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UC San Diego Composer Rand Steiger Wins 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship

UC San Diego composer Rand Steiger, whose music is often inspired by environmental themes and frequently incorporates digital audio processing, has earned a 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship.

Image: UC San Diego composer Rand Steiger

UC San Diego composer Rand Steiger. Photo by Erik Jepsen/UC San Diego Publications

Steiger is among 175 recipients selected from a pool of 3,100 applicants to receive what is often described as a “mid-career award.” The Guggenheim is given based on “prior achievement and exceptional promise.” Steiger’s Guggenheim will support his work on three string compositions: two pieces with electronics for the Flux and JACK quartets, as well as a string octet for the JACK Quartet to play with the Arditti Quartet.

Two other 2015 Guggenheim winners also have connections to UC San Diego’s department of music: George E. Lewis, formerly of the music faculty and now on the faculty at Columbia University; and Richard Carrick, a music alumnus (Ph.D., ‘01).

As for Steiger, he is busier than ever.

He released a CD of his composition “A Menacing Plume,” performed by the Talea Ensemble, last October. In June, two of his pieces will be played at the Ojai Festival, and he will serve as composer-in-residence at the Summer Institute for Contemporary Performance Practice at the New England Conservatory of Music, where UC San Diego music alumnus Mark Menzies will premiere a new violin concerto written for him by Steiger.

In 2013, Steiger was the subject of a “Composer Portrait” concert at the Miller Theatre in New York City, where the International Contemporary Ensemble performed his music. Steiger and his UC San Diego music faculty colleague Miller Puckette provided live audio processing.

The New York Times praised the concert, which “showed how viscerally affecting such computer-processed music can be… More than once I noticed a surprised grin on the faces of the players as the digital wizardry of Mr. Steiger and Mr.Puckette transformed the sounds coming out of their instruments in ways that amazed even them.”

Steiger joined UC San Diego’s music faculty in 1987 following five years on the faculty at the California Institute of the Arts. He is the current chair of the department and has served as chair at various times for a total of 10 years. He provided crucial leadership for the creation of the Conrad Prebys Music Center, which opened in 2009. He was a visiting professor at Harvard University in 2009 and composer-in-residence at Calit2 (California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology) for two years beginning in 2010.

Steiger's music has been commissioned and performed by ensembles ranging from the American Composers Orchestra to the San Francisco Symphony, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he served as a Composer Fellow. He has composed pieces for Matthew Barley, Maya Beiser, Claire Chase, George Lewis, Susan Narucki and Steven Schick.

He has conducted prominent groups including the Arditti Quartet, the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, the New York New Music Ensemble, and the Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (Switzerland). Among his recordings as conductor are compositions by Elliott Carter, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Iannis Xenakis. He has also conducted premieres of pieces by Muhal Richard Abrams, Louis Andriessen, Milton Babbitt, Pierre Boulez, Toru Takemitsu and many others.

Steiger hopes to attend the Guggenheim awards ceremony on May 12 at the Century Association in New York City.