Robert Carl’s music concentrates on solo piano, chamber, orchestral, vocal/choral, and electroacoustic media. Its aim is to create a sense of space that provides the listener with a sense of freedom and openness.
He has received awards from the National Endowment for the Arts, Chamber Music America, and the American Academy of Arts and Letters (the 1998 Charles Ives Fellowship as well as a 2016 Arts & Letters Award). Residencies include MacDowell, Yaddo, UCross, Djerassi, Millay, Bogliasco, Camargo, Copland House, Tokyo Wonder Site, and Bellagio. He lived in Japan for three months as an Asian Cultural Council Fellow in 2007. New World Records has released three CDs of his works (string chamber music; electroacoustic pieces inspired by Japan; and large ensemble/orchestral). Upcoming projects include Harmony, an opera based on the meeting of Charles Ives and Mark Twain, with libretto by Russell Banks.
His works are published by American Composers' Edition (www.composers.com), Boosey and Hawkes, and Northeastern. He has written works for soloists such as Robert Black, contrabass; Katie Lansdale, violin; John Bruce Yeh, clarinet; and pianists Kathleen Supové, Moritz Eggert, and Aron Kallay. A sampling of ensembles who have presented his music includes: Prism Saxophone Quartet, Ensemble 2e2m, the Miami and Arditti string quartets, Chicago Pro Musica, Locrian Chamber Players, Ensemble Échappé, and Counter)induction. His music has been performed internationally in such cities as Berlin, Venice, Paris, London, Seoul, Tokyo and Melbourne, and in such venues as IRCAM, Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Hall, Miller Theater, Carnegie Recital Hall, Symphony Hall (Chicago), Tanglewood, the Guggenheim/Bilbao, as well as universities and conservatories throughout the US.
Carl received his musical training at Yale, Penn, and the University of Chicago. In college he was actually a history major, but an extensive encounter with the music of Charles Ives during the centennial birthyear of 1974-75 gave him the courage to choose music as a career. He also studied in Paris during 1980-1 as a Lurcy Fellow at the Conservatoire Nationale Supérieure and the Sorbonne. He regards his primary teachers to be Jonathan Kramer, George Rochberg, Ralph Shapey, and Iannis Xenakis.
He writes regularly on new music in a variety of forums and magazines (above all Fanfare Magazine), and is the author of Terry Riley’s In C (Oxford University Press). In 2016 Bloomsbury Press released Jonathan Kramer’s posthumous text Postmodern Music, Postmodern Listening, which Mr. Carl edited. Bloomsbury has most recently published a book of his essays titled Music Composition in the 21st Century: A Practical Guide to the New Common Practice.
Throughout his career he has pursued a parallel stream of electroacoustic composition, often using the program Max to create interactive creative environments. With his wife Karen McCoy, he has created listening environments and sound art. He also performs on and writes for the Japanese shakuhachi flute.
Carl regards his work as a teacher as complementary and critical to his creative practice, one that has continually enriched his imagination and technique through encounters with emerging composers. He has taught for over three decades at the Hartt School, University of Hartford, where he is chair of Composition.