Composition Workshop

Christopher Adler - Composition Program Director

Christopher Adler is a composer, performer and improviser living in San Diego, California. His music draws upon fifteen 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 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, Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo, Bang on a Can, the MATA Festival, and at new music festivals and universities worldwide by ensembles including the Silk Road Ensemble, red fish blue fish, Ensemble ACJW, the Da Capo Chamber Players, Ensemble 64.8, the nief-norf Project, the Van Buren String Quartet, the Pangaea Quartet, pulsoptional, NOISE and the Seattle Creative Orchestra. His musical sound installation Piano Field was exhibited at the Oceanside Museum of Art, and he was recently selected to participate in Third Coast Percussion’s RENGA: Cage:100 and the Forum for Contemporary Music Leipzig’s Party Pieces Project, with performances in the Kennedy Center and Miller Theater. His 2009 composition Pines Long Slept in Sunshine was commissioned by an international consortium of ten percussion ensembles led by the University of Kentucky. His most recent project is a violin concerto commissioned by Sarah Plum and Drake University, that will be recorded in 2014 for a forthcoming release.

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 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 has been published in John Zorn’s Arcana II: Musicians on Music (Hips Road, 2007), and he has published in the journal Sonic Ideas on his composition Signals Intelligence.

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., Thailand and Singapore. 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.

As a soloist and as pianist with the San Diego New Music resident ensemble, NOISE, he has appeared at the International Festival of Chihuahua, and at universities across the U.S. He has recorded compositions by Derek Keller (Tzadik), Nathan Hubbard (Circumvention/Accretions), Matthew Burtner (Innova Recordings), Stuart Saunders Smith, Christopher Burns, and Juan Campoverde Q. In 2007, he co-founded the soundON Festival of Modern Music, presented annually in La Jolla, California. He is one of the only pianists in the world performing Tom Johnson’s Chord Catalogue.

He performs improvised music on piano and khaen and has conducted large improvising ensemble projects by Alan Lechusza and Nathan Hubbard. 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.