Ge Gan-Ru, born in 1954 in Shanghai, has been called China’s first avant-garde composer. He received degrees in both violin and composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, where he also served as Assistant Professor of Composition. In 1982, when China was still largely unfamiliar with 20th-century Western music, he wrote a controversial piece called Yi feng for solo cello which used unorthodox extended techniques to produce timbres simulating Chinese percussive instruments. In 1983, he was awarded a fellowship to attend Columbia University where he studied with Chou Wen-chung and Mario Davidovsky.
Ge has composed music for theatre, dance, and documentary and feature films as well as concert music. The New York Philharmonic, American Composers Orchestra, BBC Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Hong Kong Philharmonic, the Kronos Quartet, and many other ensembles have performed his works. He is a board director of Meet the Composer. Ge’s music reflects his deep interest in amalgamating Eastern and Western musical aesthetics. He writes, “While in Western music, composers are deeply concerned with the relationships between pitches, in Chinese music what is important is the particular pitch and its microtonal and timbral character. I try to combine contemporary Western compositional techniques with my Chinese feeling and experience along with Chinese musical characteristics inherited from thousands of years ago, so as to set up a universal music world expressing natural and primitive beauty.”