Aaron Helgeson, Composition and Theory (Leave of Absence)
Aaron Helgeson is an internationally recognized composer for the stage and concert hall, bringing a cutting-edge sensibility to acoustic instrumental and vocal music.
His work — described by critics as "beautifully ethereal" (Sequenza 21) and "simultaneously virtuoso display and engaging instrumental drama" (The New York Times) — explores the poetic boundaries of musical perception, drawing on the diverse fields of phenomenology, acoustics, literature, and cognitive science to find new ways of engaging with old musical traditions.
With performances across the US and Europe at venues including the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, IRCAM’s Manifeste 2012, the 2013 World New Music Days in Vienna, and the 2014 MATA Festival in New York, Helgeson's music has been championed by such ensembles as the Arditti String Quartet, New York piano and percussion quartet Yarn/Wire, acclaimed French chamber choir Les Cris de Paris, and Austrian new music group Ensemble Reconsil. Recordings of his music are availabe on Carrier Records and Oberlin Music, with an upcoming portrait album on innova.
In 2005, he received the Saul Chaplin Award for music theater with his chamber opera The Crane Wife based on a Japanese folk tale of the same name. A former Fletcher Jones Fellow at the University of California San Diego, he holds prizes and accolades from the Aaron Copland Fund, ASCAP, the Fulbright Institute, American Composers Forum, and the Eiler Foundation. Also an occasional essayist, he recently penned an article for Perspectives of New Music entitled What is phenomenological music and what does it have to do with Salvatore Sciarrino?
Some of his latest projects include a song cycle on fragments from medieval Occitan troubadour poetry commissioned by Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki, the title track for renown clarinetist Richard Hawkins' new CD A place toward other places, and an anti-cantata for soloists David Bowlin (violin) and Alice Teyssier (soprano) of the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) based original transcriptions of Norwegian folk song and sonifications of weather data from the Children's Blizzard of 1888.
Helgeson holds master’s and doctoral degrees in composition from UC San Diego, and bachelor's degrees in composition and theater (summa cum laude) from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in Ohio. He returned to Oberlin from 2013-2016 where he taught as Assistant Professor of Composition from 2013-2016 and served as Program Director for the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestras Young Composer Program. In 2016, he joined the faculty at the Longy School of Music in Cambridge, Massachusetts.