About Elizabeth Brown
Elizabeth Brown combines a successful composing career with an extremely diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her chamber music, shaped by this unique group of instruments and experiences, has been called luminous, dreamlike and hallucinatory.
Brown's music has been heard in Japan, the Soviet Union, Colombia, Australia, South Africa and Vietnam as well as across the US and Europe. A 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, she has received grants, awards and commissions from Orpheus, St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble, Newband, the Asian Cultural Council, the Japan/US Friendship Commission, Meet the Composer, the Electronic Music Foundation, the Cary Trust, and NYFA. She is the only musician to have both played with Orpheus and also written for them; Orpheus commissioned Lost Waltz in 1997 and premiered it in Carnegie Hall. A recent grant from New Music USA’s Composer Assistance Program supports an upcoming CD for New World Records. Brown is Adjunct Professor of Composition at the Hartt School of Music for the 2012-13 season.
After hearing the instrument on a concert tour of Japan, Brown began studying shakuhachi (traditional Japanese bamboo flute) in 1984 and its music has been a major influence on her musical language. She is celebrated both here and in Japan for her compositions combining eastern and western sensibilities. Grand Prize Winner in the Makino Yutaka Composition Competition for Japanese traditional instrument orchestra in 2011, she was also and a prizewinner in the SGCM Shakuhachi Composition Competition 2010, with performances in Tokyo's Kioi Hall and Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Takemitsu Memorial. Music from Japan presented the Japanese premiere of Rubicon in Fukushima prefecture, performed by members of Tokyo's celebrated Reigakusha gagaku orchestra. Music from Japan also commissioned fragments for the moon, for concerts featuring Brown with nohkan/shinobue artist Kohei Nishikawa in 2011 in New York City and at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Brown has been Artist-in-Residence in the Grand Canyon, working on a series of solo shakuhachi pieces inspired by particular places in nature. She has also given solo moonlight shakuhachi performances in the sculpture quarry of the Lacoste School for the Arts in Provence, and as Artist-in-Residence in both Maine's Acadia National Park and Isle Royale National Park, a U.S. Biosphere Reserve in the middle of Lake Superior. Since she premiered Mirage, for shakuhachi and string quartet, with the Grainger Quartet at the World Shakuhachi Festival 2008 in Sydney, Australia, it has also been performed in Tokyo, Prague, and New York City. In 2008/2009, she lived in Japan on a Cultural Exchange Fellowship supported by the US/Japan Friendship Commission. Brown continues to write for Japanese traditional instruments. Afterimage, for shakuhachi and shamisen, was premiered in fall 2011 at Roulette Brooklyn, and Slowly Toward the North, for bass koto and shou (traditional mouth organ) was be premiered in Tokyo in 2012. Brown presented a solo shakuhachi concert in 2011 at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in New York, performing her own music as well as traditional solo repertoire. She will appear as both panelist and performer in the March 2013 Summit on the Future of the Japanese Music Heritage: Strategies for Nurturing Japanese Traditional Instrumental Genres in New Music in the 21st Century, sponsored by Columbia University's Institute for Medieval Japanese Studies.
Brown's 4th collaboration with visual artist Lothar Osterburg, A Bookmobile for Dreamers, was commissioned by the Electronic Music Foundation through Meet the Composer's Commissioning Music/USA program. A forty-minute performance for theremin, recorded sound, and video which was inspired by the joy of browsing, A Bookmobile for Dreamers celebrates the imagination as inspired by the printed word. Brown and Osterburg created much of the piece while in residence at the Liguria Study Center in Bogliasco, Italy, in spring 2011. Their previous collaboration, supported by Brown's Guggenheim (and helping Osterburg to earn his own Guggenheim in 2010) was Piranesi, for theremin, string quartet (the Momenta Quartet), and video. Brown has been guest composer and thereminist at both Monadnock Music and the Yale Summer School of Music in Norfolk, and has appeared as thereminist with the American Symphony Orchestra at both Carnegie Hall and Lincoln Center. In 2008, Brown shared a concert with composer Frances White on Tom Buckner's Interpretations series, and also in 2008, she appeared as soloist in Seahorse, her concerto for theremin and Partch instruments, with Montclair University's Partch Ensemble.
Other notable pieces include Brown's chamber opera Rural Electrification (2006), for theremin, voice, and recorded sound, funded by a Barlow commission; Collected Visions, an installation created in collaboration with photographer Lorie Novak, which has been presented by the International Center of Photography in NYC, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tuscon; Delirium, featuring the original microtonal instruments of American composer/inventor Harry Partch, performed by Newband to open the 2001 Bang On a Can Marathon at BAM's Opera House; and Migration, for shakuhachi and strings, which was included on CRI's Emergency Music: Bang On A Can Live Volume 2, and has been widely performed. Brown was Artist-in-Residence at the Hanoi National Conservatory of Music in 2002, through a grant from the Asian Cultural Council. A solo CD, "Blue Minor: Chamber Music by Elizabeth Brown" was released in 2003 by Albany Records; her music is also available on CRI, Innova, and Music and Arts labels, and New World Records will release a new solo CD next season. She has been a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation's Bellagio Center in Italy and at the MacDowell Colony, and has been composer-in-residence at the Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Cape and Islands Chamber Music Festival, and the Bennington Chamber Music Conference and Composers' Forum of the East.Brown performs as flutist with a number of New York-based ensembles, including the American Symphony and New York City Ballet Orchestra, and is a member of the flute quartet Flute Force. She is a board member of the New York Flute Club. Her flute music is performed around the world. She is Adjunct Professor of Composition at the Hartt School of Music for the 2012-13 season. Brown was born in 1953 in Camden, Alabama, where she grew up on an agricultural research station. After receiving a Master's degree in flute performance from The Juilliard School in 1977, she started composing in the late 1970's. She lives in Brooklyn with visual artist Lothar Osterburg.