American composer Chris Arrell (b. 1970, Portland, Oregon) writes music for throats, fingers, and oscillators that has earned praise for its nuance and unconventional beauty from New Music Box, the Boston Music Intelligencer, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution, among others. A computer algorithm addict and former metal guitarist who wrote his doctoral dissertation on the music of French avant-garde composer Gérard Grisey, Arrell takes equal inspiration from contemporary music and the Digital Age.
Arrell’s recent projects include an invited portrait concert at the Alte Schmiede (Vienna, Austria), three new films scores commissioned by the Alte Schmiede, and Walking in Altamira, an extensive collaboration with Collide-O-Scope Music (New York) inspired by the Altamira Cave. He composed three new works for the 15/16 concert season, including a second song cycle for Tony Arnold, Jacob Greenberg, and fixed media, an interactive piano and live electronics composition written for Lisa Leong, and a piano trio for the College of the Holy Cross Artists-in-Residence Sául Bitrán, Jan Müller-Szeraws, and Adam Golka.
Arrell is currently collaborating with members of H-CLEf, the Holy Cross Laptop Ensemble, which he founded, on the group composition of a live electronic music score for the 1920 German expressionist classic "Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari." H-CLEf will premiere the score in April of 2017 at College of the Holy Cross. Arrell's additional 16/17 projects include a new electronic work written for Vienna-based video artist dextro(dot)org, and Altamira 1b, written for clarinet and live electronics.
Arrell has fulfilled commissions for a number of ensembles and institutions including the Alte Schmiede, the Mellon Summer Research Program at Holy Cross, the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, the Boston Musica Viva, Music at the Anthology, Spivey Hall, Cornell University, and the Fromm Foundation of Harvard University. Performances of Arrell’s music include those by Alia Musica, Bent Frequency, the Bent Frequency Duo Project, Brave New Works, the Bugallo-Williams Piano Duo, the Boston Musica Viva, the Boston New Music Initiative, newEar, Nextet, Sonic Generator, Sospeso, Thamyris, Tony Arnold and Jacob Greenberg, Amy Foote and Victoria Neve, Gerard Morris and the PSWE, Maya Hoover, Craig Hultgren, Lisa Leong, David Rahbee, Scott Pool, Rhonda Taylor, and others at venues across the US and in Canada, South America, Europe, and Australia.
In 2013 Arrell accepted an invitation from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, to serve as a Composer-in-Residence. The same year saw the release of Diptych, a portrait CD on the Beauport Classical label featuring five works by Arrell and the talents of Boston Musica Viva, the Clayton State Chorale, Sonic Generator, Jacob Greenberg, Lisa Leong & Amy Williams. Additional publications of Arrell’s music are available from Beauport, PARMA, Electroshock, and Trevco Music. Especially influenced by Grisey’s approach to musical time, Arrell’s analysis of the composer’s Partiels, appearing in the Proceedings of the International Spectral Music Conference, is described by Nicholas Deyoe in Notes, the quarterly journal of the Music Library Association, as “the most interesting writing about Grisey’s Partiels that I have read. ”
A winner of the 2014 Ettelson Composer Award for his work Of Three Minds, Arrell holds additional honors from the Cape Fear International Call-for-Scores (2013), the Ossia International Music Prize (2010), the League of Composers/ISCM (2008), the Salvatore Martirano Competition (2007), the MacDowell (2005) and ACA colonies (1998), and the Fulbright-Hays Foundation (2004).
Arrell is an associate professor at College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA. He holds degrees from Cornell University (DMA), the University of Texas (MM), the University of Oregon (BM), and participated in the Cornell-Columbia Exchange Scholar Program. His composition teachers include Steven Stucky, Roberto Sierra, Tristan Murail, Dan Welcher, Russell Pinkston, Donald Grantham, and Robert Kyr.
Photo by Michel Raguin