New York, NY
Aaron Helgeson's music — described by Sequenza 21 as "beautifully ethereal" and the New York Times as "simultaneously virtuoso display and engaging instrumental drama" — draws on the diverse fields of acoustic, literature, philosophy, and cognitive science to find new ways of engaging with old musical traditions.
In 2013, he was commissioned by Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki to write Poems of sheer nothingness, a 40-minute song cycle for voice and chamber ensemble that re-imagines Occitan troubadour song poetry, set by Helgeson in its original language with consultation from the University of Toulouse. Awarded a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund in 2014, the cycle was recently recorded by Narucki and the Talea Ensemble and released on Innova Recordings.
His recent “anti-cantata” for chamber orchestra and choir, Snow requiem, was premiered in 2015 with soloists David Bowlin and Alice Teyssier of the International Contemporary Ensemble, and subsequently honored by a 2016 Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Award. Based on author David Laskin’s book The Children’s Blizzard about the Homestead-era snowstorm of the same name, the work combines original transcriptions of Norwegian-American immigrant folk music with sonifications of weather data using orchestral tone clusters, wordless vocal chorales, and percussive noise.
In 2005, Helgeson was honored with the Saul Chaplin Award for his chamber opera The Crane Wife, an original adaptation of the popular Japanese folk tale of the same name. He has received accolades from numerous organizations such as ASCAP, the Fulbright Institute, American Composers Forum, and the Eiler Foundation.
With recent performances across the US and Europe at venues including the Monday Evening Concerts in Los Angeles, IRCAM’s Manifeste in Paris, the World New Music Days in Vienna, and the MATA Festival in New York, his music has been championed by such ensembles as the Arditti String Quartet, Yarn/Wire, The Crossing, Ensemble Reconsil, Uusinta, Argento Ensemble, loadBang, Hong Kong New Music Ensemble, Wild Shore, SONAR New Music, Les Cris de Paris, and the Formalist Quartet. Recordings of his music are availabe on Carrier Records, Oberlin Music, and Innova.
From 2013-2016, he served as Clinical Assistant Professor of Composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he previously earned a B.Mus. in Composition and B.A. in Theater (summa cum laude). He also holds an M.A. and Ph.D. in Composition from UC San Diego, where he was awarded a Fletcher Jones Dissertation Fellowship for his work on Poems of sheer nothingness. Helgeson recently was appointed Postdoctoral Fellow at the Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition at University of Chicago, and has served as Program Director for the Northern Ohio Youth Orchestra Young Composer Program, Teaching Fellow at the University of California Washington Center, and as a composition and music theory instructor at the Third Street Music School Settlement in Manhattan. In 2016 he joined the faculty at the Longy School of Music of Bard College, where he continues to enjoy helping others to be creative.
He currently resides in New York.
Aaron Helgeson’s tracks