Thursday, April 13, 2023

March 31-April 1: Ben Leeds Carson (Assoc. Prof. of Composition, UC Santa Cruz)

Masterclass and composer presentation, in conjunction with performances of several of his piano works, including one world premiere, by Prof. Eric Huebner (April 1, Lippes Concert Hall)

Ben Leeds Carson, an Associate Professor of Composition from University at California San Cruz, visited the Center for 21st Century Music, working with UB composition students on March 31. We are very thankful for his visit and for the great discussions he inspired.


One participant commented on the event as follows: “In his talk and following discussion, Ben Leeds Carson led a thorough examination about the perception of fine gradations of non-pulsed rhythm. To this discussion he brought his extensive experience of perceptual testing and software modeling to identify specific rhythmic relationships that hinder hierarchical perception of steady pulse which the composer believes to enact a rejection of forced hegemony.”

Brian Caswell, UB doctoral Candidate in composition

Some background about him from UC Santa Cruz’s website:

Ben Leeds Carson's work as a composer and improviser is supported by a variety of research, including empirical studies in perception, theory of mind, and theory of musical form. Dr. Carson offers courses in theory and analysis, perception studies, and popular culture.

Born in North Carolina, Ben spent a good part of his first 8 years in the trailer parks, highway rest areas, and rural campgrounds of 47 different US states, following parents who worked for the U.S. Geological Survey, while bird-watching and fossil-hunting their way back and forth across the country. Later, in Walla Walla Washington, he was led to music by Argentine composer José Rambaldi (d. 1989) and comedian-singer Bradley Hunt (d. 1988), whose lives were cut short by AIDS while Ben was still a teen. Ben went on to study music and theater at Willamette University, and then composition at the University of Washington and the University of California at San Diego; fortunate for the mentorship of John Peel, John Rahn, Roger Reynolds, Jann Pasler, Brian Ferneyhough, Harvey Sollberger, Jerry Balzano, George Lewis, and many others. His dissertation under Reynolds' mentorship at UCSD—a large collection of works for orchestra and for solo piano—explored "the establishment and erosion of musical boundaries, the evolution/devolution of melody, and the use of silence as a structural component" (Robert Schulslaper, Fanfare Magazine July/August 2012); in the same music, the critic Christopher Williams has described tonal tension between small-scale and large-scale harmonic progressions, producing a paradox, in which "each element in a false dichotomy defines and becomes the other", allowing us "the opportunity and responsibility to navigate our [own] uniquely useful paths" ("On the Piano Music of Ben Carson", in The Open Space Magazine, Issue 5, December 2005, pp. 246-247). 

 Carson's music is available on Centaur Records, Albany Records, and on San Diego's "Soundcheck" series, and has been performed throughout the U.S. and at international festivals, including Aspen, "June in Buffalo," Gerngesehen (Köln), and New England Conservatory's Summer Institute for the Contemporary Piano. 


You can read more about his works here:


"Sea and Beneath" for Percussion

Pieces, Threaded
℗ 2011 Centaur Records, Inc

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