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Sean Griffin

Los Angeles, CA      

Native Los Angeles composer and director Sean Griffin’s performance and musical works are animated by dense rhythmic structuring and improvisation. They range from instrumental works to immersive operas, extended choral techniques, installation, rhythmic games and devised movement patterns. His performance compositions often feature the unique talents of the instrumentalists and performers with whom he collaborates extensively. Creatively recombining ethnographic, archival and historical research with critical artistic inquiry to pursue a multidimensional dramaturgy, his work as an opera director has been noted for its expansive inclusion of diverse media and integration of movement, community engagement, technology and museum objects into vivid, complex spectacles. Recent works have engaged resonances of transiency, exile, eugenics archives, abduction, the Spanish Enlightenment, class struggle, Hollywood tabloid reporting, the Cold War, improvisation, and competing political cultures.

Griffin is a long-time collaborator with many artists including Catherine Sullivan, Charles Gaines, percussionist Aiyun Huang and vocal artist Juliana Snapper. In addition to recording and performing as a pianist, harpist, conductor and arranger, he is the Director of Opera Povera, an interdisciplinary consortium devoted to the creation and performance of new operatic and interdisciplinary performance and exhibition projects for which he received a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation in 2011. In 2014, he was a Mellon Fellow for Arts Practice & Scholarship at the University of Chicago’s Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. 

Griffin has received numerous residencies including at Yaddo, MacDowell, and three research and production-based residencies at EMPAC who then commissioned his large-scale, intermedia opera Cold Spring in 2010. His collaborative works have been presented internationally at venues including June in Buffalo, MATA Festival, Berlin’s Volksbühne, Secession Vienna, London’s Royal Academy and the Tate Modern, Taipei City Arts Festival, Walker Art Center, Festival B:OM 2010 in Seoul, Korea, MoMA in New York, LACMA, Armand Hammer Museum, the MAK Center for Art and Architecture, REDCAT at the Disney Hall in Los Angeles, and EMPAC in Troy, NY. He received an MFA from CalArts, studying with Mel Powell, and a Ph.D. from the University of California, San Diego where he worked with George Lewis and Chaya Czernowin.

The Making of Cold Spring, 2010

A large-scale, intermedia opera commissioned an produced by the The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Media and Performing Arts Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute that incorporates museum collections, scientific archives and performance institutions into an opera.

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PER GYNT Changdan, Festval BO:M, Seoul, Korea 2010

Excerpts from collaboration between Catherine Sullivan, Sean Griffin and Yohangza Theater Company performed, Seoul, May 2010
Sullivan and Griffin’s work playfully instrumentalize the idea that no historical object can persist in its own self-understanding. An anxious, unresolved political sensibility emerges. Yohanza Theatre Company places importance on the actors’ understanding of their bodies, their creativity, musical abilities and communication methods with audiences.

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To Valerie Solanas and Marilyn Monroe in Recognition of Their Desperation, 2012

A new intermedia, experimental opera created in collaboration with Pauline Oliveros and produced for the 2012 Now Festival at REDCAT supported by USArtist Matching Grant.

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NewMusicBox Articles

Articles May 4 2011 | By Sean Griffin
Setting Cold Spring in Motion

At its core, Sean Griffin's intermedia opera Cold Spring is an attempt to bring museums and archives together with performing institutions and local artists for mutual self-reflection and appreciation of...