Fellow: Awarded 2016
Field of Study: Music Composition
Competition: US & Canada
Described as “gripping” by both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, “poignant”, “richly evocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), “taut, and hauntingly beautiful” (NY Times), Jonathan Berger’s recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. His chamber operas, Theotokia and The War Reporter explore hallucination and haunting memories, while his monodrama, My Lai portrays the ethical dilemmas of an individual placed in an impossible situation.
Berger’s “dissonant but supple” (NY Times) compositions are often inspired by science and the human condition, including the adaptation of satellite imaging data to turn the dispersal of an oil spill into music (Jiyeh), spatial representation of brain activations of a schizophrenic hallucination (Theotokia), and sonic expression of the chemical spectroscopy of cancer (Diameters). His symphonic, chamber, vocal, and electroacoustic works are performed throughout the world.
Thrice commissioned by The National Endowment for the Arts, Berger has also received major commissions from The Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations, Chamber Music America, and numerous chamber music societies and ensembles. His most recent commissions include My Lai (commissioned by The National Endowment, the Gerbode Foundation, and Harris Theatre for the Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert and Van Anh Vo), Tango alla Zingarese (commissioned by the 92nd Street Y), and Swallow, (commissioned by the St. Lawrence String Quartet). He is about to commence work on a world premiere for soprano Julia Bullock and piano trio (co-commissioned by the Lincoln Center Chamber Society and the Harris Theatre).
A winner of the Rome Prize, Berger was composer-in-residence at Spoleto Festival USA. His violin concerto, Jiyeh, paired with that of Benjamin Britten, was recorded for Harmonia Mundi’s Eloquentia label by violinist Livia Sohn, who also recorded Berger’s War Reporter Fantasy for Naxos and solo works on Miracles and Mud, his acclaimed Naxos recording of music for solo violin and string quartet.
In addition to composition, Berger is an active researcher with over 60 publications in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology and has held research grants from DARPA, the Wallenberg Foundation and others.
Berger is the Denning Family Provostial Professor in Music at Stanford University, where he teaches composition, music theory, and cognition at the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). He was the founding co-director of the Stanford Institute for Creativity and the Arts (SICA, now the Stanford Arts Institute) and founding director of Yale University’s Center for Studies in Music Technology.
Berger’s next projects, which will comprise his Guggenheim Fellowship, include a cantata based upon folk tales as told by refugees, migrants, and the homeless, and a work based upon acoustic models that approximate and recreate the sounds of extinct species and lost habitats.