Photo: Fred Zwicky
A feature article in The Wire magazine about David Rosenboom’s life and work begins, “Biofeedback, intelligence swarms, solar vibrations and generative opera are among the utopian possibilities proposed by US composer David Rosenboom during 50 years of navigating new frontiers of music and technology.” (Cowley, J. September 2014. Sounding the cosmos.) David Rosenboom is a composer-performer, interdisciplinary artist, author and educator, known as a pioneer in American experimental music. Since the 1960s he has explored the spontaneous evolution of musical forms, languages for improvisation, new techniques in scoring for ensembles, multi-disciplinary composition and performance, cross-cultural collaborations, performance art and literature, interactive multi-media and new instrument technologies, generative algorithmic systems, art-science research and philosophy, and extended musical interface with the human nervous system.
He held the Roy E. Disney Family Chair in Musical Composition from 2020 to 2023, and prior to that, the Richard Seaver Distinguished Chair in Music from 2007 to 2020. He was Dean of the Herb Alpert School of Music at CalArts from 1990 through 2020, a conductor with the New Century Players, Co-Director of CEAIT (Center for Experiments in Art, Information and Technology), and artistic advisor for the Center for New Performance. In 2011 he also served as Acting Co-President for CalArts. He taught at Mills College from 1979 to 1990, where he held the Darius Milhaud Chair, was Professor of Music, Head of the Music Department, and Director of the Center for Contemporary Music. In the 1970s he was a founding member of the Music Department at York University in Toronto and professor of music and interdisciplinary studies. His independent career outside institutions has spanned international performance and composition, consulting, recording, writing, instrument design, interdisciplinary research, and multi-media production.
He studied at the University of Illinois in the late 1960s with Salvatore Martirano, Lejaren Hiller, Kenneth Gaburo, Gordon Binkerd, Bernard Goodman, Paul Rolland, Jack McKenzie, Soulima Stravinsky, and John Garvey, among others, and was a George A. Miller visiting artist there in 1995 and 2022. He has also worked and taught in other innovative institutions, such as the Center for Creative and Performing Arts at the State University of New York in Buffalo, New York's Electric Circus, Banff Center for the Arts, Simon Fraser University, Aesthetic Research Centre of Canada, San Francisco Art Institute, California College of Arts and Crafts, Bard College, Center for Advanced Musical Studies at Chosen Vale, and Ionian University in Greece.
His music, performances, and productions have been recorded on various labels, including Ravello Records, Black Truffle, Unseen Worlds, New World Records, Tzadik, Pogus Productions, Mutable Music, EM Records, Centaur Records, Lovely Music Ltd., Cold Blue, Black Saint, West Wind, Elektra Nonesuch, Frog Peak Music, Nine Winds, Big Pink Music, A.R.C. Records, Music Gallery Editions, and others.
Rosenboom is author of influential books, monographs, articles, and book chapters. Example titles include: Biofeedback and the Arts, Extended Musical Interface with the Human Nervous System, Propositional Music–on emergent properties in morphogenesis and the evolution of music, Illusions of form, Active imaginative listening–a neuromusical critique, Exploring compositional choice in the SalMar Construction and related early works by Salvatore Martirano, More than one–artistic explorations with multi-agent BCIs (with Tim Mullen). He was co-developer with Phil Burk and Larry Polansky of a software environment for experimental music, HMSL (Hierarchical Music Specification Language). He is currently working on a book about compositional models and exploring the universe through experimental music, entitled Propositional Music, along with a variety of new musical projects, research, and writing.
Rosenboom’s work has been presented around the world. Recent highlights include: fifty-year retrospective at Whitney Museum of American Art, New York (2015); exhibition of brainwave music and art projects at Centre Pompidou-Metz, France (2015-2016); exhibition of projects using HMSL at Whitechapel Gallery, London (2015-2016); retrospective of piano music at Tokyo Opera City Recital Hall (2016); performance and lectures at Improtech Paris-Philly IRCAM, Philadelphia (2017); keynote speaker at Orpheus Institute Seminar, The Power of Musical Networks (2018) and Research Summit (2019), Ghent, Belgium; performances at De Player, Rotterdam, Les Ateliers Claus, Brussels, Cafe OTO, London, and MADEIRADiG Festival, Madeira, Portugal (2019); performance and lectures at CYFEST–International Festival of Media Art, St. Petersburg, Russia (2019); premiere of Quartet for the Beginning of a Time at REDCAT, Los Angeles (2019); performances and lectures at Haute École de Musique Genève, Festival Multimod Performer-Composer (2016) and Improvisation Festival (2020), Geneva, Switzerland; performances at Blank Forms, Brooklyn and Music from the Fault Zone Festival, Mills College, Oakland (2022); performances, lectures, and workshops as George A. Miller visiting artist at University of Illinois (2022), performances at 2220 Arts and Archives, Los Angeles and Roulette Intermedium, New York (upcoming as of this writing) (2023). Following his retrospective at the Whitney Museum, he was lauded in The New York Times as an “avatar of experimental music.” (Tommasini, A. 24 May 2015)