Pulitzer-Prize winner Zhou Long is recognized for his unique body of work that pairs aesthetic and musical elements of the East and West. Zhou is a pioneer in stretching Western instruments eastward and Chinese instruments westward with contemporary performing techniques, achieving an exciting and fertile common ground. Born into an artistic family, Zhou began studying the piano at an early age. During the Chinese Cultural Revolution, Zhou was sent to work on a rural state farm. He resumed his musical studies in 1973, focusing on composition, music theory, and conducting, and the performance of traditional Chinese music. In 1977, he enrolled in the first composition class at the reopened Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing. Following graduation from the Conservatory in 1983, he was appointed composer-in-residence with the China Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra.
In 1985, Zhou moved to the United States to study composition at Columbia University under a fellowship, where his primary teachers included Chou Wen-Chung, Mario Davidovsky, and George Edwards. He received a Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 1993. He then served as music director of the chamber ensemble Music From China. The organization received ASCAP’s prestigious Adventurous Programming Award in 1999.
Zhou Long was awarded the 2011 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his first opera, Madame White Snake, written in collaboration with librettist Cerise Lim Jacobs, co-commissioned by Opera Boston and the Beijing Music Festival Arts Foundation and premiered in 2010. Nine Odes, a symphonic epic for four solo vocalists and orchestra based on poems by Qu Yuan, was commissioned by the Beijing Music Festival and premiered by the Guangzhou Symphony in 2013. Beijing Rhyme was co-commissioned and premiered by the Beijing Symphony Orchestra in 2012. Zhou’s Tipsy Poet for cello and orchestra, a co-commission by the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra and the WDR Symphony in Cologne, and the Dresden Music Festival, premiered at the Dresden Music Festival in 2019.Other notable works include Ancient Echoes, Brilliant Prospect (Southern Wind), and Symphony ‘Humen 1839’which was co-written with his wife, violinist and composer Chen Yi.
Among the ensembles that have commissioned works from him are the Bavarian Radio, BBC, Kansas City, Honolulu, California Pacific and Singapore Symphonies; the Brooklyn, Tokyo, and China Philharmonics, the New Music Consort, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Kronos, Shanghai, Ciompi, and Chester string quartets, Ensemble Modern-Frankfurt, the Post-Classical Ensemble, PRISM Saxophone Quartet, New York New Music Ensemble, Chanticleer, Opera Boston, Beijing Music Festival, and musicians Yo-Yo Ma, Lan Shui, Long Yu, Lihua Tan, and Leonard Slatkin. Zhou has been the recipient of commissions from the Koussevitzy Music Foundation in the Library of Congress, the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University, Chamber Music America, and the New York State Council on the Arts. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Guggenheim and Rockefeller Foundations, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.
Zhou Long served as the composer-in-residence for Music Alive!, the Silk Road Project Festival of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. He has also served as the composer-in-residence at the Cleveland Institute of Music. Zhou Long is the Bonfils Distinguished Research Professor of Composition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.