Craig Michael Davis | Solo Piano
Craig Michael Davis | Letters to a Terrorist Ballet Opera
Craig Michael Davis is an internationally known composer, conductor, and pianist from California. He travels the world performing a solo keyboard show and with The Craig Michael Davis Ensemble, which he founded in 2015. Living in New York City in his 20s, he received a Master’s Degree in Theory and Composition from the New York University. Moving to Bloomington, Indiana, in 2016, he received a Doctorate in Music Composition, from Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music. Currently, Craig is on faculty at the Jacobs School of Music, teaching music.
Craig studied predominately with Michael Gordon, Julia Wolfe, Jon Gibson, Lloyd Rodgers, Don Freund, Claude Baker and Aaron Travers. Craig has had works premiered by the L'viv Philharmonic Orchestra, the NYU Philharmonic Orchestra, the JACK Quartet, the Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music Wind Ensemble, the Jacobs School of Music Wind Ensemble and the Indiana University Choir. Craig writes for film, theatre, and live performance. His theatre piece, “Letters to a Terrorist,” just placed in the finals of the ASCAP Young Composers Competition. “Letters to a Terrorist” portrays one woman’s journey and life as the wife of the leader of a terrorist organization in Algeria.
As a pianist, Craig has toured The United States and Europe giving performances of his original works. Writing for multiple keyboards with electronic effects such as delays and loops, he often collaborates with painters and dancers to create new works that last anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Craig has become increasingly in demand 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 three 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.
Craig lives with his wife and dogs, Duke (a golden retriever) and Hamilton (a toy poodle), in Bloomington, Indiana. Craig's music is published through Jack Harrison Publishing Co., and his music is distributed through Davenport Records.
“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.