Kyle Gann

Kyle Gann

Kyle Gann lecturing

Composer, Author

Kyle Gann, born 1955 in Dallas, Texas, is a composer and was new-music critic for the Village Voice from 1986 to 2005. Since 1997 he has taught music theory, history, and composition at Bard College, where he is the Taylor Hawver and Frances Bortle Hawver Professor of Music. His books include The Music of Conlon Nancarrow (Cambridge University Press, 1995), American Music in the 20th Century (Schirmer Books, 1997), Music Downtown: Writings from the Village Voice (University of California Press, 2006), No Such Thing as Silence: John Cage's 4'33" (Yale University Press, 2010), Robert Ashley (University of Illinois Press, 2012), Essays After a Sonata: Charles Ives's Concord (University of Illinois Press, 2016), and The Arithmetic of Listening: Tuning Theory and History for the Impractical Musician (University of Illinois Press, forthcoming). He also wrote the introductions to the 50th-anniversary edition of John Cage's Silence and to the new edition of Robert Ashley's Perfect Lives.

Gann studied composition with Ben Johnston, Morton Feldman, and Peter Gena, and his music is often microtonal, using up to 37 pitches per octave. His rhythmic language, based on differing successive and simultaneous tempos, was developed from his study of Hopi, Zuni, and Pueblo Indian musics. His music has been performed on the New Music America, Bang on a Can, and Spoleto festivals. His major works include Sunken City, a piano concerto commissioned by the Orkest de Volharding in Amsterdam; Transcendental Sonnets, a 35-minute work for choir and orchestra commissioned by the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir; Custer and Sitting Bull, a microtonal, one-man music theater work he's performed more than 30 times from Brisbane to Moscow; The Planets, commissioned by the Relache ensemble via Music in Motion and continued under a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Artists' Fellowship; Proença, a chamber song cycle on Ezra Pound; and Hyperchromatica, an evening-length set of pieces for three retuned, computer-driven pianos. In 2007, choreographer Mark Morris made a large-ensemble dance, Looky, from five of Gann's works for Disklavier (computerized player piano).

In addition to Bard, Gann has taught at Columbia University, Brooklyn College, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and Bucknell University, and given keynote addresses at conferences around the world. His writings include more than 3500 articles for more than 45 publications, including scholarly articles on La Monte Young (in Perspectives of New Music), Henry Cowell, John Cage, Edgard Varese, Ben Johnston, Earle Brown, Julius Eastman, Mikel Rouse, John Luther Adams, Dennis Johnson, and other American composers. For several years his blog PostClassic (begun in 2003) was the most widely read blog by a single composer. From 1999 to 2010 he wrote the "American Composer" column for Chamber Music magazine, and he was awarded the Peabody Award (2003), the Stagebill Award (1999) and the Deems-Taylor Award (2003) for his writings. His music is available on the New Albion, New World, Cold Blue, Lovely Music, Mode, Other Minds, Meyer Media, New Tone, Microfest, and Monroe Street labels. In 2003, the American Music Center awarded Gann its Letter of Distinction, along with Steve Reich, Wayne Shorter, and George Crumb.