Chinese composer Du Yun lives in New York and has been influenced by the music of both of her homes. The small chamber works on Dinosaur Scar lack tonal reference and intermittently use electronics and improvisation, yet the music has clear pictorial references, denoted by the titles and by the composer's descriptions. In no way is Du Yun's music stereotypically Chinese, yet one might point to a tendency toward pictorialism in various Asian musical traditions. She has, in any case, succeeded in appealing to various audiences, winning the academically oriented Pulitzer Prize for music in 2017 (for her opera Angel's Bone) and then a more public-facing Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition for Air Glow, featured on this release. That work, for five trumpets, guitar and electric bass (played by the same musician), and an electric beat, falls into two large sections that define separate planes, if looked at abstractly, or by the light indicated by the title. Sample the richly evocative Run in a Graveyard, to which any listener, even those who "don't like contemporary music," will respond. That work is for alto flute and electronics, and the works on Dinosaur Scar are all chamber pieces for various combinations encompassed by the International Contemporary Ensemble. This group was formed at the Oberlin Conservatory in Ohio and has been associated with Du Yun for some years; a real flavor of intimacy and cooperation is transmitted. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim