Composers Festival spotlight: Robert Morris

The Mizzou New Music Initiative is most grateful to Robert Morris for agreeing to serve as one of the two distinguished guest composers at the 2018 Mizzou International Composers Festival.

Morris, a composer and professor at Eastman School of Music, graciously re-arranged his summer schedule on short notice to come to Columbia after composer Chen Yi had to withdraw for medical reasons.

Festival-goers will be able to hear two of Morris’ works during the MICF.  As part of their concert on Thursday night at the Missouri Theatre, resident ensemble Alarm Will Sound will perform Morris’ “In Concert,” and Friday’s “Mizzou New Music” concert will include his electronic piece “Mountain Streams.”

While at the festival, Morris also will give a public presentation about his music; teach the seven resident composers in individual and group sessions; and consult with Alarm Will Sound on their performance of his music.

Morris was born in Cheltenham, England and received his musical education at the Eastman School and at the University of Michigan, where he earned his masters and doctoral degrees in composition and ethnomusicology.

He has taught at Eastman since 1980, serving as chair of the composition department from 1999 to 2005 and again from 2008 to 2011. Before his appointment at Eastman, Morris taught composition, electronic music, and music theory at the University of Hawaii; at Yale University, where he was chairman of the composition department and director of the Yale Electronic Music Studio; and at the University of Pittsburgh, where he directed the Computer and Electronic Studio.

Morris has composed more than 160 musical works, which have been performed in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia, and recorded on labels including CRI, New World, Music Gallery Editions, Neuma, Music and Arts, Fanfare, Centaur, Open Space, Innova, Yank Gulch, Albany, and Attacca.

In addition to his music and teaching, Morris has written four books and more than 50 articles and reviews on subjects including musical analysis and aesthetics; compositional design; electronic and computer music; the Carnatic music of south India; and more.

He is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the A. Whitney Griswold Foundation, the American Music Center, the Hanson Institute of American Music, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 1975 he was a MacDowell Colony fellow, and in 2008, a Djerassi artist.

Morris has been guest composer at many festivals and series of new music, including the ISCM Festival of Contemporary MusicInternational Conferences of Computer MusicComposer to Composer, Composer’s Symposium, Kobe International Modern Music Festival, Heidelberg Contemporary Music Festival, Western Illinois University New Music Festival, Center for Research in Electronic Art TechnologyMidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music’s  New Music Festival, New Music on the Point, University of South Florida at Tampa New Music Festival, and more.

He has received numerous awards and commissions from organizations and ensembles including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Yale University, Speculum Musicae, Brave New Works, JACK Quartet, Momenta String Quartet, The Society for New Music, Alienor Harpsichord Society, Hartt College Festival of Contemporary Organ Music, National Flute Association, and more.

For more about Robert Morris, read the interview with him published in 2010 by New Music Box, and watch a video in which he discusses his work SOUND/PATH/FIELD, one of series of works inspired by his enjoyment of hiking that are intended to be performed outdoors. You can hear some samples of Robert Morris’ music in the embedded players below.

“Mysterious Landscape [excerpt],” recorded live by Robert Morris at Eastman School of Music’s Hatch Recital Hall.

“Entelechy 2012” (version p100g250) for piano with electronic modification

“Still,” performed by Solungga Fang-Tzu Liu (piano)

“Oracle,” performed in March 2011 at Lettuce Lake Park in Tampa, FL by the University of South Florida New-Music Consortium, conducted by Baljinder Sekhon