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Alan Shockley


Raised in Warm Springs, Georgia (population < 475), Alan Shockley holds degrees in composition and theory from the University of Georgia, and advanced degrees in composition from The Ohio State University and Princeton University (M.F.A., Ph.D.). He has held residencies at the MacDowell Colony, the Atlantic Center for the Arts, Italy’s Centro Studi Ligure, the Virginia Center for the Arts, and France’s Centre d’Art Marnay Art Centre (CAMAC), among others, and has received grants from the American Music Center, Pittsburgh ProArts, the Mellon, and the Heinz Foundations.

His works have been performed at the International Society of Bassists Convention, the Composers Concordance Festival, Electronic Music Midwest, and at the American Academy in Rome, the University of Cape Town, the Fondation des États-Unis in Paris, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York City’s Merkin Hall, Columbia University’s Miller Theater, and other locations around the globe, including performances in Berlin, Sydney, Stellenbosch, Oxford, Montreal, Maribor, Munich, Bucharest, Essen, Toronto, and Amsterdam, among many others. 

His works have garnered performances by the Nash Ensemble of London, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, the Ives Quartet, Talujon Percussion, the Azure Ensemble, the What’s Next? Ensemble, the New York Miniaturist Ensemble, NOW Ensemble, soprano Susan Narucki, cimbalomist Enikö Ginzery, marimbists Nancy Zeltsman and Laura Jordan, electric guitarists Steven Mackey and Colin McAllister, contrabassist Bertram Turetzky, and many others. In recent years, Shockley has written works for such renowned performers as pianists Vicki Ray, Guy Livingston, and Mark Robson, violinists Ken Aiso and Roger Zahab, cellists Zoë Martlew and Craig Hultgren, and shakuhachi virtuoso Kojiro Umezaki of the Silk Road Ensemble, just to name a few. Recent commissions include ones from the Rhode Island College Wind Ensemble, the University of Virginia’s New Music Ensemble, flutist John Barcellona, Sound of Late, and the California E.A.R. Unit.

A dedicated scholar and educator, Shockley has taught as a preceptor at Princeton University, as a Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and at the University of Pittsburgh, and is currently Professor and the Director of Composition and Theory in the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music at California State University, Long Beach. His teaching interests have led him to join the members of Kronos Quartet on a panel on intersections between technology and music, and to lecture and present in a Princeton University atelier alongside the members of Anonymous 4. He has spoken on panels concerning madness and music alongside Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, on Brahms alongside musicologist Scott Burnham, as well as on international panels on music and the works of Anthony Burgess and James Joyce. Shockley’s essays on intersections between music and modernist fiction can be found in journals and collections published by many major presses, and his book, Music in the Words: Musical Form and Counterpoint in the Twentieth-Century Novel was released by Ashgate Press (UK) in 2009. His new book, The Contemporary Piano: A Composer and Performer’s Guide to Techniques and Resources was released by Rowman & Littlefield in summer 2018.

His composition teachers and mentors include Steven Mackey, Paul Lansky, Barbara White, Leonard V. “Chic” Ball, Thomas Wells, and Peter Westergaard. He has done additional studies and masterclasses with George Crumb, Klaus Huber, Magnus Lindberg, Judith Weir, Wolfgang Rihm, Martin Bresnick, and Tristan Murail, among others. 

Articles by Alan Shockley:

NewMusicBox January 31 2019 | By Alan Shockley
Beyond the 88: Playing Around Inside the Toy Piano

The toy piano is a different beast from a modern grand—and in a way that’s what makes it a great instrument for exploring piano preparations. Toy pianos are a lot...

NewMusicBox January 24 2019 | By Alan Shockley
Beyond the 88: A No-Fear Guide to On-the-String Piano Techniques

Harmonics? Muting? Glissandi and Pizz?! Alan Shockley continues his video series on prepared piano playing with an introduction to a handful of techniques on the strings that will provide many...

NewMusicBox January 17 2019 | By Alan Shockley
Beyond the 88: More no-fear piano preparations

Alan Shockley dives in deeper with detailed video demos of even more piano preparations that will allow you to continue to explore without fear!

NewMusicBox January 10 2019 | By Alan Shockley
Beyond the 88: A No-Fear Beginner’s Guide to Preparing the Piano

Lots of pianists and composers are a bit intimidated by the idea of reaching inside the piano, or of inserting foreign objects into the instrument. For those who would like...