Fellow: Awarded 2019
Field of Study: Music Composition
Competition: US & Canada
The composer Christopher Trapani synthesizes disparate influences, weaving American and European stylistic strands into a personal aesthetic that defies easy classification. Allusions to Delta Blues, Appalachian folk tunes, dance band foxtrots, shoegaze guitar effects, and Turkish makam can be heard alongside spectral swells and meandering canons. As in Christopher’s hometown of New Orleans, diverse traditions coexist and intermingle, swirled into a rich melting pot.
Consonance is a central preoccupation of Trapani’s music, often veering into microtonality and just intonation. Timbral exploration also abounds, from experiments with a wide range of mutes and preparations to a predilection for an out-of-the-box instrumentarium, including dulcimer, qanûn, viola d’amore, stroh violin, microtonal Fender Rhodes, and retuned autoharps. Several of Christopher’s compositions bear the mark of his training in literature, influenced by novelists and poets such as Thomas Pynchon, Geoff Dyer, Elizabeth Bishop, and C. P. Cavafy. Many of his recent works also feature a distinctive and idiosyncratic use of electronics, expanding the possibilities of color, pitch, and timing beyond the acoustic realm.
Christopher Trapani was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1980. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard College, where he studied composition with Bernard Rands and poetry under Helen Vendler. He spent most of his twenties overseas: a year in London, working on a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music with Julian Anderson; a year in Istanbul, studying microtonality in Ottoman music on a Fulbright grant; and seven years in Paris, where he studied with Philippe Leroux and worked at IRCAM. Christopher is currently based in New York City, where he recently completed a doctorate at Columbia University, studying with Tristan Murail, Georg Friedrich Haas, Fred Lerdahl, and George Lewis.
Christopher is the winner of the 2016-17 Luciano Berio Rome Prize, as well as the 2007 Gaudeamus Prize, the first American in over 30 years to win the international young composers’ award. Other honors include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2015), the Julius F. Ježek Prize (2013), three Morton Gould Young Composers Awards from ASCAP (2005, 2006, and the Leo Kaplan Award in 2009), and a BMI Student Composer Award (2006).
Recent commissions have come from the BBC, the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Modern, and Radio France, and his works have been heard at Carnegie Hall, the Venice Biennale, Southbank Centre, Ruhrtriennale, IRCAM, Ravenna Festival, and Wigmore Hall. His scores have been performed by a long list of top interpreters including ICTUS, Nieuw Ensemble, Asko Ensemble, Ensemble L’Itinéraire, Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, Ensemble Mosaik, ICE, Ensemble C Barré, Talea Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, Zwerm, Earplay, Yarn/Wire, Longleash, Atlas Ensemble, pianists Sergey Schepkin and Marilyn Nonken, singer Lucy Dhegrae, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the American Composers Orchestra. He has held residencies at Copland House (New York), Les Récollets (Paris), Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris), Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart), and the Camargo Foundation (Cassis, France).
His debut portrait CD, Waterlines, was released by New Focus Recordings in September 2018.
Profile photograph by Esin Pektas
“Can’t Feel at Home" from Waterlines performed by Lucy Dhegrae and Talea Ensemble, James Baker, conductor. Released: 2018. Track 1 of 12. Courtesy of New Focus Recordings.
“Visions and Revisions" from Waterlines performed by JACK Quartet. Released: 2018. Track 8 of 12. Courtesy of New Focus Recordings.