Michael Gordon

Michael Gordon


• Born 1956

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The American contemporary composer Michael Gordon grew up in Nicaragua, where at a young age he first learned to play the piano. Gordon would distract his piano teacher by creating compositions of his own, both to show off and to divert attention from the fact that he had not practiced his Mozart pieces as assigned. As early as age 10, he was devoting a considerable amount of his time to composition. At the age of 8, Gordon and his family moved to Miami, Florida where Gordon continued to study piano.

Years later, Gordon continued his music studies at both New York University, earning his Bachelor of Arts, and at Yale School of Music where he earned his Master of Music. At Yale, he would meet the composer Michael Daugherty as well as David Lang, who later became his partner in founding Bang On A Can. 

Originally, Gordon played in the NYC-based rock group Peter and the Girlfriends, eventually going on to create the Michael Gordon Philharmonic, now known as the Michael Gordon Band, who perform classical music amplified and have even employed Steven Mackey on electric guitar. The group’s performances started at NYC art galleries, the punk venue CBGBs, and embarked on a European tour.

Gordon is known for his musical experimentation in what is called Totalism. This idea explores intricate structures in music along with quick tempo changes reminiscent of rock groups in his classical music composition. This work has earned Michael Gordon the label of “maverick.”

His compositions include orchestral and operatic pieces but he focuses primarily on creating works for non-traditional classical music groups. He has written music for New World Symphony, Brooklyn Academy of Music, Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and his music has toured premiere concert halls around the world.

He has won honours from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts, and American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Michael Gordon, along with David Lang and Julia Wolfe, co-founded and co-directs the legendary music collective Bang on a Can, which is based in New York. His music is published on Red Poppy Music and distributed by G. Schirmer. Inc.