Elizabeth Brown combines a composing career with an extremely diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her compositions, shaped by this unique group of instruments and experiences, have been called luminous, dreamlike and hallucinatory. |
After hearing the instrument on a concert tour of Japan, Brown began studying shakuhachi in 1984 with Ralph Samuelson, and its music has been a major influence on her musical language. She is celebrated both here and in Japan for her compositions combining eastern and western sensibilities. As Grand Prize Winner in the Makino Yutaka Composition Competition for Japanese traditional instrument orchestra in 2011, 'Shinshoufuukei' was performed by Pro Musica Nipponia in Tokyo's Kioi Hall. 'Mirage' was a prizewinner in the SGCM Shakuhachi Composition Competition 2010, with a performance in Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Takemitsu Memorial. Music from Japan presented the Japanese premiere of 'Rubicon' in Fukushima prefecture, performed by members of Tokyo's Reigakusha gagaku orchestra. Music from Japan also commissioned 'fragments for the moon', for concerts featuring Brown with nohkan/shinobue artist Kohei Nishikawa in 2011 in New York City and at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. Brown has been Artist-in-Residence in the Grand Canyon, working on a series of solo shakuhachi pieces inspired by particular places in nature. She has given solo moonlight shakuhachi performances in the sculpture quarry of the Lacoste School for the Arts in Provence, and as Artist-in-Residence in both Acadia National Park and Isle Royale National Park. Since she premiered 'Mirage', for shakuhachi and string quartet, with the Grainger Quartet at the World Shakuhachi Festival 2008 in Sydney, Australia, it has also been performed in Tokyo, Prague, and New York City. In 2008/2009, Brown lived in Japan on a Cultural Exchange Fellowship supported by the US/Japan Friendship Commission.
Other pieces for Japanese traditional instruments include 'Afterimage', for shakuhachi and shamisen, premiered in fall 2011 at Roulette Brooklyn, 'Slowly Toward the North', for bass koto and shou, premiered in Tokyo in 2012, and a number of ichigenkin pieces for Minegishi Issui. Brown performs both traditional and contemporary shakuhachi repertoire, often combining them in solo programs, such as her 2011 concert at the Isamu Noguchi Garden Museum in New York. She is Composer-in-Residence at the John J. Cali School of Music at Montclair State University, where she also teaches shakuhachi. A Juilliard graduate and Guggenheim Fellowship recipient, Brown has also received grants, awards, and commissions from Orpheus, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Newband, the Asian Cultural Council, the Cary Trust, NYFA, and Meet the Composer. Besides the U.S. and Japan, Brown’s music has been performed in Russia, Colombia, Australia, Vietnam, and across Europe. She has two solo CDs: 'Elizabeth Brown: Mirage' (New World) and 'Blue Minor: Chamber Music by Elizabeth Brown' (Albany), and her music is also available on CRI, Innova, and Music and Arts.