Pianist

Advisory Council, Visiting Artist

Michael Harrison

Composer and pianist Michael Harrison occupies a unique place in the world of music. His works are a blend of European musical traditions and those of North Indian classical music, forging an entirely new approach to composition through tunings and methodologies that employ and extend the ancient concept of “just intonation.”  

Harrison earned international recognition when Revelation, his 75-minute work for piano in his own “just intonation” tuning, was selected as one of the Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New York Times, Boston Globe and TimeOut New York, and Time Loops, with cellist Maya Beiser, was selected in NPR’s Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012.

Equally at home writing for voices (Roomful of Teeth), chamber orchestra (Alarm Will Sound), and Indian classical musicians, his music defies classification; yet many composers and critics confer that he is one of the most innovative artists of his generation, including Philip Glass, who called him an “American Maverick.” Inspired by both the Beatles and Bach, post-modern and jazz, Harrison blends Renaissance beauty with minimalist methodology, Eastern aesthetics with modern technology. The result is a body of concert music, interdisciplinary collaborations, and acclaimed solo albums.

Harrison's  music was transformed by discovering La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano, a work which he spent years learning, performing and perfecting the tuning. He also performs Indian classical music, having studied in India with Pandit Pran Nath, Mashkoor Ali Khan, and Terry Riley. Harrison not only mixes styles and traditions but also works interdisciplinarily on multimedia collaborations that use sound to illustrate the cosmos and to explore universal truths. 

Harrison invented the "harmonic piano" which plays 24 notes per octave. He lives in New York and is the recipient of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship.

“The intelligent discrimination with which he approaches his work is something that I have heard only in a tiny handful of classical recordings starting with Glenn Gould.” – Stephen Hill, National Public Radio

“Michael Harrison's Revelation: Music in Pure Intonation is probably the most brilliant and original extended composition for solo piano since the early works of Frederic Rzewski three decades ago (and no, I’m not forgetting Elliott Carter).” – Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic, Tim Page

 

Visiting Artist at Arts Letters & Numbers Summer Workshops 2013-2018 and Creative Music Intensives 2018-2019.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

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Visiting Artist

Sophia Subbayya Vastek

Pianist Sophia Subbayya Vastek, described by Second Inversion as playing with "passion and profound tenderness," maintains an active career as a concert pianist, keyboardist, educator, interdisciplinary collaborator, and event producer.   She revels in the tiniest moments of beauty and joy, and seeks to surprise herself and audiences with connections both odd and common.  She is interested in music that is unexpected, music that speaks, music that astonishes and confounds, music that binds, and music that heals.

Performing has taken Sophia to such places as South Africa, Mexico, and France, and around the United States, including at the Kennedy Center, the United States State Department, the Canadian Embassy (DC), Polish Cultural Institute (DC), The Apollo Theatre, and National Sawdust.  She has also been presented at The NoiseGate Festival, Queens New Music Festival, Artscape, and Arts Letters & Numbers.

Sophia’s debut album was released on innova Recordings with music by Michael Harrison, Donnacha Dennehy, and John Cage.  It was produced by multiple Grammy-winning engineer Adam Abeshouse and features tabla player Nitin Mitta, vocalist Megan Schubert, and Michael Harrison on tanpura.  Of the album, Second Inversion writes, "The result is both an homage to Vastek’s own individual histories but also a beautiful mosaic of the larger cultural intersections of our world—and how we weave those histories together through music." 

Sophia maintains an ongoing relationship with Arts Letters & Numbers, a nonprofit dedicated to creating creative exchanges across a wide range of disciplines, where she is a visiting artist.  There, she has co-directed creative music workshops and aided in the development of musical programming and music inclusion within the larger workshops and structures.

Sophia is heavily invested in contemporary classical music and has collaborated closely with many composers in the creation of new works.  Most notably, she has collaborated and performed with composer Michael Harrison, whose solo works she recorded on her album “Histories”.  She also maintains a very close partnership with David Ibbett, who has written multiple long-form electroacoustic works for her.

With composer David Ibbett, Sophia is a co-founder of Music of Reality, an interdisciplinary concert series and space for cross-cultural discovery that collaborates closely with researchers, scientists, and musicians. They released an EP last year consisting of music by David Ibbett, performed by Sophia and David.

Sophia is one half of Tilted Arc, an electroacoustic duo with electronic sound artist, composer, and multi-instrumentalist Sam Torres.  Together, they create, perform, and produce music and installations. They released their first album, “Ghost in the Square”, last year.

Sophia is indebted to her teachers, colleagues, collaborators, and friends who continue to teach her how to ask questions and truly listen.  

Sophia is based in Troy, NY and is on the music faculty at College of St. Rose in Albany, NY.

Visiting artist at Arts Letters & Numbers Summer Workshop 2016, 2018 and leading Creative Music Intensives 2018-2019.


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