Kyle Gann


Born: November 21, 1955; Dallas, TX  
Kyle Gann is a composer and critic who is probably better known in the latter role, having written for The Village Voice, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and other prestigious publications. His sympathies in both professions have been with the more progressive styles of composition, including most forms of American experimentalism such as Totalism, an off-shoot of minimalism that is mainly derived from rhythm and can simultaneously employ Read more different tempos and rhythms. Gann was born in Texas on November 21, 1955, to musical parents: his father was a choral singer and his mother a piano teacher. At the age of six, Gann began taking lessons from his mother, but did not show special interest or talent until he was 12. He produced his first completed piano work at age 13 and immediately decided his life's vocation was to be a composer. In high school, Gann studied composition with Howard Dunn, the school band director. He later studied with Randolph Coleman at Oberlin Conservatory, with Greg Proctor at the University of Texas, and with Peter Gena at Northwestern, from which Gann received his master's degree in 1981 and his doctorate in 1983. He also briefly studied with Morton Feldman in 1975. Gann's exposure to minimalism came in 1974 via the works of Glass and Reich, which had a major influence on him. Among his first important works were Long Night (1980 - 1981), for three pianos, and Oil Man (1981), the former employing different tempos from each piano and the latter using jazz elements. Gena enlisted Gann to become his administrative assistant at the Museum of Contemporary Art's New Music America '82 Festival. Through connections at this event, he was able to launch a career as a critic for various publications in the Chicago area, including the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, and Chicago Reader. In 1984, he composed a chamber work, Hesapa ki Lakhota ki Thawapi (The Black Hills Belong to the Sioux), which, inspired by music of the Pueblo Indians, further delved into the simultaneous use of different tempos and rhythms. This piece has become Gann's most often-performed composition. Around this time, he began studies with composer Ben Johnston in microtonalism. In 1986, Gann was appointed new music critic for the Village Voice. He continued to write compositions at a fairly steady rate during this time, producing works such as Windows to Infinity, for piano (1987), Cyclic Aphorisms (1988), and The Convent at Tepoztlan (1989), the latter an homage to expatriate maverick composer Conlan Nancarrow, whom he had met with several times during the 1980s and for whom he had developed great admiration. Gann's first microtonal composition came with the 1991 Superparticular Woman. His interest in the music of the American Indian endured into the 1990s, resulting in such works as Snake Dance I (1991) and Snake Dance 2 (1995), both for percussion quartet and optional sampling keyboard. Meanwhile, Gann was working on a book, The Music of Conlan Nancarrow, which was published in 1995 by Cambridge University Press, the first serious study of the music of this important composer. Gann authored another book in 1997, American Music in the 20th century, published by Schirmer Books. In it, he examines American music largely from the last quarter of the century. In December 2000, Gann's microtonal opera Custer and Sitting Bull (1997 - 1999) was premiered in New York City to generally positive reviews. Read less

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