Christopher Adler, Composition Director
Christopher Adler is a composer, performer and improviser living in San Diego, California. His music draws upon twenty years of research into the traditional musics of Thailand and Laos, and a background in mathematics. He is internationally recognized as a foremost performer of new and traditional music for the khaen, a free-reed mouth organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand. He is a pianist for the Nief-Norf Project, and Director of Composition for the Nief-Norf Summer Festival. He is also the pianist and composer-in-residence with NOISE, an Affiliated Artist with San Diego New Music, and a co-founder of the soundON Festival of Modern Music.
Christopher Adler’s stylistically diverse compositions encompass cross-culturally hybrid forms drawn from contemporary concert music and traditional musics of Thailand and Laos, the application of mathematics to composition, and the integration of improvisation into structured composition. His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, Tanglewood, Merkin Hall, Shanghai Symphony Hall, the Seoul Arts Center, Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo, Bang on a Can, the MATA Festival, and at universities and new music festivals worldwide by ensembles including the Silk Road Ensemble, Ensemble ACJW, Da Capo Chamber Players, Chamber Cartel, Contact Contemporary Music, Tesla Quartet, Van Buren String Quartet, Pangaea Quartet, pulsoptional, NOISE and the Seattle Creative Orchestra. His compositions for percussion ensemble have been performed by ensembles including red fish blue fish, Third Coast Percussion, Ensemble 64.8, the Nief-Norf Project, and have been presented at the Percussive Arts Society International Convention. He recently completed a ten-movement collection for speaking percussionist (Zaum Box) released in a series of videos by percussionist Katelyn Rose King-Utzinger with cinematography by Ute Freund, and won the 2017 Yankee-Pogorzelski Competition from the American Guild of Organists (Construct: for organ).
His compositions have been released on his 2008 CD Ecstatic Volutions in a Neon Haze (Innova) and his 2004 CD Epilogue for a Dark Day (Tzadik), and on recordings by percussionists Omar Carmenates (Rattle Records) and Morris Palter (Blue Leaf Records), and his Violin Concerto was released on Blue Griffin by violinist Sarah Plum with the San Diego New Music Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Deyoe. His works have been broadcast and webcast internationally on WGBH’s Art of the States, WNYC, WQXR’s Q2 and BBC-3. His retrospective analysis of his first ten years of cross-cultural composition was published in John Zorn’s Arcana II: Musicians on Music (Hips Road, 2007), and he has published in the journal Sonic Ideas.
Christopher Adler is the world’s leading innovator in contemporary concert music for the khaen. He has performed his own compositions and traditional repertoire at Carnegie Hall, the Bang on a Can Marathon, Merkin Hall, Music at the Anthology, the Cultural Center of Chicago, and at universities across the U.S. and Southeast Asia. With his ongoing project New Musical Geographies, he has promoted the instrument by commissioning and recording new works by composers including Sidney Marquez Boquiren, Christopher Burns, Jeff Herriott, and Matthew Welch. His recordings of compositions by David Loeb have been released on Vienna Modern Masters and Centaur. A new round of commissions and premieres for khaen will debut in November, 2017, with works by Yu Kuwabara, H. James Harkins and Vera Ivanova.
As a soloist and as pianist with NOISE, San Diego New Music, and the Nief-Norf Project, he has given scores of world premieres and recorded compositions by Derek Keller (Tzadik), Nathan Hubbard (Circumvention/Accretions), Matthew Burtner (Innova Recordings), Juan Campoverde Q. (Liber Pulveris Recordings), Stuart Saunders Smith, and Christopher Burns. His piano improvisations may be heard on Mineralia (pfMENTUM) and Pleistocene, by the Alan Lechusza/ Christopher Adler Duo, on Transcontinental, by the Christopher Adler Trio (Nine Winds), and on Hu Jianbing’s Sky (Traditional Crossroads). His improvisations on khaen have been released by Artship Recordings, and with the ensemble Gunther’s Grass on Titicacaman Recordings and Accretions.
Christopher Adler is currently Professor of Music at the University of San Diego where he teaches composition, sound art, theory, twentieth-century music, and world music. He received Ph.D. and Master’s degrees in composition from Duke University and Bachelor’s degrees in music composition and mathematics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He studied composition with Scott Lindroth, Evan Ziporyn, Stephen Jaffe, Sidney Corbett, Thai music with Panya Roongruang, and pipe organ with James David Christie and Haig Mardirosian.