Northwestern University; Cornell University; student of Bill Karlins, Alan Stout, Mel Powell, Karel Husa, and Steven Stucky
Stephen Andrew Taylor’s music often explores boundaries between art and science. His first orchestra commission, Unapproachable Light, inspired by images from the Hubble Space Telescope and the New Testament, was premiered by the American Composers Orchestra in 1996 in Carnegie Hall. Other works include the chamber quartet Quark Shadows, commissioned by the Chicago Symphony and premiered in 2001; and Seven Memorials, a half-hour cycle for piano inspired by the work of Maya Lin and premiered by Gloria Cheng in Los Angeles, 2004; she also performed the work at Tanglewood in 2006. The Machine Awakes, a CD of his orchestra, chamber and electronic music was released in 2010 on Albany Records; and Paradises Lost, an opera based on the novella by Ursula K. Le Guin, was premiered in Portland, Oregon and at the University of Illinois in 2012; it was featured at Toronto's SummerWorks festival in 2013, conducted by the composer. He was a 2014 Fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation; his horn trio for Steven Stucky receives its premiere in Minneapolis in October 2016, performed by Bernhard Scully with the Bakken Trio.
Besides composing for traditional instruments, Taylor also works with live electronics in pieces such as Indian Hedgehog for alto saxophone and electronics, premiered by Debra Richtmeyer in Strasbourg, France in 2015. He is also active as a conductor with the Illinois Modern Ensemble, and as a theorist, writing and lecturing on György Ligeti, African rhythm, Björk and Radiohead. In popular music he has collaborated on concerts and albums with Pink Martini, rock singer Storm Large, The Von Trapps, and cabaret/performance artist Meow Meow.
Born in 1965, he grew up in Illinois and studied at Northwestern and Cornell Universities, and the California Institute of the Arts; his teachers include Steven Stucky, Karel Husa, Mel Powell, Bill Karlins and Alan Stout. His music has won awards from Northwestern, Cornell, the Conservatoire Américain de Fontainebleau, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Composers, Inc., the Debussy Trio, the Howard Foundation, the College Band Directors National Association, the New York State Federation of Music Clubs, the Illinois Arts Council, the American Music Center, and ASCAP. Among his commissions are works for Northwestern University, University of Illinois, the Syracuse Society for New Music, Pink Martini and the Oregon Symphony, the Quad City Symphony, the Chicago Symphony, Quartet New Generation and the New Philharmonic, Piano Spheres, and the American Composers Orchestra.
When I teach composition I try to follow the example of Olivier Messiaen, who didn't wish to turn his students into clones of himself. Instead he tried to help each of his students become themselves, developing their own musical personality. With so many musical styles in currency, I would much rather help students follow their chosen path than tell them which path they should follow. What I do insist on is that composers write lots of music. The only way to get good at something is to practice.