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postheadericon Jon Jang Biography

For over two decades, Jon Jang has developed his own musical language based on a concept he calls paper son, paper songs.

Because of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Chinese created the “paper son” slot system where Chinese could claim US citizenship to stay in this country by purchasing false birth certificate papers from a Chinese father who had US citizenship. The surname of Jon’s grandfather was Woo and he became a “paper son” by purchasing the legal citizenship documents from a father named Jang.

Inspired by this Chinese clever method, paper songs embraces Jon Jang’s concept of Americanizing Chinese folk music. The melodies look Chinese on paper (music notation) but sound “American.”

Jon Jang gives a musical voice to a history that has been silent. A majority of his works represents a chronology of Chinese American history in San Francisco. Commissioned by the Sacramento Philharmonic Orchestra and Oakland East Bay Symphony, Jang composed The Chinese American Symphony, a work that pays tribute to the Chinese who built the first transcontinental railroad in United States. The work premiered in 2007 in Sacramento, California and in 2008 in Oakland.

Other works include Unbound Chinatown (2007), Paper Son, Paper Songs (2006) Island: the Immigrant Suite No. 2 for the Kronos Quartet and Cantonese Opera singer (1995) inspired by the poetry of Chinese immigrants who were detained at Angel Island Immigration Station in San Francisco during 1910-40, the score for the dramatic adaptation of Maxine Hong Kingston’s The Women Warrior (1994) and When Sorrow Turns to Joy – A Musical Tribute to Paul Robeson (2002) inspired by Robeson’s collaboration with a Chinese choir in 1941.

Jang has recorded with Max Roach, James Newton and David Murray. His ensembles have toured at major concert halls and music festivals in China, South Africa (1994), Europe, Canada and the United States. In 2001, Jon toured with Max Roach as part of a trio in Zurich, Berlin, Milan and the Royal Festival Hall in London.

Jon Jang received a mid-career visionary artist award from the Ford Foundation in 2006. He joined Bernice Johnson Reagon as two of four Visiting Fellows at Stanford University in 2007 as part of the Stanford Institute for Diversity in the Arts. Jang has received commissions and grants from Creative Work Fund (1999, 2006), San Francisco Arts Commission (1995, 1998, 2002, 2006), Meet The Composer New Residences (2000-2003), Chanticleer (1999), The Library of Congress (1999), Rockefeller MAP Fund (1997, 2002), Creative Capital (2000-2003), Meet The Composer (1995), Kronos Quartet (1995) and NEA Jazz Composition Fellowship award (1995).

Last Updated (Monday, 07 February 2011 14:23)


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