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Wayne Horvitz

Seattle, WA         


Composer, pianist, and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz has performed extensively throughout Europe, Japan, and North America. A prolific composer, he is also the leader and principal composer for the quartet “Sweeter Than the Day”, The Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble, The Washington Composers Orchestra, The Gravitas Quartet and performs regularly as an improviser on both piano and electronics. Past ensembles include The President; The Horvitz, Morris, Previte Trio; Pigpen; Zony Mash; The New York Composers Orchestra; Ponga and The Four Plus One Ensemble.

 Much of Mr. Horvitz’ work is concerned with the intersection of improvisation and formal composition, incorporating both electronic and acoustic mediums. This includes numerous compositions, performances, and collaborations that incorporate sampling, live-sampling, analog and digital processing, synthesizers and computers. Concurrently he has composed a significant body of formal compositions, including works for chamber orchestra, vocal works, string orchestra, jazz orchestra, string quartet, and a variety of small group configurations. Finally, Horvitz has extensive experience in the recording studio, as a producer and as a musician, 

 In 1978 Horvitz moved to NYC where he became a core participant in what was later to be known as “The Downtown Scene”. During the 80’s Horvitz worked with some of the great innovators of that time, creating musical partnerships and aesthetic directions that continue to this day. This included important collaborations as both leader and partner with artists Butch Morris, Billy Bang, Marty Ehrlich, Zeena Perkins, John Zorn, Bill Frisell, Robin Holcomb, Bobby Previte, George Lewis, Elliott Sharp, Iuka Mori, Arto Lindsay, Frank Lowe, Dennis Charles, Christian Marclay, Fred Frith, Shelly Hirsch, William Parker, David Moss, Joey Baron and many others. He also composed, arranged and produced music for a wide range of artists including John Adams, Eddie Palmieri, Dawn Upshaw, The World Saxophone Quartet and Fontella Bass. Horvitz was signed to Nonesuch records in the late 80’s for whom he made 3 records of his own music and produced records for other Nonesuch artists. In addition he has recorded and produced records for New World records, including 2 albums by the NY Composers Orchestra and in 2006 his oratorio “Joe Hill: 16 Actions for Orchestra, Voice and Soloist” (w/ Rinde Eckert, Robin Holcomb, Danny Barnes and Bill Frisell). He has recorded for many other record labels including Songlines, Tim Kerr, Avant, Intuition, Tzadik, Sound Aspects, and Dossier.

 In 1989 Mr. Horvitz and his wife, pianist and composer Robin Holcomb, moved to Seattle where he continues to compose, perform, teach and tour. He continues to create community and collaborate with a host of new composers, performers and improvisers including Eyvind Kang, Briggan Krauss, Julian Priester, Timothy Young, Cuong Vu and Reggie Watts. In 2012 Horvitz created the “Royal Room Collective Music Ensemble”, a large ensemble, made up of Seattle’s finest creative musicians that performs bi-monthly in Seattle. In May of 2013 he brought the RRCME for a week residency at The Stone in NYC. Reviewing the first set of the opening night NY Times write Ben Ratliff stated, “…what he was able to express through the band reminded you of something from the New York improvising scene in the ’80s that wasn’t a language or a sound but a disposition: concision, bordering on impatience. Mr. Horvitz kept his attention on the band with microscopic focus, quick-cutting between contrasts, putting something free or rippling against a fixity. It held your attention, and when it was perverse, it was just perverse enough.”  In January of 2014 the band went into the studio for 2 days for a CD “At The Reception” to be release in October of 2014.

Mr., Horvitz received his first funding as a composer from NYSCA in 1987. Since that time Horvitz has received support and or commissions from The Kitchen, The Kronos Quartet, Brooklyn Academy of Music, New World Records, The Seattle Composers Forum, The Seattle Chamber Players and Earshot Jazz. He has received commissioning grants/support from Meet the Composer, The National Endowment for the Arts, The N.Y. State Arts Council, The Mary Flagler Carey Trust, The Seattle Arts Commission, Artist Trust, The Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, PGAFF and The Fund for U.S. Artists. Notable works include the V Series for chamber orchestra and Mountain Language for string quartet, Vienna 2001 and 2002. In 2002 he was awarded a MAP grant for the creation of a new piece entitled “Joe Hill” for chamber orchestra and voice, which premiered in October of 2004 at the UW’s Meany Hall.  His 2003 composition Whispers, Hymns and a Murmur for String Quartet and soloist, funded in part by a Seattle City Artist grant, premiered in March of 2004.  This composition and his earlier string quartet, Mountain Language were recorded for the Tzadik label.  His collaboration with Tucker Martine, Mylab, was on the top 10 CD list for 2004 in jazz in both the New Yorker and Amazon.com.  In February 2005 he received the Golden Ear award from Earshot Jazz for “Concert of the Year.” In 2008 he received the NEA American Masterpieces Grant for his composition “These Hills of Glory” for String Quartet and Improviser, which was initially funded by 4Culture and The Mayor’s office of Arts and Culture. In 2006 support was awarded from 4Culture, The Mayor’s Office and the Paul Allen Foundation for the creation of “The Heartsong of Charging”, a work-in-progress based on the novel by James Welch. With funds from 4Culture (2009) and the NEA the composition “For Piano, Alone, in Four Parts”, composed while in residency at the Blue Mountain Center, was premiered at the Nordstrom Recital Hall in November of 2009 by pianist Cristina Valdes. The song cycle “Smokestack Arias” premiered in February of 2012. Written for soprano voice, piano and electronics the piece is based on the events surrounding the “Everett Massacre” in 1916 in Everett Washington. With text by Robin Holcomb the piece premiered at Seattle’s ACT Theater with Dayna Hanson directing. Plans are in progress for performances in Everett for the centennial of the event. In 2010 Horvitz received a MAP Grant for a major site-specific collaboration with Choreographer Yukio Suzuki, video artist Yohei Saito, and producer Tucker Martine entitled “55: Music and Dance in Concrete.” The Japan Foundation, The Arizona State University Art Museum, Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and King County, WA provided additional awards for this piece. “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” premiered in the fall of 2012 at Centrum in Pt. Townsend Washington in the bunkers and tunnels of Ft. Worden. Immediately thereafter it was presented with dance at The Arizona State University Art Museum for two nights followed by a one-month installation of the music and video. The 12’ Vinyl issue of the music for “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” was released in August of 2014. For more information about this work please visit: http://55musicanddance.wordpress.com/.

 Works for 2013 include the publication of “Little Pieces for the Piano”, a collection of 38 piano pieces for the aspiring pianists and inspired by Bartok’s Mikrokosmos.  Performed as a work in progress at the Bellingham Electronic Music Festival in April of 2013 a new work, “Music in Other Rooms (55 Redux)” premiered in September 2013 at the Cornish College of the Arts. This composition incorporates samples created for “55: Music and Dance in Concrete” in a concert work for both string trio plus electronics and piano plus electronics.

In 2014 Horvitz received a grant from the Shifting Foundation to write a full-length suite of compositions for septet entitles “Some Places are Forever Afternoon (11 Places for Richard Hugo)”, based on eleven poems by iconic Northwest poet Richard Hugo. The work will be recorded in January of 2015, released on CD in May of 2015 and premiered in the fall of 2015 in Washington State, Montana, and Oregon, the places Hugo loved and wrote about.

On the back of this new work, three of the compositions will be expanded for full orchestra and will be premiered by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra on October 29th, 2015, with guest “improvising soloist” Bill Frisell.

Works for theater and dance include music for the 1998 production of Death of A Salesman for Seattle’s ACT theater (directed by Gordon Edelstein); productions of Ezra Pounds’ Elektra and the American premiere of Harold Pinter’s Mountain Language, both directed by Carey Perloff. In 1992 choreographer Paul Taylor created a new work OZ, to eleven compositions by Wayne Horvitz in collaboration with the White Oak Dance Company. Other theater and dance works include music for Bill Irwin’s Broadway show Strictly NY, and productions by the Liz Lerman Dance Exchange, Ammi Legendre, Nikki Apino and House of Dames, the Crispin Spaeth Dance Company and Offsite Dance with choreographers Yukio Suzuki and Yoko Higashino.

Horvitz has composed and produced music for a variety of video, film, television and other multimedia projects, including two projects with director Gus Van Sant, a full length score for PBS’s Chihuly Over Venice and two films about the creation of Seattle’s EMP museum. His 85-minute score to Charlie Chaplin’s film The Circus, for two pianos, two clarinets, and violin was premiered in Jan. 2000 in Oporto, Portugal. His score for the classic silent film, Woman of Tokyo, directed by Yasujiru Ozu, premiered at the Northwest Film Forum in 2005. Most recently, in collaboration with Robin Holcomb, he composed scores the 5 silent films by Japanese director Naruse released in 2011 as a box set by Criterion. Also in 2011 he composed a score for the feature length film “Marrow” directed by Matt Wilkins and premiering at the NW International Film Festival.

Mr. Horvitz has consulted, curated and created programming for the Civitella Ranieri Artist Residency in Umbria and for The Montalvo Center for the Arts in Los Gatos, CA.

 In January 2011 Mr. Horvitz, with two other general partners, opened “The Royal Room”, a performing arts venue in the Seattle neighborhood of Columbia City. The venue was created as a way to provide a home for Seattle’s musical community and encourage an active exchange of ideas while maintaining and supporting the diversity and historically vibrant community of Seattle’s south end. Mr. Horvitz is the principal curator of the venue, which books a wide variety of musical forms.

Horvitz is currently a professor of composition, electronic music, and improvisation at The Cornish College of the Arts and maintains an active private studio where he teaches composition and piano. Born in New York City in 1955, Wayne Horvitz lives in Seattle with his wife, composer Robin Holcomb, their daughter Nica and son Lowell.


Articles by Wayne Horvitz:

Headlines February 21 2013 | By Wayne Horvitz
My Only Mentor, Butch Morris (1947-2013)

It wasn’t about music in any technical sense, but really more in a social sense: How music fit into his life, how he created community, what he cared about, what...