Composers Festival spotlight: Eli Keszler

For this year’s expanded edition of the Mizzou International Composers Festival, the Mizzou New Music Initiative is teaming up with Columbia-based experimental music organization Dismal Niche to present two free late-night concerts on Thursday, July 25 and Friday, July 26 after the performances at the Missouri Theatre.

Friday’s late-night concert will feature percussionist, composer, and artist Eli Keszler in a solo performance starting at 9:30 p.m. at the Firestone Baars Chapel on the campus of Stephens College.

Keszler (pictured), who’s based in New York City, earned his BA in music performance and composition from the New England Conservatory of Music, and has lectured as a visiting artist at Brooklyn College, Columbia University, New England Conservatory, Dartmouth University, Washington University, Mass Art, and UMass Boston.

His music, praised as “a unique combination of intense drumming and sparse, often dramatic sound design” which “occupies a unique but imaginative space on the experimental music landscape,” can be heard on solo recordings released by Shelter Press, Empty Editions, ESP-Disk’, PAN and his own label REL records.

Keszler’s two most recent releases are Stadium, which made several critics’ year-end “best of” lists in 2018 and was called “an isolationist avant-jazz masterpiece that’s both highly complex and entirely accessible,” and Empire, an EP that came out earlier this year.

As a composer, Keszler has received commissions from the Iceland Symphony Orchestra, the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the String Orchestra of Brooklyn, and So Percussion. He also has collaborated with Oneohtrix Point Never, Laurel Halo, Rashad Becker, and David Grubbs, and many others.

Keszler’s works frequently explore the relationship between sound and the environment, whether physical or virtual, in which it is heard, and his music, installations, and visual art have appeared at the Whitney Museum, Lincoln Center, MIT List Visual Arts Center, the Victoria and Albert Museum, Sculpture Center, The Kitchen, South London Gallery, Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, Barbican at St. Luke’s, Walker Art Center, and numerous other institutions, galleries, and venues.

His awards include a Sound and Music Fellowship from the New York Foundation For The Arts, grants from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts and Creative Connections, the MATA Composers Prize, and the Gaudeamus Composer Award.

For more about Eli Keszler, read the interview with him published earlier this year on and his interview from October 2018 with You can see and hear samples of some of his performances and compositions via the embedded players below.

“Stadium,” recorded October 2, 2018 at The Kitchen in New York City

Keszler performs live on October 24, 2018 at Zebulon in Los Angeles

Keszler improvises for Fact magazine’s video series “Against The Clock,” recorded in February 2019 at his home studio in NYC