Roger Reynolds at 90: PASSAGE and Persistence

In celebration of Roger Reynolds’ 90th year, CNMAT and the Department of Music will be sponsoring and hosting a colloquium and concert. The colloquium will be held on March 8, 2024 at and the concert will be held on March 9, 2024. There will also be an invitation only concert at Meyer Theater. See our event listings for more information.

Roger Reynolds: composer, writer, producer and mentor, pioneer in sound spatialization, intermedia, and algorithmic concepts, is an inveterate synthesizer of diverse capacities and perspectives. His notorious composition, “The Emperor of Ice Cream” (1961), uses graphic notation to depict performer location on a stage and was widely imitated. Reynolds’s work often arises out of a text or visual image. His Pulitzer prize-winning composition, “Whispers Out of Time,” for string orchestra, muses on a poem by John Ashbery. The FLiGHT project (2012-16) arose out of a collection of texts and images stretching from Plato to the astronauts. While “KNOWING / NOT KNOWING” explores how knowledge arises from communities. Projects with individual performers and ensembles, theater directors, choreographers, and scientists involve challenging interpersonal collaborations. He has been, for decades, a sought-after mentor at UC San Diego.

In addition to musical composition, Reynolds’s recent projects include an innovative collection of texts and images, PASSAGE and a collaborative book exploring the evolution of a house design for him and his partner Karen: Xenakis Creates in Architecture and Music: The Reynolds Desert House (Routledge, 2022). Reynolds is also an influential member of the international consortium, ACTOR, based in Montréal, and the originator of the “Bridging Chasms” initiative [] that seeks to improve cross-disciplinary communications. In 2023, he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Reynolds’s music has been published exclusively by Edition Peters New York for over 5 decades. He has been commissioned by the Philadelphia, San Francisco, Los Angeles, BBC, San Diego, and National symphonies and the Japan Philharmonic; by the British Arts Council, the French Ministry of Culture, Ircam, and the Fromm, Rockefeller, Suntory, and Koussevitzky foundations. A partial listing of Reynolds’s students suggests the scope of his influence. They occupy influential positions at Harvard (Czernowin), SUNY - Buffalo (Felder), University of Michigan (Daugherty), UC Santa Cruz (Carson and Jones), North Texas (May), University of Utah (Curbelo), USC (Rikakis), Arizona State University (Navarro), University of Western Australia (Tonkin), École Nationale de Musique et de Danse d’Évry [Essonne] (Vérin), Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (Cuñha), Mozarteum Salzburg (Hiendl), and Beijing Normal University (Zhou). Notable free-lancers include Takasugi (Cambridge), Wallin (Oslo), Greene (San Diego, USA) Kortekangas (Helsinki), and Lin (Taipei), Hembree (Appleton, USA).

Reynolds’s work is the subject of a Library of Congress Special Collection and is also represented in the Sacher Stiftung in Basel, and UC San Diego’s Geisel Library. Long friendships with Cage, Nancarrow, Takemitsu and Xenakis inform his outlook in procedural and personal ways. He envisions his own path as entailing the principled weaving together of threads from tradition(s), with novel provocations originating (often) outside music. He conceives of composition as “a process of illumination,” a path toward (occasional) clarity in turbulent times. He seeks the satisfaction of proposing and experiencing unexpected connections, of bringing the elevating capacities of music into public spaces, of engaging with other arts and artists to discover new amalgamations of sensation and insight that can “improve the human experience.”

Photo: Eric R. Jepsen