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He received a B.A. degree from Hampshire College and a M.M. from the Yale School of Music. His major teachers include Jacob Druckman, Stephen Albert, Gunther Schuller, and Isang Yun in composition, and Arthur Weisberg in conducting. Asia's works ranges from solo pieces to large-scale multi-movement works for orchestra, including five symphonies.
He served on the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as Assistant Professor of Contemporary Music and Wind Ensemble from 1981 to 1986. In 1986–88, a UK Fulbright Arts Fellowship and a Guggenheim Fellowship enabled him to work in London as a visiting lecturer at City University. Since 1988, he has been Professor of Composition and head of the composition department at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He conducts the New York-based contemporary chamber ensemble The Musical Elements, which he co-founded in 1977. Asia founded and directs the American Culture and Ideas Initiative.
As a blogger, Asia contributes articles on music and culture to The Huffington Post. In 2013, he gained notoriety after receiving international responses for an April 25 article entitled "Carter is Dead."
From 1991-1994, Asia was the Meet the Composer/Composer In Residence with the Phoenix Symphony. He has been the recipient of a Meet The Composer/Reader’s Digest Consortium Commission, United Kingdom Fulbright Arts Award Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, four NEA Composers Grants, a M. B. Rockefeller Grant, an Aaron Copland Fund for Music Grant, MacDowell Colony and Tanglewood Fellowships, ASCAP and BMI composition prizes, and a DAAD Fellowship for study in the Federal Republic of Germany. Asia is the 2010 recipient of the American Academy of Arts and Letters award (2010).
- 1973 – Sound Shapes, for SSAATTBB chorus and pitch pipes
- 1974–75 – On the Surface, for soprano, piano, harp, cello, and percussion
- 1975 – Dream Sequence I, for amplified trombone
- 1976 – String Quartet No. 1
- 1976 – Miles Mix, for tape
- 1979 – Orange, for viola
- 1980–81 – Rivalries, for chamber orchestra
- 1984 – Three Movements, for trumpet and orchestra
- 1985 – String Quartet No. 2
- 1987 – Symphony No. 1
- 1988 – B for J, for flute, bass clarinet, trombone, vibraphone, electric organ, violin, viola, and cello
- 1989 – Quartet for piano, violin, viola, and cello
- 1988–90 – Symphony No. 2 "Celebration" (Khagiga: In Memoriam Leonard Bernstein)
- 1990 – Black Light, for orchestra
- 1991 – At the Far Edge, for orchestra
- 1992 – Symphony No. 3
- 1993 – Gateways, for orchestra
- 1993 – Symphony No. 4
- 1994 – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
- 1995 – Embers, for flute and guitar
- 1997 – Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
- 1999 - Piano Trio
- 2001 – Sonata for Violin and Piano
- 2002 - "Momentary Lapses", for Ben Verdery (guitar and violin)
- 2004 – New Set, for guitar and violin
- 2008 – Symphony No. 5