Ned McGowan

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For the lawyer, see Ned McGowan (lawyer).
Ned McGowan
Born 1970 (age 44–45)
Genres Contemporary classical music
Occupation(s) Composer
Instruments Flute, Contrabass Flute
Labels Karnatic Lab Records

Ned McGowan (born 1970) is an American composer and flutist based in Amsterdam.

“McGowan’s music strives for an idiom in which various musics – American popular, European classical and avant-garde, Carnatic, a fascination with proportionally intricate rhythms, the use of microtones in the search for new subtleties of melody – and many others, rub against each other and generate new meanings.”
- musicologist Bob Gilmore.


After finishing studies in flute at the San Francisco Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music, he moved to Amsterdam in 1994 to continue his research. Over the course of eight years, he studied both flute and composition in Amsterdam and The Hague, exploring a wide range of subjects – from extended techniques to Carnatic forms and rhythms, from jazz improvisation to West-African drumming. His compositional voice was profoundly influenced by these experiences, even though he never directly follows any of these traditions stylistically.

In addition to having given masterclasses and workshops on composition, flute and non-western techniques, Ned has worked as coordinator of the Crossing Borders seminar at the Amsterdam School of the Arts and taught Advanced Rhythm at the Conservatory of Amsterdam.


McGowan’s piece Tools, winner of the Henriette Bosmans Prize from the Dutch Composer’s Union GeNeCo, was described as “brutal and humorous” (GeNeCo, 2004), while at the same time “packed with discreet acoustic rooms, some more resonant than others, but all proving that... subtlety pays off” (Guy Livingston, Paris Transatlantic, 2006).

His compositions have been played throughout Europe, North America and Australia, at MATA Festival (New York), Ought-One (Vermont), Aspen Music Festival (Colorado), The American Music Week in Bulgaria, the Gaudeamus Music Week, the North Sea Jazz Festival, the Klap op de Vuurpijl, and the Grachten Festival (Amsterdam). Ensembles and festivals who have commissioned McGowan include the Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra, the Zephyr String Quartet, Calefax reed quintet, the Axyz Ensemble, Duo Vertigo, the Netherlands Flute Orchestra and Hexnut.

He is also highly active in fostering the Amsterdam musical community through the Karnatic Lab Foundation, an organization he founded with Gijs Levelt in 1999 to promote both composed and improvised new music. This umbrella organization runs a monthly concert series, programs a yearly festival with international guests, and has its own record label Karnatic Lab Records and house ensembles: Axyz, a contemporary music ensemble, Spinifex Orchestra, a nine piece jazz ensemble, and McGowan’s own quintet, Hexnut.

Flute Playing[edit]

As a flute player, Ned McGowan plays a variety of styles with ensembles such as Hexnut, and Messing with PVC. In 2007, his specific fascination with Carnatic music led to an extended stay in India studying performance, rhythm and composition. In the last five years Ned McGowan has taken an interest in the contrabass flute, as it opens up the bass musical role in addition to the more common melodic role of the flute. His April 2008 Carnegie Hall debut, as soloist in his own contrabass flute concerto "Bantammer Swing" with the American Composers Orchestra, was well received as one of the only pieces in this genre.

Selected Compositions[edit]

Heads or Tails (2008) - Jazz band
Bantammer Swing (2008) - Concerto for contrabass flute and chamber orchestra
Hymn (2008) - Improvising string quartet
Fantasy on an improvisation of Ravi Shankar (2007) - Wind ensemble
Spectra (2007) - Solo contrabass flute/flute and flute orchestra
Tempest in a Teapot (2006) - Orchestra
Devil’s Dust (2006) - String Quartet
Alap (2005) - Soprano and ensemble
Wood Burn (A)(2005) - Reed quintet/Wood Burn (B) (2005) - Chamber ensemble
Workshop (2004) - Alto Recorder and tape
Tools (2003) - Mixed quartet; Winner Henriette Bosmans Prize, 2003, Netherlands
Urban Turban (2001)- Two marimbas; also arranged for: mixed trio/quartet; saxophone and marimba; jazz ensemble.
Stone Soup (2001) - Jazz ensemble
Moonrise (1998) - Flute; Finalist Gaudeamus Foundation Prize, 1999
Melting Igloos (1998) - Mixed quartet; Finalist Gaudeamus Foundation Prize, 2000


Hexnut (2007)
Tools (2006)
Nandi Dasaru (2005)
Non Sequitur (2005)
Paximadi (2005)
Rickshaw Chase (2001)

External links[edit]