With his two best known early pieces, Ecstatic Orange and Yellow Pages, written in 1985 while still a composition student at Yale, Michael Torke practically defined post-Minimalism, a music in which eclectic young composers utilize the repetitive structures of a previous generation to incorporate musical techniques from both the classical tradition and the contemporary pop world. Yet, at 23, Torke cut short his graduate study at Yale to begin his professional career in New York City, where he was soon signed by Boosey and Hawkes (the publisher of Stravinsky and Copland), became an exclusive recording artist with Argo/Decca Records, and began his five year collaboration with Peter Martins and the New York City Ballet.
Highlights since then include: Color Music, (1985-89) a series of orchestral pieces that each explore a single, specific color; Javelin, for orchestra, recorded twice, for Argo and for the official 1996 Olympics album, Summon the Heroes, conducted by John Williams, which reached #62 on the Billboard 200; Four Seasons, Disney Millennium Symphony, a 65 minute symphony for two chorus, four soloists, and extended orchestra commissioned by the Walt Disney Company and Michael Eisner, premiered by Kurt Masur and the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center; and, Strawberry Fields, a one act opera with a libretto by A. R Gurney, part of the trilogy Central Park, commissioned by Glimmerglass Opera, New York City Opera, and PBS's Great Performances, the broadcast of which was nominated for an Emmy Award.
In 1998 Torke was appointed the first Associate Composer of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. Naxos has released an album of orchestral works commissioned and performed by that orchestra, which includes Rapture, his percussion concerto, and An American Abroad, a tone poem.
In 2003 Torke acquired the rights to re-issue the complete Decca/Argo recorded catalog of his works, and founded Ecstatic Records. Later that year, the boxed set of these complete recordings was picked by The New York Times as one of the top Classical albums of the year.
Current projects include the musical, House of Mirth, which was given a workshop (May 2004) at the Sundance Theater Lab at White Oak, with lyrics by Mark Campbell, book by A. R. Gurney, and directed by Bart Sher, and Italian Straw Hat, a full evening farce for ballet, commissioned by the National Ballet of Canada, with choreography by James Kudelka, and sets and costumes by Santo Loquasto.