Mark Gustavson

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Mark Gustavson (born September 19, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York) is an American composer of contemporary classical music.

Mark Gustavson
Mark gustavson.jpg
Storm King in October 2012
Born (1959-09-19) September 19, 1959 (age 57)
Brooklyn, New York, U.S.
Residence East Moriches, New York
Education University of Illinois
Occupation composer, clarinetist, teacher, and record producer
Years active 1979–present


Gustavson lives on eastern Long Island, and teaches at various universities in the New York City area, including Adelphi University and Nassau Community College. He graduated from the University of Illinois in 1981 and received a D.M.A. from Columbia University in 1990. Gustavson also studied at the Sweelinck Conservatory with Ton De Leeuw on a Fulbright Fellowship in 1985-86 and was a composition fellow at Tanglewood in 1979. His primary composition teachers were Chinary Ung, Ben Johnston and Fred Lerdahl.


Western classical music, Folk music from around the world, and Jazz blended with Eastern and Western philosophy have all influenced Gustavson's style. He mostly favors notated music that often sounds improvised. Form is often based on different approaches to variations influenced by naturally occurring cycles . Rhythm can at times be very complex or deceptively simple; for example, the third movement of Quintet for clarinet, two violins, viola, and cello is a four-voice canon of continuous eighth notes that create a background for the solo clarinet. Because of the unpredictable entrances of each voice an improvisatory quality is suggested. In A Fool's Journey, it is the complex textures that create the illusion of improvisation. The complex layering of lines or polyphony in this example from "A Fool's Journey" purposely avoids the coming together of the independent voices. The Prelude to "Lament" for piano solo demonstrates another way to create the sense of improvisation by using a basso ostinato in the left hand and a rhythmically free right hand. One more example from a recent work "Turning" for bass clarinet, percussion, piano and double bass explores many ways of creating the illusion of improvisation. This example demonstrates metrical independence of the four instruments, and at times, simultaneously in four different meters.

His music has been recognized with various awards and prizes, including the American Academy of Arts and Letters Walter Hinrichsen Award (1987),[1] the Joseph H. Bearns Prize, the BMI Student Composer Award (1979, 1982, 1983),[2] and the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Young Composer Award.[3]

In the first decade of the 21st century, Gustavson's attention turned to texts and vocal music. Two works of note are The Fisherman Songs for bass/baritone and piano and Lament, a monodrama for bass/baritone, bass clarinet, percussion, piano, female chorus, and double bass, using a poem of the same title by Dylan Thomas.

Prelude from "Lament" for bass clarinet, percussion, piano and double bass is performed by the pianist Jacob Rhodebeck and "Turning" was performed by the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players. A recording with Quintet performed by Contempo[4] and Dissolving Images for solo piano performed by Lisa Moore are available on Albany Records,.[5][needs update] and "Dissolving Images" and "Quintet" are published by Edition Peters.[6]

Select list of compositions[edit]


  • Dust Dance (2010)
  • Hymn to the Vanished (2001) for string orchestra
  • Silent Moon (1998)
  • Waves (1988)

Band & Wind ensemble

  • Keep Calm, Carry On (2016) for concert band
  • The Emperor's Music (2000) for twelve antiphonal solo brass


  • Wheel (2014) for violin and piano
  • Hymn to the Vanished (2013) for clarinet and piano
  • Turning (2012) for bass clarinet, percussion, piano and double bass
  • Chiftetelli (2010) for clarinet, 2 violins, viola and cello
  • A Fool's Journey (1999) for flute (pic, alto), clarinet (bcl), percussion, violin and cello
  • Two of Cups (1999) for clarinet and viola
  • Albion (1997) for wind quintet
  • Quintet (1993) for clarinet, 2 violins, viola and cello
  • Bag o'Tales (1992) for saxophone quartet
  • Plexus (1991) for flute(pic), harp, viola and cello
  • Jag (1990) for flute, clarinet, trombone, violin and cello
  • Twenty Variations (1982) for flute and piano


  • I Heard an Angel Singing text: Mark Gustavson (2016) for soprano and fixed media
  • Lament (work in progress) text: Dylan Thomas monodrama for bass/baritone, bass clarinet, percussion. piano, female chorus and double-bass
  • Fisherman Songs text: collection (2010) for bass/baritone and piano
  • The Four Love Songs (1984) for soprano, 2 clarinets, 2 percussion, viola and cello
  • The Three Mirrors (1979) text: Edwin Muir for soprano, flute(alto), clarinet, trombone, piano(hammond organ), 3 percussion (tuned water glasses)

Solo instrumental

  • The Lounge Pianist (2010) for vocalizing pianist
  • Trickster (1997) for clarinet solo
  • Dissolving Images (1986) for piano solo


  • In-between (2017) for solo improvisation & fixed media
  • I Heard an Angel Singing (2016) for soprano & fixed media
  • Footfalls (2015) for fixed media
  • Air (2014) for fixed media


  • Dissolving Images, Lisa Moore, Edward Gilmore, Either/Or, Parnassus, Albany Records, Release date: July 1, 2013.
  • Chiftetelli, Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago, CD Baby, Release date: September 10, 2010.
  • Air: Music for Yoga and Meditation, Electroacoustic, Gustavson Sounds Records, Release date: September 2, 2016.


Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ American Academy of Arts and Letters, List of Walter Hinrichsen Award winners
  2. ^ Broadcast Music Incorporated, BMI Student Composer Award Winners (1952 to 2008)
  3. ^ The ASCAP Foundation, Morton Gould Young Composer Award Recipients 1979-Present
  4. ^ Contempo (the University of Chicago Contemporary Chamber Players) is a collective dedicated exclusively to the performance of contemporary classical music
  5. ^ Albany Records
  6. ^ Edition Peters, Gustavson, Mark


External links[edit]