| Leonardo/ISASTwith Arizona State University

Neil Rolnick

Composerat Neil Rolnick
United States
Focus area: Sound, Acoustics

Composer Neil Rolnick pioneered the use of computers in musical performance, beginning in the late 1970s.   Based in New York City since 2002, his music has been performed world wide, including recent performances in France, China, Mexico and across the US.  His string quartet Oceans Eat Cities was performed at the UN Global Climate Summit in Paris in Dec. 2015.  In 2016 he was awarded an ArtsLink Grant for a residency in Belgrade, Serbia.  In 2017 he was a fellow at the Bogliasco Foundation in Italy, and received a New Music USA Project Grant for a new monodrama for the Deviant Septet and soprano Mellissa Hughes.  He has released 20 CDs of his music.

Rolnick’s music has often included unexpected and unusual combinations of materials and media.  His work ranges from digital sampling and interactive multimedia to acoustic vocal, chamber and orchestral works.  Throughout the 1980s and ‘90s he was responsible for the development of the first integrated electronic arts graduate and undergraduate programs in the US, at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s iEAR Studios, in Troy, NY.

Though much of his work connects music and technology, and is therefore considered in the realm of “experimental” music, Rolnick’s music has always been highly melodic and accessible.  Whether working with electronic sounds, acoustic ensembles, or combinations of the two, his music has been characterized by critics as “sophisticated,” “hummable and engaging,” and as having “good senses of showmanship and humor.” 

In 2014 and 2015 Rolnick completed Oceans Eat Cities (2015), commissioned by the Tribeca New Music Festival, Cello Ex Machina (2015), Silicon Breath (2014), commissioned by the New York State Council on the Arts, and Dynamic RAM & Concert Grand (2014), commissioned by the Fromm Foundation. During this period Rolnick also completed two solo laptop performance pieces, O Brother! and WakeUp.

Journal Articles:
Special Section: Pioneers and Pathbreakers

The iEAR Studios Startup: Curriculum and Values in Electronic Arts Education

February 2019