Jefferson Friedman


American composer JEFFERSON FRIEDMAN was born in 1974 in Swampscott, Massachusetts. His music has been called “impossible to resist” by The New York Times, and Sequenza 21 reports, “[Mr. Friedman] goes a lot further toward sustaining interest and tension than composers twice his age (and with Pulitzer Prizes).” His work has been performed throughout the United States and abroad, most notably at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, the Bowery Ballroom, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and the American Academy in Rome. His piece, String Quartet No. 3, was nominated for a Grammy for "Best Contemporary Classical Composition of the Year," recorded as part of the Chiara String Quartet's 2011 New Amsterdam Records album.

Mr. Friedman has been commissioned three times by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra; his works MarchThe Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, and Sacred Heart: Explosion were all written for the NSO. March is a brief closing piece, commissioned by the orchestra as part of the Hechinger Encores series. The Throne and Sacred Heartare the second and third sections of a planned orchestral trilogy entitled In the Realms of the Unreal, each movement of which is based on the life and work of a different American “outsider” or “visionary” artist.

The Throne is a musical depiction of Washington outsider artist James Hampton's (1909—1964) incredible sculptural work of the same name. After its premiere, The Washington Post described the piece as having “ambitious scale and complexity” and The Washington Times proclaimed, “Perhaps this country’s long drought of listenable classical music is now coming to an end. This work, frankly, is a keeper.” The piece has subsequently been performed by the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center’s Avery Fischer Hall, and by the Los Angeles Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl.

In October 2007, the NSO commissioned and premiered a revised version of Mr. Friedman’s Sacred Heart: ExplosionSacred Heart: Explosion is based on the work of visionary artist Henry Darger, of Chicago (1892—1972), and the original version of the piece was composed while Mr. Friedman was still a student at Juilliard. After the premiere of the revised version, The Washington Post hailed it as having, “truly eloquent moments,” and The Washington Times reported that it was “thoroughly modern, highly intelligent music." In June 2008, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra presented the Chicago premiere of the piece. In addition, a live recording of the National Symphony Orchestra's premiere was included as the only non-visual artwork in an exhibit called "Dargerism: Contemporary Artists and Henry Darger" at The American Folk Art Museum in New York in 2008. The 16-minute piece was broadcast three times per hour throughout the exhibit, and Mr. Friedman’s scores and score sketches were also on display.

In addition to his works for orchestra, Mr. Friedman has written three string quartets for the Chiara Quartet. His String Quartet No. 2 is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. as part of their New American Voices series, and was recorded by the Corigliano Quartet for their Naxos debut CD. String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 are performed frequently. String Quartet No. 2 was featured with new choreography by Brian Reeder at Columbia University’s Miller Theater, and selections from both String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 were performed at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, as part of a festival honoring John Corigliano for his 70th birthday. In addition, the quartets have been featured regularly on the Wordless Music Series in New York, which brings together classical and indie rock or electronica artists for shared concerts. Of a performance of String Quartet No. 3 at the Tribeca New Music Festival opening concert in 2009, The New York Times reported it to be, "a vital, imaginative 30-minute score, packed with unusual timbres, unabashedly rich melodies (played meltingly by Ms. Cuckson and Ms. Sirota) and carefully worked-out themes. Mr. Friedman’s quartets are finding plenty of performances; they already deserve to be heard as classics of this decade." String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3 have been recorded by the Chara Quartet, released in 2011 by New Amsterdam Records.

In February 2009, Miller Theater presented an evening-length concert featuring only Mr. Friedman’s music as part of its Composer Portraits series. The Portrait included the world premiere of On in Love, a set of three genre-bending songs for former Shudder To Think singer Craig Wedren, with the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME). On in Love has since received repeat performances as part of the Wordless Music Series at (Le) Poisson Rouge, at Joe's Pub, and at The Bowery Ballroom. In response to the piece, The New York Times wrote, "Jefferson Friedman is one of the increasingly plentiful young composers who have found ways to meld their classical music training with rock sensibilities, and his version of this blend is both sophisticated and appealing. A Composer Portraits concert at the Miller Theater on Thursday evening showed how it works. A striking element of Mr. Friedman’s music is that both his classical and rock influences are almost always evident, but the balance between them is fluid."

Mr. Friedman’s honors and awards include the Rome Prize Fellowship in Musical Composition, the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award, the BMI Student Composer Award, the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Palmer-Dixon Prize, and the top prize in the Juilliard Orchestra Competition. He received his M.M. degree in music composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano, and his B.A. from Columbia University, where his teachers included David Rakowski and Jonathan Kramer. His has also studied with George Tsontakis and Christopher Rouse.

In addition to his work as a composer, Mr. Friedman has performed with rock bands, including Shudder To Think, and has collaborated with the electronic music duo Matmos, contributing string arrangements for their album The Rose Has Teeth In The Mouth Of A Beast. In 2012, he moved to Los Angeles. Since then he has worked on a number of film, television and live theatrical projects, including contributions to music by Craig Wedren, Deborah Lurie and Danny Elfman.