Inaugural Golden Bells International Composition Contest

for Chinese Instruments with Western Orchestra

A new composition competition for works featuring a traditional Chinese instrument with Western orchestra will culminate in a concert featuring winning scores in Chicago’s Orchestra Hall in September of 2020. Contest rules are available online. The competition is hosted by the Great Lakes Confucius Institute Arts Festival and Confucius Institute at Valparaiso University, in cooperation with the Liu Tianhua and Abing Traditional Chinese Music Foundation of China.

Since the time of Confucius, music in China has served as a crucial element of organization in society, bringing people into harmonious relationship. China’s chime bells, with their magnificent appearance and reverberating sound, vividly reflect the ageless wealth and profundity of Chinese culture, and are an icon of Chinese music. The Golden Bells International Composition Competition will serve to introduce Chinese music and culture to America and the world, and to promote cultural exchange.

For the first biennial contest, the featured instrument will be the ancient chime bells themselves, specifically a 24-bell set of Dasheng Zhong cast by bianzhong authority Dr. Li Youping, based on a surviving set from the Song dynasty. The bells can each clearly produce two independent pitches, so the number of pitches available is 46, ranging mostly chromatically from C3 to F6.

Submissions from 4 to 8 minutes in duration are invited internationally from all composers (except those associated with the competition or Valparaiso University) in two age categories: open, and age thirty-five and younger as of October 1, 2020. Winners in each category will receive a Grand Prize of $5000 plus public performance. A limited number of Judges Prizes of $1500 will also be awarded. At least two works will be premiered in Chicago in September of 2020. Specifications for the bells and instrumentation of the orchestra are available with the contest rules.

Submissions are due May 1, 2020. The winning composers will be required to submit a full set of parts by August 1, 2020.

The Judges Panel includes five international composers experienced in Sino-American music collaborations and a professional Dasheng Zhong performer. The Advisory Board of composers, musicians, musicologists, and music activists includes Dr. Richard AmRhein, Vice President at Valparaiso University, and distinguished composer Dr. Chen Yi, recipient of the Ives Living Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Valparaiso University and its Confucius Institute retain the exclusive right to the premiere performance, and right to possible subsequent performances for a period of two years. CIVU plans to publish the winning works, with the copyright to be shared by the parties including the University, the Institute, and the composers through consultation.

The Dasheng Bells used for the competition are pictured above, at Chicago’s Millennium Park where they were featured in performance in September of 2018.