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Artistic Director, Composer, Management

The music of Michael Ellison defies categorization, seamlessly integrating contemporary and classical sensibilities with traditional influences into a unique and personal idiom. Described as “beautifully crafted, robust and absorbing” by American Record Guide, Ellison’s is a music of color and contrast, characterized by a mercurial rhythmic language, evocative atmosphere and emotional breadth. Having worked out of the epicenter of collision of cultures that is Istanbul for over ten years, Ellison’s recent work has explores the integration of disparate traditions and sonic explorations into meaningful new forms.

The years 2008-2013 promise a windfall of new works:  Commissioned by the BBC, Ellison’s ‘Turkish’ Concerto K. 219, for Turkish instruments, cello and orchestra (2008) was premiered by the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London, with cellist Gemma Rosefield and the Ali Tüfekçi Ensemble under the baton of Pascal Rophé. In 2012 Ellison’s first opera, Say I Am You-Mevlana, will be premiered by VocaalLab Nederland and Hezarfen Ensemble in co-production between Rotterdam Operadagen and the Istanbul International Music Festival  at  the  Galata Mevlevihane


In Istanbul, with libretto by the composer and director Caroline Petrick.  Meanwhile, the Fry Street Quartet, Arizona Friends of Chamber Music, and Utah Performance series have jointly commissioned Ellison’s Third String Quartet for US premiere in 2013. 


Michael Ellison has received numerous awards for his compositions, including from Copland House (2006), the Beebe Foundation (New England Conservatory), the Ojai Festival, the Barlow Endowment, and ASCAP. The support of the Fulbright Foundation (1997-98) and ARIT (American Research Institute in Turkey) facilitated field research in the classical and folk music of Turkey (2000-1), research which continues to inform much of his current output. The National Endowment for the Arts funded the commission for the Borromeo Quartet of String Quartet #2 (2002). In 1995, Ellison’s Cry in the Wilderness, commissioned as winner of First Music 11 competition, was premiered by the New York Youth Symphony and Miguel Harth-Bedoya in Carnegie Hall. Other works have been performed by the Duo Arcobaleni (2010, Italy) Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Berlin Saxophone Quartet, Frøydis Ree Wekre, Calgary Philharmonic, and by flautist Helen Bledsoe at the Gaudeamus Festival in Amsterdam. 


In 2003, Elif, composed for the renowned master hafız Kâni Karaca, successfully brought the ancient sounds of Qu’ranic recitation and Turkish makam into the boldest of new music contexts at the Istanbul International Spectral Music Festival. The critically acclaimed folklore ensemble Kardes Türküler premiered Bü Ülke’de Güverçinlere Dokunmazlar (In this country they don’t touch pigeons, 2008) a piece composed in Memoriam Hrant Dink for a week of historic December 2008 concerts in Erivan, Armenia, which marked the opening of cultural and musical exchanges between the two nations. Since 2010 he has served on the faculty of the University of Bristol.

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