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Michael Harrison

Yonkers, NY   

Michael Harrison

Composer/pianist Michael Harrison is a protégé of La Monte Young and Terry Riley, and has been called “an American Maverick” by Philip Glass. The New York Times wrote of his recent collaboration with Grammy-winning vocal project Roomful of Teeth, “Harrison’s ‘Just Constellations’… proved particularly arresting, a celestial soundscape of gorgeous harmonies… the notes rang out like a jubilantly microtonal choir of bells.”

Harrison has collaborated with leading performers, filmmakers, choreographers and artists including filmmaker Bill Morrison, cellist Maya Beiser, Stuttgart Ballet, JACK Quartet, Del Sol Quartet, Contemporaneous, and Young People’s Chorus of New York City. His compositions have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, BAM Next Wave Festival, MoMA, Metropolitan Museum of Art, Louvre Museum, Centre Pompidou, MASS MoCA, Spoleto Festival USA, the United Nations, Bang on a Can marathons, Ojai Music Festival, Other Minds Festival, Klavier Festival Ruhr, Quattro Pianoforti Festival in Rome, American Academy in Rome, Strings of Autumn Festival in Prague, Havana Contemporary Music Festival, Sundance and other film festivals throughout the world.

Time Loops (Cantaloupe Music), his CD with Maya Beiser, was selected for NPR’s “Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012.” Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation (Cantaloupe Music), his 75-minute work for just intonation piano,was chosen by The New York Times, Boston Globe and Time Out New York as one of the Best Classical Recordings of 2007. Critic Tim Page wrote: Michael Harrison’s ‘Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation’ is probably the most brilliant and original extended composition for solo piano since the early works of Frederic Rzewski three decades ago.

Harrison is a disciple of master Indian vocalist Mashkoor Ali Khan and the co-founder and president of the American Academy of Indian Classical Music. He has also been on faculty at the Rhode Island School of Design, Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance Program, and Bang on a Can’s Summer Institute.

Upcoming recordings include Harmonic Constellations for violinist Mari Kimura on New World Records, Radians Phase II for Third Sound on Innova Recordings, and Cello Constellations for Clarice Jensen on Sono Luminus. His works have been released on Bang on a Can’s Cantaloupe Music label, New Albion Records, Important Records, and Fortuna Records. Recent awards include the American Composers Forum Delegation to Cuba, Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Classical Recording Foundation Award, IBLA Foundation Grand Prize, University of Oregon Alumnus of the Year Award, and fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, Yaddo, MASS MoCA, Bogliasco Foundation, Atlantic Music Festival, Millay Colony for the Arts, Djerassi Artists Residency, Ucross Foundation, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony, where he serves on the Fellows Executive Committee.

Profile photo by Matthew Capowski for I Care If You Listen Magazine

Just Ancient Loops, III. Ascension (2012), Maya Beiser, multi-track cellos

From Harrison’s collaboration with filmmaker Bill Morrison and cellist Maya Beiser. The work is a 25-minute musical odyssey for an orchestra of cellos, with each cello part recorded separately by Beiser in the studio. “The cello,” relates Beiser, “becomes this ‘Uber instrument,’ laying down the drones, building rhythmical grooves on top of each other, singing melismatic melodies, and reaching up to the stratosphere as the music evolves and builds into a massive, exhilarating climax.” CD was selected for NPR’s Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012.

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Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation (2007)

Harrison performs the 55-minute abridged version of Revelation, his seminal work for just intonation piano in his own tuning system. Beyond: Microtonal Music Festival, Andy Warhol Museum, February 2015. Recommended excerpt: the final 4-6 minutes.

The CD was chosen by The New York Times, Boston Globe and Time Out New York as one of the Best Classical Recordings of 2007. Critic Tim Page wrote “Revelation is probably the most brilliant and original extended composition for solo piano since the early works of Frederic Rzewski three decades ago.

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Just Constellations (2015)

Just Constellations was commissioned by Roomful of Teeth and premiered at MASS MoCA in August 2015. The work explores gradually evolving constellations of tones in extended just intonation tunings. The New York Times wrote “Michael Harrison’s ‘Just Constellations’… proved particularly arresting, a celestial soundscape of gorgeous harmonies… the notes rang out like a jubilantly microtonal choir of bells.”

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