The Monkey King (Sun Wukong) is one of the the most beloved characters from Chinese legend. In the most famous telling, he accompanies the monk Xuanzang as he travels the famous Journey to the West to bring the Buddhist scriptures from India to China.
Monkey King Versus the Spider Wizard tells the tale of how Sun Wukong rescues Xuanzang from the Spider Demons (蜘蛛精). The Spider Demons disguise themselves as seven sisters living in a thatched hut in the Silk Cave. When Xuanzang
stumbles upon them while begging for alms, they trap him in spider silk that they shoot from their navels. They are bested in battle by Sun Wukong who frees Xuanzang.
Both Monkey King Battles the Generals and Monkey King Versus the Spider Wizard were written for Jun Qian’s West Meets East recording project.
Composer Justin Merritt was the youngest-ever winner of the ASCAP Foundation Rudolph Nissim Award. He is also the winner of a host of other awards including the McKnight Fellowship, the Copland Award, and the Polyphonos Prize. His music has been played by the Minnesota Orchestra, Indianapolis Symphony, and on A Prairie Home Companion.
His evening length cantata, The Path, was premiered at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis in April 2018. The work is a setting of a collection of Buddhist Pali scriptures translated by the composer and set for multiple choirs, soloists, and large orchestra.
He received his Bachelors from Trinity University and his Masters and Doctorate from Indiana University. He studied composition with Samuel Adler, Sven-David Sandstrom, Claude Baker, Timothy Kramer, Don Freund, and electronic and computer music with Jeffrey Hass. He is currently Professor and Chair of Music at St. Olaf College. He resides in Northfield, Minnesota with his wife Faye and their children Cullen Fang Ouxiang and Molly Fang Qinghe.