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Kenji Bunch

Portland, OR      

Kenji Bunch is one of America’s most engaging, influential, and prolific composers. Through an expansive blend of classical and vernacular styles, Bunch makes music that’s “clearly modern but deeply respectful of tradition and instantly enjoyable.” (The Washington Post) Deemed “emotional Americana,” (Oregon ArtsWatch) and infused with folk and roots influences, Bunch’s work has inspired a new genre classification: “Call it neo-American: casual on the outside, complex underneath, immediate and accessible to first-time listeners… Bunch’s music is shiningly original.” (The Oregonian) Hailed by The New York Times as “A Composer To Watch” and cited by Alex Ross in his seminal book The Rest Is Noise, Bunch’s wit, lyricism, unpredictability, and exquisite craftsmanship earn acclaim from audiences, performers, and critics alike.

Bunch grew up in the Pacific Northwest, received conservatory training at The Juilliard School, and after 20 years in New York City, returned to reside in his hometown of Portland, Oregon where he serves as Artistic Director of Fear No Music. His interests in history, philosophy, and intergenerational and cross-cultural sharing of the arts reflect in his work. The varied style references in his classical music writing authentically mirror the diversity of global influence on American culture. Irresistible grooves frequent Bunch’s music, revealing his deft ability to integrate bluegrass, hip hop, jazz, and funk idioms. At the same time, the rich, tonal harmonies and drawn-out, satisfying builds which characterize his work have wide emotive appeal, and easily lend themselves to dance and film.

Over sixty American orchestras have performed Bunch’s music. His vivid instrumentation “reache(s) into every section of the orchestra to create an intriguing mixture of sonic colors.” (NW Reverb) Recent works include commissions and premieres from the Seattle Symphony, the Oregon Symphony, the Lark Quartet, the Britt Festival, Music From Angel Fire, Chamber Music Northwest, the Eugene Ballet, Third Angle New Music, the Grant Park Music Festival, and 45th Parallel, with whom he serves as Composer in Residence. All-Bunch concerts have been mounted in New York City, Boston, Denver, Nashville, Mobile (AL) and Portland (OR), as well as at the Perpignon Conservatoire in southern France, the Stamford Festival in England, and The Oranjewoud Festival in The Netherlands. His dance collaborations include work with such renowned choreographers as Toni Pimble, David Parsons, Nai-Ni Chen, Kate Skarpetowska, Paul Vasterling, and Darrell Grand Moultrie. Bunch’s film credits include The Bellman Equation and The Argentum Prophecies, and his extensive discography includes recordings on Sony/BMG, EMI Classics, Koch, Kleos Classics, RCA, Naxos, Pony Canyon, GENUIN, Capstone, MSR Classics, Innova, ARS, and Crystal labels.

Also an outstanding violist, Bunch was the first student ever to receive dual Bachelor and Master of Music degrees in viola and composition from The Juilliard School and was a founding member of the highly acclaimed ensembles Flux Quartet (1996-2002) and Ne(x)tworks (2003-2011), and played fiddle and sang with the band Citigrass for over 15 years. He is a frequent performer with jazz, pop, folk, country, rock, and experimental musicians. Bunch teaches viola, composition, and music theory at Portland State University, Reed College, and for the Portland Youth Philharmonic.

Supermaximum for Orchestra

A live video recording of the premiere of “Spermaximum” for orchestra, from November, 2013. This 10 minute work draws inspiration from the tradition of Southern prison songs from the Depression era.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Headlines March 13 2002 | By Kenji Bunch
On Being a YCA Composer-In-Residence

Becoming involved with YCA was a springboard to a much larger sphere of people, both musicians and listeners who discovered that I was writing music.