Ned McGowan

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Ned McGowan
Born1970 (age 48–49)
GenresContemporary classical music
InstrumentsFlute, Contrabass Flute
LabelsKarnatic Lab Records

Ned McGowan (born 1970) is an American composer and flutist based in Amsterdam. Ned holds degrees in composition from the Royal Conservatory Den Haag and in flute from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

“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.


“If you are having a slow day, his samples will wake you right up.”[1]

Ned McGowan is a composer, teacher, flutist, improviser and curator.[2] Known for rhythmical vitality and technical virtuosity, his music has won awards and been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw and other halls and festivals around the world by many orchestras, ensembles and soloists.

Ned's compositions are often informed by his experiences as a flutist in European contemporary, improvisational and non-western musical circles and his main artistic goal is to create self-contained musical worlds through a process of cross-genre translation. By utilizing the possibilities of notation and a variety of performance practice approaches, he seeks to create practical methods to universal, cultural and personal expressions.


Orchestras who have performed his works include American Composers Orchestra, Valdosta Symphony Orchestra and the Dutch orchestras Radio Kamer Filharmonie, Radio Filharmonisch Orkest, Gelders Orkest, Rotterdam Sinfonia and Ricciotti. Ensembles include Aleph, Array Music, Atlantic Chamber Ensemble, Duo Blow, Calefax, David Kweksilber Big Band, Flexible Music, Great Noise, Hexnut, Insomnio, Klang, MMM..., musikFabrik, Nederlands Blazers Ensemble, Nederlands Fluit Orkest, BlowUp Flute Octet, Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Post & Mulder Piano Duo, Sax & Stix, Spinifex, Ensemble Scala, Trio Scordatura, Ensemble Verge, Wervelwind, Zapp4 String Quartet, Zephyr String Quartet and soloists including Susanna Borsch, Helen Bledsoe, Keiko Shichijo, Guy Livingston, Tatiana Koleva/Rutger Oterloo, Francesca Thompson, Greg Oakes, Reiko Manabe, Mysore Manjunath, Derek Bermel, Sarah Jeffrey, Egbert Jan Louwerse and Eric Vloeimans.


Ned's piece Tools, winner of the Henriette Bosmans Prize (NL), was described as “brutal and humorous” (Geneco), 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). His work “Wood Burn grew to be the highpoint of the evening” (Mark van de Voort, the Brabants Dagblad). Hans van Lissum ( wrote, “the compositions of band leader Ned McGowan, very complex in many ways, are especially well put together. Live performance also allows them to breathe enough, by optimally taking advantage of theatrical aspects….” In 2014, he was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Extended techniques and instruments[edit]

Many of his works utilize unusual instrumentations, extended techniques or theatrical setups. For Tempest in a Teapot, commissioned by the Dutch Music Days for the Radio Kamer Philharmonic, the orchestra is spatialized around the public. As winner of the Harvey Gaul competition from the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, he composed Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance, which is built around the bowing of a piano: “a radical work that reorients the listener's relationship to time.” (Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune) His recent set of six pièces mécaniques for Calefax and Eric Vloeimans consists mostly of text directions and staging diagrams. Also McGowan composed the world's first Concerto for iPad (tablet computer) and orchestra, which saw its premiere with soloist Keiko Shichijo and the Rotterdam Sinfonia, conducted by Conrad van Alphen. Upcoming performances are scheduled for the Netherlands and Belgium.


When playing the flute, Ned focuses mainly on creative projects and he has collaborated with Aka Moon, Derek Bermel, Gabriel Bolkosky, George Brooks, Oguz Buyukberber, Larry Coryell, Oene van Geel, Stephen Gosling, Dr. Marshall Griffith, Wiek Hijmans, Rozalie Hirs, Guus Janssen, David Kweksilber, Dr. Gregory Oakes, Erkan Ogur, Keiko Shichijo, Fahrettin Yarkın, mime-ist Virag Dezso and Zapp 4 in addition to many renowned Indian artists. He has also performed with the musikFabrik, Beethoven Academie, the Erie Philharmonic, Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, Non Sequitur, Axyz Ensemble, Spinifex Orchestra and his own quintet Hexnut. His specialty is also the contrabass flute, where he often performs solo and in 2008 he composed the first concerto for contrabass flute and orchestra. Premiered at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra, he “proved there’s still plenty of life in old-fashioned virtuosity with Bantammer Swing, a playful, athletic concerto for his unwieldy contrabass flute," according to Steve Smith of the New York Times. He has composed often for flute and also for recorder in solo and chamber ensembles, and will compose both the competition piece for the National Flute Convention High School Soloist Competition in 2016 and a work for piccolo specialist Ilonka Kolthof.


One strong facet of Ned's influence is the Carnatic music from South India. Over the past decade he has collaborated and performed regularly in India and Europe with Indian musicians Pravin Godkhindi, Jahnavi Jayaprakash, Ronu Majumdar, Dr. Mysore Manjunath, B.C. Manjunath, Mysore Nagaraj, M.K. Pranesh, Dr. Suma Sudhindra, Anoor Anathakrishna Sharma and Ghiridar Udupa. “What fascinates me is the Carnatic use of rhythmical complexities developed through a tradition of performance.” Works exploring Indian forms from a European perspective include Chamundi Hill, for flute and harp, Alap for voice and ensemble, Stone Soup for jazz ensemble, Tusk for ensemble and Three Amsterdam Scenes for voice, viola and keyboards.

New works[edit]

The festivals Acht Brücken, Grachten, Klankkleur Festivals, MATA, Nederlandse Muziek Dagen, Voorwaarts Maart have commissioned new works from McGowan and his music has been performed at Aspen, Gaudeamus, Dag in de Branding, North Sea Jazz, November Music, SinusTon, Huddersfield, Klap op de Vuurpijl festivals. Other current commissions include a third work for Calefax and works for the Slagwerk Den Haag, viola soloist Kimberly Sparr and music for a radio play for the NTR.


Hydraulic Principles (2012) - orchestra | pianola
Tempest in a Teapot (2006) - orchestra

Concerto for iPad and Orchestra "Rotterdam Concerto 2" (2012) - solo iPad and orchestra
Bantammer Swing (2008) - solo contrabass flute and orchestra

Ricochet (2014) - contrabass flute and percussion
Building Music (2013) - large ensemble
six pièces mécaniques (2012) - six players
Stop Horn Please OK (2012) - jazz ensemble
The Deccan Queen (2012) - jazz ensemble
Chamundi Hill (2012) - flute and harp | flute and piano
SMAK! (2011) - woodwind sextet, mezzo-soprano and actor
Destroy Recycle Construct (2011) - mixed quintet
Three Amsterdam Scenes (2011) - voice, viola and keyboards
Solar Neon (2010) - mixed septet
Sound Becomes Visible in the Form of Radiance (2010) - mixed sextet
LITH / A Mausoleum of Redshifted Endeavors (2009) - two pianos
Chaaya (2009) - music for dance
Heads or Tails (2008) - jazz ensemble
Hymn (2008) - improvising string quartet | string quartet | saxophone quartet | flute octet
Plantae Magnoliophyta Liliopsida Poales Poaceae Spinifex (2007) - jazz ensemble
Second City (2007) - mixed quintet
Spectra (2007) - solo contrabass flute, flute and flute orchestra
Not Pseudopetiolate Triodia 2 (2006) - jazz ensemble
Devil's Dust (2006) - string quartet
Alap (2005) - soprano and chamber ensemble
Wood Burn (2005) - reed quintet | chamber ensemble | chamber ensemble 2
Annabel (2004) - narrator and chamber ensemble | narrator and chamber ensemble 2 | narrator and woodwind sextet
Capsule (2003) - chamber orchestra
Song (2003) - mixed quartet
Tools (2003) - mixed quartet | mixed sextet; winner Henriette Bosmans Prize, 2003, Netherlands
In the Land of Cheese (2001/2002) - flute octet | flute orchestra
Stone Soup (2001) - jazz ensemble
Tusk (2001) - mixed quintet
Urban Turban (2001) - two marimbas | alto saxophone and marimba | flute and marimba | flute and piano | fl,, pno | fl, vln, pno | a.sax, gtr, pno | mixed quartet
Ios Duo (1999) - flute and clarinet
Melting Igloos (1998) - mixed quartet; Finalist Gaudeamus Foundation Prize, 2000

Hallucination (2014) - solo fortepiano
The Beating Heart of the City (2014) - installation
Rhythmic Etudes - Book One (2014) - piano solo
Torrent (2011) - solo flute
For Crying Out Loud (2004) - harpsicord | piano
Workshop (2004) - alto record and tape | flute and tape
Moonrise (1998) - flute; finalist Gaudeamus Foundation Prize, 1999
Why (1994) - flute solo


NOT Trio - Injured (2013)
American Composers Orchestra - Playing it UNsafe (2009)
Steve Horowitz - Stations of the Breath (2009)
Gregory Oakes - New Dialects (2009)
Axyz Ensemble - Medcezir (2008)
Spinifex Orchestra (2008)
Hexnut (2007)
Tools (2006)
Nandi Dasaru (2005)
Non Sequitur (2005)
Paximadi (2005)
Rickshaw Chase (2001)


  1. ^ Ross, Alex. "The new pragmatism". The Rest Is Noise.
  2. ^ McGowan, Ned. "Biography".

External links[edit]