Faculty

Mary Ellen Childs

Mary Ellen Childs

Mary Ellen Childs is a composer interested in all the senses: she is known for works that speak not only to the ears, but to the eyes, and even the nose. She writes for a variety of ensembles, including vocal ensembles, solo accordion, string quartets, and chamber groups of every ilk. Early in her career she created numerous "visual percussion" pieces that embody the concept of music in motion, for her percussion ensemble CRASH. Her repertoire includes Click, a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers which The Village Voice deemed “a newly born classic, like Steve Reich’s Clapping Music, only a thousand times more virtuosic.”

She is committed to researching her projects wherever they may take her. When writing a dance piece about Lake Superior, she rented a cabin just feet from the shore of the great lake, watching the many moods of the water. To research an opera about the human urge to fly, she spent an adventurous week at a residency in Ottawa Canada, flying: piloting a small plane, hang gliding, and more. To prepare for musical works that incorporate scent, she traveled to France to visit a perfume archive and meet with a master perfumer, and she has studied perfume-making at the Institute for Art and Olfaction in Los Angeles and at the Institute for Perfumery in Grasse, France. As a result, she has recently been creating a series of works that combine sound and scent, under the title Ear + Nose.

She has received grants and commissions from Opera America, the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, The Kitchen, Walker Art Center, Other Minds, MAP Fund, and Creative Capital. In 2011 she was named a United States Artist Fellow. Childs has held artist residencies at the Bellagio Center in Italy, Bogliasco Foundation (Italy), Yaddo, Djerassi Foundation, Millay Colony, Ucross (Alpert residency), Emily Harvey Foundation (Venice, Italy), and the Arctic Circle Expedition in Svalbard.