Q & Andy: David Lang


In Youth, the new film from Italian director Paolo Sorrentino, Harvey Keitel and Michael Caine play the best in their fields: Keitel an iconic Hollywood director; Caine a retired composer and conductor, whose work is favored by royalty. They are old friends, and they are also just old; two men at the end of their careers who spend days comparing memories and whether they were able to urinate that day. Nominated for the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and currently playing at the Savannah Film Festival presented by SCAD, Youth is charming, poignant, and occasionally a little absurd.

Composer David Lang was tasked with creating the soundtrack for Youth, which is no mean feat considering Caine is meant to be one of the foremost composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. But Lang is no ordinary film composer. While he has worked in the industry before—he arranged the music for Darren Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream, among other things—he spends most of his time outside of Hollywood, working with the likes of the BBC Symphony, Santa Fe Opera, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Munich Chamber Orchestra, and Kronos Quartet. In 2008, Lang won the Pulitzer Prize for Music. Since then, he has been honored by the likes of Carnegie Hall and Musical America. Here, Lang answers some of our founder Andy Warhol’s favorite questions.

ANDY WARHOL: What did you eat for breakfast?

DAVID LANG: I had an orange and carrot juice smoothie.

WARHOL: What was your first job?

LANG: Working in a movie theater in Los Angeles, California. I was an usher.

WARHOL: How were you discovered?

LANG: Have I been discovered yet? Luck.

WARHOL: What are you working on now?

LANG: I’m working on an opera called Anatomy Theater, which is premiering at L.A. Opera next June.

WARHOL: What’s your favorite movie?

LANG: I would say Chronicle of a Summer (1961). It’s kind of an ethnographic new wave film from France. It’s a really beautiful film.

WARHOL: Who was the nicest person you worked for?

LANG: Paolo Sorrentino is the nicest person that I ever worked for, because he let me do the music for Youth.

WARHOL: When do you get nervous?

LANG: I get nervous when I go to public events because I think I’m going to meet people whose names I will forget.

WARHOL: What do you think about love?

LANG: I’m for it.

WARHOL: What are you reading right now?

LANG: I’m going through a phase where I’m reading every piece of Russian literature that was translated by the husband and wife translation team [Richard] Pevear and [Larissa] Volokhonsky. I read a lot of these books a long time ago and I really loved them. Then I read one of their new translations – they’re translating all the great classics of Russian literature—and I understood the book that I thought I had known a lot better. I decided I should read everything that I’d already read in the new translation, because my Russian is not good enough to read it in the original.

WARHOL: Do you get depressed if you don’t work?

LANG: Yes. After every single piece, I forget how to write music. Then I feel terrible and I feel like I will never, ever remember how to write music ever again. Then after some work, somehow, miraculously, I figure it out again.

WARHOL: What’s the most number of people you’ve performed for?

LANG: I had a premiere with the Boston Symphony at Tanglewood, and there were 10,000 people on the grass, drinking wine while they listened to it.

WARHOL: Do you dance at home?

LANG: Absolutely. To James Brown. 

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