David Felder

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David Felder

David Felder (born November 27, 1953) is an American composer of chamber, choral, orchestral, and electronic music, and currently a SUNY Distinguished Professor at the University at Buffalo, as well as the director of both the June in Buffalo Festival and the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music.[1]

Felder was the Composer-in-Residence of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra from 1993 to 1997 and has received numerous grants and commissions throughout his career as a composer, including many awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, two New York State Council commissions, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, two Koussevitzky commissions, two Fromm Foundation Fellowships, two awards from the Rockefeller Foundation, two commissions from the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, and many more.[2] In 2010, the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded Felder the Music Award in recognition of his career accomplishments.[3]

Felder has taught music composition at the University at Buffalo since 1985, received the SUNY Distinguished Professor title in 2008,[4] and served as Master Artist in Residence at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Spring, 2010. His, Les Quatres Temps Cardinaux (2013–14), for chamber orchestra, soprano, bass voice, and electronics, has been recorded by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project and is soon to be released. More recently, his violin concerto, Jeu de Tarot (2017), with violin soloist Irvine Arditti, and Ensemble Signal, conducted by Brad Lubman, has been recorded and released on Coviello Contemporary records.[5] His latest work for orchestra, Die Dämmerungen, will be given its complete world premiere by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra on October 5, 2019, at Kleinhans Music Hall.

Early career[edit]

Felder was born in Cleveland, Ohio on November 27, 1953, and as a youth joined the Cleveland Orchestra Chorus where he sang as a tenor under Music Director Pierre Boulez.[6] He later received a Bachelor of Music in 1975 and a Master of Music in 1977, both from Miami University. Felder spent the next two years in Cleveland teaching Electronic Music and Recording at The Cleveland Institute of Music and studying composition privately with Donald Erb, until Spring of 1979, before pursuing his Ph.D. in Music Composition at the University of California, San Diego [7] where he studied with Roger Reynolds, Bernard Rands, Robert Erickson, and Joji Yuasa, and which he completed in 1983.

Music and style[edit]

Felder's music has often been noted for its virtuosic instrumental writing, integration and juxtaposition of contrasting stylistic influences, unpredictable and often explosive energy, and remarkable directness. In Neue Musikzeitung's review of the 1995 Bridge Records release, "The Music of David Felder", they offer an overview of the contrasts and stylistic forces at play in Felder's musical works,[8]

It would be possible to extract a philosophy from the unbroken thread appearing through the chamber music-like five pieces represented as an example: the dazzling antagonism between dangerous and graceful activity, and static, distanced tranquility; the complexity and virtuosity in the handling of the ensemble and instrument; finally, the varied harmonic "colorfulness". Immediate access to this music that does not compromise or subordinate to a "saleable" idiom is undeniable; as well, its unique strength/power and vitality creates a sound-aesthetic full of sensual eruptions. This is especially true for the two pieces for chamber orchestra Three Lines from "Twenty Poems" (1987) and Journal (1990). In these pieces, David Felder proves himself not only as a composer that knows how to concentrate and use the subtle nuances of the instruments, but also as a composer that can use at the same time an extreme sense for the right balance between different tension-fields. November Sky (1992), for flute, incorporates the addition of a NeXT Computer to bring to reality a multi-layered, enhanced, sound-variability; (it is) an "in and out swelling" Lied of more than 16 minutes of duration in contrast exchange of joyfulness and melancholy. The movement for string quartet, Third Face (1988-98), startles through its unpretentious aggressiveness and drama, in which the few quiet passages contribute to the intensification of the climax rather than the relaxation. With Canzone XXXI (1993), Felder devotes himself to the refreshingly direct manner of the Brass Music of the 16th-century Venetian tradition. These few examples show a directness free from any coercion, individualistic, and dictated exclusively by the suggestive power of the music.

In the liner notes of Felder's 2013 CD release, "Tweener", Paul Griffiths describes Felder's style as a whole,

Different currents, and strong ones, are driving beneath the turbulent surfaces of David Felder’s music, where a still-robust modernism, with inheritances in particular from Stravinsky and Varèse, sports with aspects of popular music from big-band to electronica. At the same time, though, we are being taken back to the most basic elements of music: a single note (the start of Requiescat), a single interval (the start of Incendio), pulse (everywhere). Across the range of more than a quarter-century, from Rocket Summer (1983) to Requiescat (2010), Felder’s imperatives have remained remarkably stable, and yet the variety of his means and aims makes it useful to have, almost like a museum guide taking us through the collection...

Paul Griffiths delves into Felder's ability to creatively manage musical inheritances and use the basic elements of Western music in fresh and original ways in his liner notes to the 2009 Albany Records release, "BoxMan",[9]

Another musical gene these pieces share, already implicated in the above, is their rhythmic dynamism, the way pulses bounce off tight metrical frames. Yet another is the containment of rhythmic—and harmonic—tensions in small motifs, out of which a whole stretch of music can spring, almost as of itself. Like the bouncing octaves and the equally fearless triads, these are character traits that Felder uses as sources not so much of retro reference (though there is that in Memento mori and partial [dist]res[s]toration) as of freshness and vitality. The electronic world towards which this program moves is also that of the live world we are hearing all through, an energetic modernity.

Nils Vigeland describes a similar play of contrasts in Felder's music in his liner notes to "The Music of David Felder",[10]

The main characteristics of Felder's music are, I think, two in number. The first is a fierce opposition of states of activity -- muscular, often violent fast music with static remote music of repose... The second major characteristic of Felder's music is its insistent virtuosity of instrumental projection. In a Felder score, the performers are not only required to execute music of great difficulty, but must respond to both notational complexity and ensemble virtuosity. Although Felder... is very much concerned with the realities of performance, he has not wavered in his demand for the solution of difficult performance problems.

June in Buffalo Festival[edit]

The June in Buffalo Festival was founded at the University at Buffalo in 1975 by composer and UB Professor Morton Feldman, with sponsorship by the Rockefeller Foundation, New York State Council for the Arts, and the University at Buffalo. The festival was originally dedicated to emerging composers and to presenting and exposing new music to the world. The festival ran until 1980 and took a brief a hiatus until 1985 when David Felder revived the festival.[11]

Since 1985, Felder has been the Director of June in Buffalo, and expanded the program to include student composers, as well as, recently, student ensembles.[12] June in Buffalo has run every June since 1985, and offers a week-long intensive schedule of seminars, lectures, workshops, professional presentations, participant forums and open rehearsals as well as afternoon and evening concerts open to the general public and critics. Each of the invited composers has one of their pieces performed during the festival. Evening performances feature faculty composers, resident ensembles and soloists renowned internationally as interpreters of contemporary music.[13]

Slee Sinfonietta[edit]

June in Buffalo boasts a resident ensemble that performs regularly at the festival, the Slee Sinfonietta, which Felder co-founded with conductor Magnus Martensson, and began as Artistic Director in 1996.[14] The Slee Sinfonietta is the professional chamber orchestra in residence at the University at Buffalo and presents a series of concerts each year that feature performances of challenging new works by contemporary composers and lesser-known works from the chamber orchestra repertoire. The Slee Sinfonietta consists of a core group including UB faculty performance artists, visiting artists, national and regional professionals and advanced performance students, and conducted by leading conductors and composers.[15]

Center for 21st Century Music[edit]

The June in Buffalo Festival enjoys sponsorship from the Robert and Carol Morris Center for 21st Century Music, which Felder founded in 2006, and has acted as Artistic Director since.[16] In The Center for 21st Century Music's mission statement they commit that they are, "dedicated to the creation and production of new work upholding the highest artistic standards of excellence while simultaneously fostering a complementary atmosphere of creative research."[17] In 2015 he was named Co-Director of the University at Buffalo's Creative Arts Initiative, a plan to bring major international creative artists to the region as guest artists.[18]

Published works[edit]

All works are published by Theodore Presser, Inc.,[19] and Project Schott New York[20]

Orchestra and chamber orchestra[edit]

  • Die Dämmerungen for orchestra (complete premiere date October 2019)
  • Dream Journal for chamber ensemble, 2013 [21]
  • Les Quatre Temps Cardinaux for large chamber orchestra, solo soprano, solo bass, electronics, 2013[22][23]
  • Tweener for small chamber orchestra, solo percussionist, 8 channel electronics, 2010
  • Gone grey for chamber string orchestra, 2003
  • In Between for solo percussion and chamber orchestra, 2000
  • a pressure triggering dreams for orchestra, 1997, revised 1998
  • Three Pieces for Orchestra 1996, score revised 2008
  • Linebacker Music for orchestra, 1994
  • Six Poems from Neruda's Alturas... for orchestra, 1990–92, revised 1998
  • Journal for chamber orchestra, 1990
  • Between for solo percussion and large orchestra, 1990
  • La Dura Fria Hora for chamber chorus and orchestra, 1986
  • Three Lines from Twenty Poems for chamber orchestra, 1987
  • Coleccion Nocturna, for clarinet (=bcl), piano, orchestra, optional tape, 1984[24]


  • Nomina Sunt Consequentia Rerum for choir, 2012
  • Memento mori for 16 voice mixed chorus, 2004
  • La Dura Fria Hora for voices, a cappella, 1986

Large ensemble[edit]

  • Jeu de Tarot for solo violin, flute, clarinet, oboe, horn, perc., harp, piano/keyboard, vln., vla., vc., bass, electronics, 2017
  • Requiescat for bass flute, contrabass clarinet, perc., guitar, piano/celeste, 2 vlns., vla., vc.. bass, 8 channels of electronics, 2010
  • Dionysiacs for flute ensemble (6 players), and ‘gli altri’ (minimum 14), 2005
  • Partial [Dist]res[s]toration for ensemble, 2002
  • Inner Sky for flute (doubling piccolo, alto, bass), two percussion, piano, strings, computer, 1994, revised 1998
  • Passageways IIa for ensemble, 1991
  • Passageways II for ensemble, 1980


  • Canzona for brass ensemble (4,4,3,1), 2017
  • shredder for brass ensemble (13 players), timpani, electric bass, 2001
  • Incendio for brass dectet (arranged with Jon Nelson), 2000
  • Canzone XXXI for two trumpets, horn, trombone, bass trombone, 1993

String quartet[edit]

  • Netivot for string quartet, 2016
  • Stuck-stücke for string quartet, 2007, revised 2009
  • Third Face for string quartet, 1988


  • Green Flash for 6 channels of electronic sound, 2012
  • So Quiet Here for four channels of electronic sound, 2006
  • RRRings t{h}RRR(o)u[gh]e for 8 channels of electronic sound, 2004

Solo and small ensemble[edit]

  • Three Songs from Three Watches, 2014
  • A Garland (for Bruce) for solo cello, 4, 6, or 8 channels of electronic sound, 2012
  • Rare Air for solo bass clarinet, piano and electronics, 2008
  • Insomnia for solo bass voice and percussion, 2008
  • Black Fire/White Fire (part 3 of Shamayim) for solo bass voice, video, 8 channels electronics, 2008
  • Sa’arah (part 2 of Shamayim) for solo bass voice, 8 channel electronics, video, 2007
  • Chashmal (part 1 of Shamayim) for solo bass voice, 8 channels of electronics, optional video, 2006
  • TweeenerB for solo percussion (including KAT mallet controller), and electronics, 1995, revised 2013
  • November Sky for flute doubling piccolo, alto, bass flutes, can be presented as media work with video walls (16 monitors each) and video playback, 1992
  • Crossfire for trombone, violin, flute, percussion; consists of four individual works: Boxman, Another Face, November Sky, and In Between; each work may be presented with or without video, 1986–92
  • Boxman for amplified solo trombone with MaxMSP processing, can also be presented as media work with two Delcom video walls (16 monitors each) and video playback, 1986–88, revised 1999
  • Another Face for solo violin, can be presented as media work with two Delcom video walls (16 monitors each) and video playback, 1987
  • Coleccion Nocturna for clarinet (=bcl), piano, tape, 1983 [25]
  • Rocket Summer for solo piano, 1979, revised 1983
  • Rondage/Cycle for trumpet (trombone) with amplification/delay, piano, percussion, digital synthesizer, tape, 1977, revised with choreography and synclavier II digital synthesizer, 1983
  • Nexus for solo bass trombone, 1975


Felder's music is featured on several solo discs,[26] and included on many albums released by individual artists and new music groups, as well as on a joint release with Morton Feldman.[27] His works have been released on a variety of labels including Bridge Records, Mode Records, Albany Records, and many others.

Solo releases[edit]

  • Jeu de Tarot, Coviello Contemporary CD 91913, 2019. Jeu de Tarot, Netivot, and Another Face. Ensemble Signal, Brad Lubman, Arditti String Quartet, Irvine Arditti.[28]
  • Inner Sky, Albany Blu-ray surround 5.1 Troy 1418, 2013. Features 90 minutes of Felder's music spanning from 1979 to 2012, including Rare Air, Tweener, Requiescat, Incendio, Rocket Summer, Inner Sky, Canzone XXXI, and Dionysiacs.[29]
  • Boxman, Albany SACD 5.1 Troy 1153, 2009. BoxMan, partial [dist]res[s]toration, Memento Mori, and stuck-stücke. Arditti String Quartet, New York Virtuoso Singers, New York New Music Ensemble, Miles Anderson, James Baker.
  • Shamayim, Albany DVD 5.1 Troy 1137, 2009. Nicholas Isherwood, bass voice, image by Elliot Caplan.
  • a pressure triggering dreams, Mode CD 89, 2000. Six Poems from Neruda’s Alturas ..., a pressure triggering dreams, and Coleccion Nocturna. June in Buffalo Festival Orchestra, Magnus Martensson, Jean Kopperud, James Winn, Harvey Sollberger.
  • The Music of David Felder, Bridge CD 0049, 1995. Three Lines from "Twenty Poems", Journal (June in Buffalo Chamber Orchestra), Third Face (Arditti String Quartet), Canzone XXXI (American Brass Quintet), November Sky (Rachel Rudich, flutist, with 4-channel computer). Critic’s Choice CD of the Year, 1997, American Record Guide and Buffalo News.

Releases with other artists[edit]

  • The Age of Wire and String, edition NEO, 2011. Released by the Norbotten NEO Ensemble, features Partial [dist]res[s]toration.
  • Extreme Measures, Albany Records CD Troy 1217-18, 2010. Includes rare air performed by Jean Kopperud, clarinet, Stephen Gosling, piano.
  • Blooming Sounds, Albany Records CD Troy 210, 2006. Includes Another Face.
  • Metallafonic, Blue Bison Records CD002, 2006. Includes Shredder and Incendio.
  • Felder-Feldman, EMF CD 033, 2001. Coleccion Nocturna (orchestral version), and In Between. Also contains premier recordings of Morton Feldman’s Viola in My Life IV, and Instruments II, produced by Felder.

Notable students[edit]

As an active teacher and mentor, he has served as Ph.D. dissertation advisor for nearly fifty composers at Buffalo, many of whom are actively teaching, composing and performing internationally at leading institutions.


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  3. ^ "Welcome to Presser Online". Presser.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  4. ^ Sue Wuetcher (2008-12-17). "Six named SUNY Distinguished Professors - UB Reporter". Buffalo.edu. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  5. ^ "Jeu de Tarot".
  6. ^ "David Felder - a pressure triggering dreams". Moderecords.com. 2000-08-22. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  7. ^ "tUC San Diego Department of Music Prominent UC San Diego Alumni and Faculty" (PDF). Musicweb.ucsd.edu. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  8. ^ "Welcome to the Music Department". eb.archive.org. Archived from the original on 2004-10-13. Retrieved 2014-01-26.
  9. ^ "David Felder: Boxman: Music". Amazon.com. 2009-12-01. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  10. ^ "Music of David Felder (born 1953)" (PDF). Musicweb.ucsd.edu. Retrieved 21 February 2015.
  11. ^ "Music21c". Music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  12. ^ "Music21c". Music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  13. ^ "Center for 21st Century Music :: » June in Buffalo". Music21c.buffalo.edu. 2015-02-16. Retrieved 2015-02-21.
  14. ^ "Music21c". Music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  15. ^ "music21c.org". music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  16. ^ "Music21c". Music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  17. ^ "Music21c". Music21c.org. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
  18. ^ "David Felder at Pytheas ~ Contemporary, Modern, New, Non-Pop Art Music Composers, Ensembles & Resources". www.pytheasmusic.org. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  19. ^ "Welcome to Presser Online". Presser.com. Archived from the original on 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  20. ^ "PSNY". www.eamdc.com. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  21. ^ "David Felder at Pytheas ~ Contemporary, Modern, New, Non-Pop Art Music Composers, Ensembles & Resources". www.pytheasmusic.org. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  22. ^ "les quatre temps cardinaux". Olivier Pasquet. 2015-04-13. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  23. ^ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5t6ZCeva1k
  24. ^ "Music Preview: Composer David Felder brings unique aesthetic to Music on the Edge". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  25. ^ "Music Preview: Composer David Felder brings unique aesthetic to Music on the Edge". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved 2020-10-15.
  26. ^ http://www.music.buffalo.edu/faculty/david-felder/recordings#nav
  27. ^ "David Felder / Morton Feldman - In Between, The Viola In My Life IV, Coleccion Nocturna, Instruments II (CD, Album) at Discogs". Discogs.com. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  28. ^ http://covielloclassics.de/en/Katalog/cov-91913-jeu-de-tarot-music-by-david-felder-featuring-irvine-arditti/
  29. ^ http://www.music.buffalo.edu/faculty/david-felder/recordings#nav

External links[edit]