen moved to America, where she continues to reside.

Chen first found success in the United States in the 1990s. Her unique blend of Chinese and Western musical elements has been a hit, and she has since had works commissioned by a number of influential musicians and orchestras, including the percussionist Evelyn Glennie, the BBC Proms and the New York Philharmonic. She has also been widely recorded.

Dr. Chen currently works at the University of Missouri-Kansas City Conservatory of Music and Dance.


Here is “Happiness”, by Chen Yi:



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