Competition: US & Canada
Education: Bowling Green State University
The music of Mikel Kuehn has been described as having “sensuous phrases … produc[ing] an effect of high abstraction turning into decadence” by author and New York Times critic Paul Griffiths. Trained as a percussionist in the Los Angeles area in the early 1980s, Kuehn split his time equally between jazz, classical, and electroacoustic music, eventually becoming a composer as a way to fuse their unique elements into a personal musical language. His music regularly explores the boundaries of harmony and color woven into dramatic narratives.
He has received awards, grants, and residencies from ASCAP (Student Composer Awards), BMI (Student Composer Award), Banff Centre, Chicago Symphony Orchestra (First Hearing Prizes), Composers, Inc. (Lee Ettelson Award), Copland House (Copland Award), Eastman (Howard Hanson and McCurdy Prizes), League of Composers/ISCM, MacDowell Colony, Salvatore Martirano Memorial Composition Competition (honorable mention), Ohio Arts Council (Individual Excellence Awards), Luigi Russolo Competition (finalist), and Yaddo.
Past commissions/premieres have come from organizations such as the Anubis Quartet, the Boulogne Billancourt Saxophone Ensemble, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago (Cliff Colnot, conductor), the Copland House, Ensemble 21, Flexible Music, cellist Craig Hultgren, guitarist Dan Lippel, and Selmer Paris. Kuehn’s music has been performed by pianist David Burge, the Chamber Players of the League/ISCM, Composers Inc., Duo Zéphyr, Earplay, the New York New Music Ensemble (Harvey Sollberger, conductor), and the Roots Ensemble, among others. He has been a featured composer of the 5-Penny New Music Concerts, the Birmingham Art Music Alliance, Cornell University’s State of the Art Festival, Cycle de concerts de musique par ordinateur (Université Paris 8), the Eastman School of Music, Electronic Music Midwest, Festival Elektrokomplex, the Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival, the International Computer Music Conference, the International Viola Congress, June in Buffalo, the North American Saxophone Alliance, the Orpheus Chamber Music Series, the Society of Electroacoustic Music in the U.S., Sonic Residues 02, the Third Practice Festival, the Vienna International Saxfest, and the World Saxophone Congress. Recordings of his works appear on ACA Digital, Centaur, Erol, ICMA, and MSR Classics.
Recent works include Colored Shadows (2012) for solo viola and electroacoustics commissioned by John Graham, Undercurrents (2013) for fourteen instruments commissioned by Ensemble Dal Niente, Rite of Passage (2014) for solo bass clarinet and electroacoustics commissioned by Marianne Gythfeldt, and Returning the Complement (2013) commissioned by Perspectives of New Music for pianist Winston Choi in celebration of Robert Morris’ 70th birthday. Forthcoming projects include a soprano and electroacoustics piece for Deborah Norin-Kuehn, a piano and electroacoustics work for Marilyn Nonken, and a solo CD on the New Focus label.
Currently Professor of Composition at Bowling Green State University, Kuehn was director of the MidAmerican Center for Contemporary Music (MACCM), the annual New Music Festival, and the Music at the Forefront concert series from 2007 through 2010. He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music and the University of North Texas.