Vivian Fung, Composer

The characteristic qualities of Fung’s music are efficiency and directness…. [her String Quartet No. 3] is terrifically difficult, cutting on the edge of range and volume in parts and demanding wildly non-intuitive rhythms in others; it’s also surprisingly affective.
— The Montreal Gazette
One of today’s most eclectic composers
— NPR
Photo: Jim Graham

JUNO Award-winning composer Vivian Fung has a unique talent for combining idiosyncratic textures and styles into large-scale works, reflecting her multicultural background. NPR calls her “one of today’s most eclectic composers.” This is supported by many of her latest works, including Humanoid for solo cello and prerecorded electronics; Clarinet Quintet: Frenetic Memories, a reflection on her travels to visit minority groups in China’s Yunnan province; Earworms, commissioned by Canada’s National Arts Centre Orchestra, which musically depicts our diverted attention spans and multi-tasking lives; and The Ice Is Talking for solo percussion and electronics,commissioned by the Banff Centre,using three ice blocks to illustrate the beauty and fragility of our environment.

Highlights of Fung’s 2019–2020 season include the UK premiere of Birdsong, performed by violinist Midori at Kings Place in London, world premiere performances of a new trumpet concerto with trumpeter Mary Elizabeth Bowden and the Erie Philharmonic, performances of Dust Devils by The Philadelphia Orchestra led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra led by Peter Oundjian, Fanfare with the Florida Orchestra, Aqua by the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal underconductor James Gaffigan, Earworms with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra led by Bramwell Tovey, Pizzicato with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra led by Miguel Harth-Bedoya. Fung will also write new works commissioned by Standing Wave Ensemble in Vancouver and L’arc Trio in San Francisco.

Recent season highlights include a new orchestral work, A Child Dreams of Toys, commissioned by the 2019 Winnipeg New Music Festival; a new Concerto for Two Violins and String Orchestra, for the Manitoba Chamber Orchestra, which was toured throughout the Maritime provinces and will make its way to Ontario and Quebec this summer; and the world premiere of String Quartet No. 4 “Insects and Machines,” commissioned by the Red Bank Chamber Music Society and performed by the American String Quartet.

Fung has a deep interest in exploring cultures through travel and research. In early 2019, Fung traveled to Cambodia to connect with her roots and collect research for a new opera. She traveled to Southwest China in 2012 to study minority music and cultures, continuing research that previously inspired Yunnan Folk Songs (2011), commissioned by Fulcrum Point New Music in Chicago with support from the MAPFund. As a composer whose trips often inspire her music, Fung has also explored diverse cultures in North Vietnam, Spain, and Indonesia. She toured Bali in 2004, 2008, and 2010, and competed in the BaliArts Festival as an ensemble member and composer in Gamelan Dharma Swara.

Fung has received numerous awards and grants, including the 2015 Jan V. Matejcek New Classical Music Award for achievement in new music from the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN), a Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, the New York Foundation for the Arts’ Gregory Millard Fellowship, and grants from ASCAP, BMI, American Music Center, MAP Fund, American Symphony Orchestra League, American Composers Forum, and the Canada Council for the Arts. She is an associate composer of the Canadian Music Centre and currently serves as Vice Chair of the board of the American Composers Forum.

Many distinguished artists and ensembles around the world have embraced Fung’s music as part of their core repertoire, including the Alabama Symphony, American Opera Projects, Chicago Sinfonietta, Milwaukee Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, San José Chamber Orchestra, Shanghai Quartet, Staatskapelle Karlsruhe, Suwon Chorale of South Korea, and Ying Quartet, to name a few.

Fung’s Glimpses for prepared piano has been championed by a diverse group of pianists, including Conor Hanick, Jenny Lin, Margaret Leng Tan, and Bryan Wagorn. Conductors with whom she has collaborated include Long Yu, Justin Brown, Mei-Ann Chen, Andrew Cyr, Rei Hotoda, Barbara Day Turner, Alexander Mickelthwate, Peter Oundjian, Edwin Outwater, Steven Schick, Gerard Schwarz, and Bramwell Tovey.

In 2012, Naxos Canadian Classics released a recording of Fung’s Violin Concerto [No.1], Piano Concerto “Dreamscapes,” and Glimpses. The Violin Concerto earned Fung the 2013 JUNO Award for “Classical Composition of the Year.” Several of Fung’s other works have also been released commercially on the Telarc, Çedille, Innova, and Signpost labels. Her “Pot Roast a la RBG” is the most recent feature on the Çedille record label as part of the CD Notorious RBG in Song about Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

Passionate about fostering the talent of the next generation, Vivian Fung has started a new Creative Music workshop for members of the San Jose Youth Chamber Orchestra this fall. She mentored young composers this summer in programs at the American Composers Forum’s Next Notes, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber Players, and Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. She recently received an “Outstanding Career Influencer” Award from Santa Clara University, where she serves on the composition faculty. Born in Edmonton, Canada, Fung began her composition studies with composer Violet Archer and received her doctorate from The Juilliard School in New York, where her mentors included David Diamond and Robert Beaser. She currently lives in California with her husband Charles Boudreau, their son Julian, and their shiba inu Mulan.