Composition Colloquium: Ken Ueno

Colloquium: Lecture/Colloquium/Master Class: Composition Colloquium | February 28 | 3 p.m. | 250 Morrison Hall

 Department of Music

Instrumentalizing Architecture, Bespoke Vowels, and Anthropology as Composition

UC Berkeley Professor, Ken Ueno, a fuses composition, extended vocal practice, and installations into a new kind of hybrid work. Using a megaphone and shaping bespoke vowel shapes within his mouth, he articulates resonant frequencies of spaces, with the discovery that articulating the resonant frequencies of different locations in a space, which means that architecture, too, can be read as harmonic structure.

Having spent last year in Hong Kong, having participated and written about his experiences in the protests there (, Ueno has begun to shift his art practice towards a greater alignment with the thing itself, and will present recent examples: a site-specific work in spaces in Savannah, GA, which participated in the cotton exchange, and an installation performance in a crematorium pagoda in Taiwan, where installed sounds were derived from interviews with local sex workers, many of them being elderly.

A recipient of the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno, is a composer/vocalist/sound artist who is currently a Professor at UC Berkeley, where he holds the Jerry and Evelyn Hemmings Chambers Distinguished Professor Chair in Music. Ensembles and performers who have played Ken’s music include Kim Kashkashian and Robyn Schulkowsky, Mayumi Miyata, Teodoro Anzellotti, Aki Takahashi, Wendy Richman, Greg Oakes, BMOP, Alarm Will Sound, Steve Schick and the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Nieuw Ensemble, and Frances-Marie Uitti. His music has been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MusikTriennale Köln Festival, the Muziekgebouw, Ars Musica, Warsaw Autumn, Other Minds, the Hopkins Center, Spoleto USA, Steim, and at the Norfolk Music Festival. Ken’s piece for the Hilliard Ensemble, Shiroi Ishi, was featured in their repertoire for over ten years, with performances at such venues as Queen Elizabeth Hall in England, the Vienna Konzerthaus, and was aired on Italian national radio, RAI 3. Another work, Pharmakon, was performed dozens of times nationally by Eighth Blackbird during their 2001-2003 seasons. A portrait concert of Ken’s was featured on MaerzMusik in Berlin in 2011. In 2012, he was a featured artist on Other Minds 17. In 2014, Frances-Mairie Uitti and the Boston Modern Orchestra premiered his concerto for two-bow cello and orchestra, and Guerilla Opera premiered a run of his chamber opera, Gallo, to critical acclaim. He has performed as soloist in his vocal concerto with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project in New York and Boston, the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Lithuanian National Symphony, the Thailand Philharmonic Orchestra, and with orchestras in North Carolina, Pittsburgh, and California. Ken holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. A monograph CD of three orchestral concertos was released on the Bmop/sound label. His bio appears in The Grove Dictionary of American Music.