Craig Michael Davis is an internationally known composer, conductor, and pianist from California who currently lives in Bloomington, Indiana. He travels the world performing with The Craig Michael Davis Ensemble, which he founded in 2015. Receiving a Master’s Degree in Theory and Composition from the New York University, Craig studied predominately with Michael Gordon and Julia Wolfe. Craig's most recent work Re-Creation, for String Orchestra, was premiered by the L'viv Philharmonic Orchestra in May 2015. For the theater, Craig is currently working on a piece entitled, “Letters to a Terrorist,” portraying one woman’s journey and life as the wife of the leader of a terrorist organization in Algeria.
Since 2009, Craig has conducted various full and scratch orchestra-type ensembles, including the Broadway Chamber Players, the New Music Ensemble at California State University, Fullerton; the Fullerton Choir; and The White Noise Contemporary Music Ensemble. These ensembles have curated music from the Renaissance through music of today including David Lang, Louis Andriessen, Terry Riley, Kyle Gann, Lloyd Rodgers, and Frederic Rzewski.
As a pianist, Craig has toured The United States and Europe giving performances of his original works. He often collaborates with painters and dancers to create new works that last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Craig has become increasingly interested in writing and performing music in cross collaborative-genre venues that deal with multiple mediums simultaneously.
His writing has earned a number of awards and residencies, among which include two ASCAP awards, Finalist in the 2015 Sacrarium International Composition Competition and Forum, The 2013 Alan A. Mannason Award for Composition, and The 2012 Henriquez Award for Composition. His music has been played in the United States as well as in Europe. Most recently, his works have been performed by the New York University Philharmonic Orchestra; the L'viv Philharmonic Orchestra in L'viv, Ukraine; the JACK Quartet, in New York; and at various new music performance spaces in and around New York City. Craig's music is published through Jack Harrison Publishing Inc.
“WHEN YOU TAKE A FLOWER IN YOUR HAND AND REALLY LOOK AT IT, IT’S YOUR WORLD FOR THE MOMENT. I WANT TO GIVE THAT WORLD TO SOMEONE ELSE… NOBODY REALLY SEES A FLOWER – REALLY – IT IS SO SMALL – WE HAVEN’T TIME – AND TO SEE TAKES TIME… SO I SAID TO MYSELF – I’LL PAINT WHAT I SEE – WHAT THE FLOWER IS TO ME BUT I’LL PAINT IT BIG AND THEY WILL BE SURPRISED INTO TAKING TIME TO LOOK AT IT.”
Music is much like painting a flower, though instead of painting on canvas, as a composer, I paint time. Because our perception of time tends to be linear by default, I have devoted many works to the idea of non - linear time. In this vein, I’m currently working on a cyclical piece that lasts 24 hours in duration. The piece follows the trajectory of our modern 24 hour clock, though there is no beginning or ending to this work. The listener can enter into the sound world at their own pace and stay as long as they please.
My work has also been paralleled to that of a sculptor, who sculpts away chucks of clay to reveal the beautiful figure within. Thus, my goal in creating music is often to start with large chunks of sound, then removing any extra notes, my work is left with only the notes that are necessary. Thinking like a sculptor, in War Against the Soul for wind band (see excerpt 1 in ledger), I aimed at creating large, sculpted sound masses using the shape of a cross. In this way, physical images and pictures can be embodied into the sound.
Another work, Floating Cities, utilizes this same technique, however, I split this piece, for guitar ensemble, into three groups, each representing a layer of time. You may see from excerpt 2, that the top group is juxtaposed against the bottom group, in a 3:2 ratio. This three against two "macro isorhythm" is not the only metaphor, but those interested in tuning ratios will note that the ratio 3:2 represents a just perfect fifth. Represented in this piece are also ratios 4:3 and 5:4.
I have more recently expanded this sculpting idea, using electronic software (such as granular synthesis, spectral analysis, MAX, and RTcmix), and Digital Audio Workstations (such as Protools, Logic and Digital Performer), to create sound sculptures that cannot fully be actualized by acoustic instruments. In these electronic pieces, I often take real world sounds (ie. Insect buzzing, train track noise, my wife singing, etc.), analyze their sound spectrum, and change them in interesting ways that make the source unrecognizable. I then create new soundscapes that encompass new sound worlds and aesthetics.
Having teachers such as: Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Justin Dello Joio and Lloyd Rodgers, my most recent works encompass an edgy mixture of post-minimalism, and post-rock, yet have a uniquely classical aesthetic. Letters to a Terrorist, is a great example of this. It is an opera-ballet about the wife of a head emir in the G.I.A. in Algeria. Executions, betrayal, and denial mark the opening of this love story where Nadia, the protagonist, finds herself caught between her family and the man she loves, while she wrestles with the teachings of Islam and her husband, Ahmed’s, expectations.
I find that this way of musical expression remains relevant to the current culture, yet the pacing, counterpoint, and harmonic complexity, is written in such a way that even the most seasoned musicians can find interest in performing the music. Having grown up on the coast of California and moving to New York City in my early twenties, my music encompasses the freedom and improvisational spirit of the West, while adhering to a very clear East Coast, Downtown New York scene, with rich experimentation. Though my works are very clearing notated so that very little questions arise in the rehearsal process, I aim to leave enough space for musical interpretations that can breathe life to a performance, and encourage musicians to take a flower in their hand, notice it, and let it become their world for a moment.