Elizabeth Brown combines a composing career with a diverse performing life, playing flute, shakuhachi, and theremin in a wide variety of musical circles. Her chamber music, shaped by this unique group of instruments and experiences, has been called luminous, dreamlike and hallucinatory.
Brown’s music has been heard in Japan, Russia, Colombia, Australia, South Africa and Vietnam as well as across the US and Europe. A Guggenheim Fellowship recipient and Juilliard graduate, she has received grants, awards and commissions from Orpheus, St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble, Newband, The Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, Kamraton, the Barlow Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council, the Japan/US Friendship Commission, Music from Japan, Meet the Composer, the Electronic Music Foundation, Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival, the Cary Trust, and NYFA, among others. She has two solo CDs: Elizabeth Brown: Mirage (New World) and Blue Minor: Chamber Music by Elizabeth Brown (Albany), and her music is also available on CRI, Innova, and Music and Arts. She has been Artist-in-Residence at the Hanoi National Conservatory and in Grand Canyon National Park, and a fellow at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Center in Italy and at the MacDowell Colony.
Recent activities include performing as thereminist with the Boston Symphony, playing flute with the New York City Ballet Orchestra, and appearing across Japan and the U.S. with her trio of two shakuhachi and ichigenkin (one-string koto). She premiered her shakuhachi solo Dialect at the World Shakuhachi Festival 2018 in London; her music has also been featured at shakuhachi festivals in Kyoto, Prague, Sydney, and New York City.
Brown began studying shakuhachi in 1982 and its music has been a major influence on her musical language. She is celebrated both here and in Japan for her compositions combining eastern and western sensibilities. Since winning grand prize in the Makino Yutaka Composition Competition (for Japanese traditional instrument orchestra) as well as a prize in the Senzoku Gakuen Shakuhachi Composition Competition, her music has performed in Japan by Pro Musica Nipponia, Reigakusha, and Orchestra Asia. She writes extensively for Japanese traditional instruments, including recent pieces for Satsuma biwa and percussion, shamisen and cello (commissioned by Duo Yumeno), and shakuhachi and shamisen.
Other notable pieces include Arcana, for flute and recorded sound; Brown’s chamber opera Rural Electrification, for theremin, voice, and recorded sound; ongoing collaborations with artist Lothar Osterburg such as Piranesi, for theremin, string quartet, and video, and A Bookmobile for Dreamers, a forty-minute performance for theremin, recorded sound, and video; the installation Collected Visions, a collaboration with photographer Lorie Novak, which has been presented by the International Center of Photography in NYC, the Smithsonian Institution’s National African American Museum Project, and the Center for Creative Photography in Tucson; Delirium, Archipelago, and Seahorse, all featuring the original microtonal instruments of American composer/inventor Harry Partch; and numerous pieces for the Momenta Quartet, with whom she has an ongoing relationship. Her flute music is performed worldwide.
Brown was born in 1953 in Camden, Alabama, where she grew up on an agricultural research station. After receiving a Master’s degree in flute performance from The Juilliard School in 1977, she started composing in the late 1970’s. She is married to visual artist Lothar Osterburg.
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