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Eliza Brown

Greencastle, IN   

Eliza Brown’s music is motivated by sound and its potential for meaning, an engagement with the broader arts and humanities, and a fascination with unanswerable existential questions. Eliza’s compositions have been performed by leading interpreters of new music, including Ensemble Dal Niente, Spektral Quartet, ensemble recherche, International Contemporary Ensemble, Network for New Music, Ensemble SurPlus, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and Wild Rumpus New Music Collective. Her works have been heard on stages throughout the USA and in Mexico, Colombia, Germany, Hungary, Spain, Canada, and the UAE, and have been recorded on multiple labels.

 Eliza’s work is frequently intertextual, opening dialogues with existing pieces of music, historical styles, and other cultural artifacts. Her work is also frequently interdisciplinary, with a particular focus on music-theater and intentional, project-specific collaborative processes. These traits are exemplified in works such as Prospect and Refuge, a music-theater work for four female voices which explores how public spaces shape social experience. Created in collaboration with architect Hannah Marzynski, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, and stage director Emmi Hilger, the piece is designed to be re-staged at each new performance site and it incorporates re-composed quotations from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde that speak to how deeply humans can be affected by place. Eliza’s 2017 monodrama The Body of the State portrays the life of Juana of Castile, a Renaissance Spanish queen who was declared mad and imprisoned by her father and sons. Its libretto was co-written with six women who were at the time of writing incarcerated at Indiana Women’s Prison, and its instrumental performers appear onstage with the singer, subtly enacting the confining social structures and power dynamics that shaped Juana’s existence. Other recent projects have addressed themes of climate change, ecology, and the strange condition of being human amidst the Great Acceleration of the Anthropocene. 

Eliza’s artistic interests give rise to questions about the interpretation and meaning of music that drive her scholarship. Her dissertation, A Narratological Analysis of ‘Pnima…ins innere’ by Chaya Czernowin, uses methods drawn from the interdisciplinary field of narratology (the study of narrative) to examine how Czernowin’s opera tells its story by means of music alone, as the singers in Pnima sing phonemes and vocal sounds rather than words.

 Eliza is a dedicated teacher who enjoys helping students strengthen their creative voices and engage complex ideas with rigor and enthusiasm. She is currently Assistant Professor of Music Theory and Composition at DePauw University, and has had a long association with the Walden School Young Musicians Program in Dublin, NH, where she spent many summers as a faculty member and Academic Dean. Eliza holds a B.Mus. summa cum laude in composition from the University of Michigan and a D.M.A. in composition from Northwestern University. 

Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (after Mahler)

The complexity of human civilization has been countered throughout human history by an ascetic urge to withdraw from society and lead a simpler life. “Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen (after Mahler)” for cello, soprano, and electronics, presents and questions this timeless desire, borrowing the text and a selection of musical ideas from Mahler’s orchestral song of the same title (I am lost to the world; text by Friederich Rückert). This recording features Chris Wild, cello, and Amanda DeBoer Bartlett, soprano.

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String Quartet No. 1

A brief chord progression lies at the heart of String Quartet No. 1, but it is not always apparent on the surface of the music. The view of the progression presented in this piece is that of a cameraman, looking through the lens at a figure enveloped in fog. As the cameraman attempts to focus the image, we see the figure as a distant blur, merging with its murky surroundings, then suddenly, momentarily, a clear image – the figure sharpens, becomes human; perhaps we can even see the expression on her face. Recorded by Spektral Quartet.

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Prospect and Refuge

Prospect and Refuge is a wordless music-theater work for four female voices. Four people meet in a public space, bringing unique strengths, weaknesses, and desires to this chance encounter. The piece is designed to be re-interpreted and re-staged in each performance space according to the space’s history and social function, making the piece adaptably site-specific. Architect Hannah Marzynski and stage director Emmi Hilger contributed to the work’s development. Performed by Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble; audio and video by Aphorism Studios

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