UC San Diego Celebrates Roger Reynolds’ 80th Birthday
Pulitzer Prize-winning composer will be honored with a concert, symposium and exhibit
In 1965, an ambitious young composer drove down California’s coast to check out university music programs. At UC San Diego, Roger Reynolds and his partner, Karen, were impressed with plans for a new kind of music department. A few years later the department was equally impressed with Reynolds.
He joined the music faculty in 1969 and has since mentored generations of young composers, won a Pulitzer Prize (1989) and been a leader in exploring ways to harness new technologies for musical purposes. His own music has been commissioned, performed and recorded around the world. In recognition of his achievements, he was appointed a university professor in 2009, becoming the first artist to be honored with the UC-wide title.
Today, while Reynolds is hard at work on a new intermedia composition addressing human aspirations for flight, UC San Diego’s Department of Music will celebrate his 80th birthday Feb. 3 -5 with a concert, symposium and multimedia installation.
The Feb. 4 concert will feature the Arditti Quartet performing some of the many Reynolds works that it has commissioned, performed and recorded. The program also includes compositions penned by two of Reynolds’ former students: Chaya Czernowin, now the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music at Harvard University, and Ben Hackbarth, head of composition at the University of Liverpool.
The three-day installation will chronicle Reynolds' works “Ping” (1968), “Sanctuary” (2003-2007), “MARKed MUSIC” (2011) and “george WASHINGTON” (2013), as well as segments from his other multimedia compositions.
The symposium is titled “The Interaction of Scientific and Artistic Imagination: Perceptual Studies and the Making of Music.” It will include Stephen E. McAdams, professor of music research at McGill University's Schulich School of Music in Montréal, co-author of the classic book “Thinking in Sound”; Philippe Lalitte, director of the department of musicology at the Université de Bourgogne in France, whose research explores how the brain processes music; and Aniruddh Patel, associate professor of psychology at Tufts University and author of the prize-winning “Music, Language and the Brain.”
Reynolds, who actually turned 80 on July 18, 2014, was born in Detroit, grew up playing classical piano music (Brahms, Chopin, Debussy, Liszt) and earned a degree in engineering physics from the University of Michigan.
Asked what the most rewarding aspects of his time at UC San Diego have been, he said, “The various collegial relationships, with other composers, with performers, with technologically oriented faculty [that] have evolved constantly: new intersections, new discoveries. It hasn't stopped. And the staff with whom I've worked, particularly Josef Kucera, Peter Otto, and now Jessica Flores. They deliver, with imagination and resolve. And there has been always a stream of gifted, questing, energetic, and idealistic graduate students – every one an individual with her or his own emerging (and probably challenging) vision.”
Percussionist and video artist Ross Karre, a UC San Diego music alumnus who has worked with Reynolds on many projects, said, “Roger's music stays fresh in a world of break-neck technological shifts because he thinks outside the box and looks to collaborators of all ages and backgrounds to help him bring radical ideas into the realm of realizable artistic results.”
Reynolds, who sports a full mane of silver hair and can often be seen striding purposefully across campus, shows no signs of slowing down.
“It feels like a blessing to get up every morning and think of how many things there are to be done,” he said, “and that many of them are things that I want to do.”
To learn more about the celebrated composer, see the Roger Reynolds Collection at the Library of Congress.