Michael Ellison

Michael Ellison

The music of Michael Ellison defies categorization, seamlessly integrating contemporary and classical sensibilities with traditional influences into a unique and personal idiom. Described as “beautifully crafted, robust and absorbing” by American Record Guide, Ellison’s is a music of color and contrast, characterized by a mercurial rhythmic language, evocative atmosphere and emotional breadth. Having now worked out of the epicenter of collision of cultures that is Istanbul for close to ten years, Ellison’s recent work has explores the integration of disparate traditions and sonic explorations into meaningful new forms.

The years 2008-2011 promise a windfall of new works: Commissioned by the BBC, Ellison’s ‘Turkish’ Concerto K. 219, for Turkish instruments, cello and orchestra (2008) was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London on 21 November, with cellist Gemma Rosefield and the Ali Tüfekçi Ensemble under the baton of Pascal Rophé. In 2011, the Borusan Istanbul Philharmonic will premiere Ellison’s first opera, Say I Am You-Mevlana, in a co-production with Rotterdam Operadagen and Muziektheater Transparant in Belgium. Caroline Petrick is slated to direct the Istanbul 2011 premiere as well as its unveiling at the 2011 Rotterdam Operadagen. December 2009 will also see the premiere of a new choral work commissioned by CUMA for the Istanbul Cultural Capital 2010, and January 2010 the premiere of a new work for Istanbul’s Hezarfen Ensemble at Borusan’s newly opened Music House.  Duo Arcobaleni will premiere Ellison’s new work for percussion and piano, Ariadne’s Thread, on the festival Mediterraneus in Aqui Terme, Italy in October 2010, while the Fry Street Quartet has commissioned Ellison’s a new work for string quartet for US premiere in 2011-12.

Michael Ellison has received numerous awards for his compositions, including from Copland House (2006), the Beebe Foundation (New England Conservatory), the Ojai Festival, the Barlow Endowment, and ASCAP. The support of the Fulbright Foundation (1997-98) and ARIT (American Research Institute in Turkey) facilitated field research in the classical and folk music of Turkey (2000-1), research which continues to inform much of his current output. The National Endowment for the Arts funded the commission for the Borromeo Quartet of String Quartet #2 (2002), which the group subsequently toured throughout the United States, Turkey and Japan. In 1995, Ellison’s Cry in the Wilderness, commissioned as winner of First Music 11 competition, was premiered by the New York Youth Symphony and Miguel Harth-Bedoya in Carnegie Hall.

Ellison’s work Elif, composed for the renowned master hafız Kâni Karaca, successfully brought the ancient sounds of Qu’ranic recitation and Turkish makam into the boldest of new music contexts at the Istanbul International Spectral Music Festival in 2003. The critically acclaimed folklore ensemble Kardes Türküler premiered Bü Ülke’de Güverçinlere Dokunmazlar (In this country they don’t touch pigeons, 2008) a piece composed in Memoriam Hrant Dink for a week of historic December 2008 concerts in Erivan, Armenia which marked the opening of cultural and musical exchanges between the two nations. He has also collaborated with Erkan Oğur (Agirlama, 2003) and Hakan Şensoy (Fana, 2000). His chamber works have been performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Berlin Saxophone Quartet, Frøydis Ree Wekre, the Calgary Philharmonic, and by flautist Helen Bledsoe at the Gaudeamus Festival in Amsterdam. Since 2002 he has served on the faculty of MIAM Center for Advanced Studies in Music at Istanbul Technical University.

Commission Information

A Cry in the Wilderness
Commissioned for: 

Related Concert

February 19, 1995