photo: Peter Serling
Michael Gordon's music merges subtle rhythmic invention with incredible power that embodies, in the words of The New Yorker's Alex Ross, "the fury of punk rock, the nervous brilliance of free jazz and the intransigence of classical modernism." Over the past 25 years, Gordon has produced a strikingly diverse body of work, ranging from large-scale pieces for high-energy ensembles, to major orchestral commissions, to works conceived specifically for the recording studio. His music consistently embraces a collision of mysterious introspection and brutal directness that defies categorization.
Gordon's orchestral works include Beijing Harmony, commissioned by the Beijing National Centre for the Performing Arts, a work that projects the kaleidoscopic, perpetual sound of the orchestra to form a sonic architecture; Rewriting Beethoven's Seventh Symphony, a radical reworking of the original, commissioned by the 2006 Beethoven Festival in Bonn and premiered by Jonathon Nott and the Bamberger Symphony; and Sunshine of Your Love, written for over 100 instruments divided into four microtonally tuned groups. Under the baton of composer/conductor John Adams, The Ensemble Modern Orchestra toured Sunshine of Your Love through seven European capitals in 1999. Gordon's string orchestra piece Weather was commissioned by the Siemens Foundation Kultur Program, and after its tour was recorded and released on Nonesuch to great critical and popular acclaim.
Gordon's interest in exploring various sound textures has led him to create chamber works that distort traditional classical instruments with electronic effects and guitar pedals, including Potassium for the Kronos Quartet and Industry for cellist Maya Beiser. Also for Kronos, The Sad Park, written in 2006, uses the voices of child witnesses to September 11th as its subject. Gordon's monumental, 52-minute Trance, originally written for the UK-based group Icebreaker, was debuted in 1997 and was performed twice in New York City by the Signal ensemble.
Gordon has also collaborated with numerous artists in other media — most frequently with filmmaker Bill Morrison and Ridge Theater. In Decasia, a commission from Europaischer Musikmonat for the Basel Sinfonietta, the audience is encircled by the orchestra and large projections. A large-scale, single-movement, relentlessly monumental work about decay — of melody, tuning, and classical music itself — Decasia has become a cult favorite since its premiere in 2001, and is frequently performed at music festivals, art museums and film festivals around the world. Gordon and Morrison's works together also include two film symphonies centered on cities: Dystopia (about Los Angeles) in 2008 for David Robertson and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Gotham (about New York City) in 2004 for the American Composers Orchestra. Gordon and Morrison are reunited in the 2014/15 season for the premiere of a third installment of their city pieces (about Miami), commissioned by the New World Symphony.
Gordon's music has been featured prominently in the dance works of Emio Greco | PC, Wayne McGregor (for Stuttgart Ballet, Random Dance), Pina Bausch's Tanztheater Wuppertal, Heinz Spoerli (for Zürich Ballet), Ashley Page (for The Royal Ballet and The Scottish Ballet) and Club Guy & Roni, who co-commissioned Gordon's percussion sextet Timber, along with the percussion ensembles Slagwerk Den Haag and Mantra Percussion. This work, an evening-length tour de force for six 2x4s, toured with dance throughout 2009/2010 and was premiered in its concert version in June 2011. The full percussion sextet was released on Cantaloupe Music in 2011.
Gordon has been commissioned by Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, the Stuttgart Ballet, the New World Symphony, the National Centre for the Performing Arts Beijing, the BBC Proms, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Settembre Musica, the Holland Music Festival, the Dresden Festival and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival, among others. His music has been performed at the Kennedy Center, Theatre De La Ville, Barbican Centre, Oper Bonn, Kölner Philharmonie and the Southbank Centre. The recipient of multiple awards and grants, Gordon has been honored by the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. His recordings include Rushes (Cantaloupe), Timber (Cantaloupe), Weather (Nonesuch), Light is Calling (Nonesuch), Decasia (Cantaloupe), (purgatorio) POPOPERA (Cantaloupe), Van Gogh (Cantaloupe), Trance (Argo/Cantaloupe) and Big Noise from Nicaragua (NWCRI). Gordon's own ensemble, formed in 1983 as The Michael Gordon Philharmonic and renamed The Michael Gordon Band in 2000, has performed across Europe and the United States at venues as diverse as Alice Tully Hall and the punk mecca CBGB, as well as the Contemporary Music Network Tour and the Almeida Festival in London.
Born in Miami Beach in 1956, Gordon holds a Bachelor of Arts from New York University and a Masters of Music from the Yale School of Music. He is co-founder and co-artistic director of New York's legendary music collective Bang on a Can.