A composer with a genuine international trajectory, Christopher Trapani maintains an active career in the United States, the United Kingdom, and in Continental Europe. Commissions have come from the BBC, the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Modern, and Radio France, and his works have been recently heard at Carnegie Hall, the Southbank Centre, IRCAM, and Wigmore Hall.
Christopher’s music synthesizes disparate influences, weaving both American and European stylistic strands into a personal aesthetic that defies easy classification. Snippets of Delta Blues, Appalachian folk, dance band foxtrots, and Turkish makam can be heard alongside spectral swells and meandering canons. As in Christopher’s hometown of New Orleans, diverse traditions coexist and intermingle, swirled into a rich melting pot. Consonance is a central preoccupation; microtonality and just intonation are often employed. Timbral explorations are also manifold, from experiments with a wide range of mutes and preparations to an unusual instrumentarium, with scorings that call for electric guitar, dulcimer, qanûn, stroh violin, and retuned autoharps. Several of Christopher’s compositions bear the mark of his training in literature, influenced by novelists and poets including Thomas Pynchon, Geoff Dyer, and C. P. Cavafy. Many recent works also incorporate an idiosyncratic use of electronics, expanding the possibilities of color, pitch, and timing beyond the acoustic realm.
Christopher was born in New Orleans, Louisiana in 1980. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from Harvard, where he studied composition with Bernard Rands and poetry under Helen Vendler. He spent most of his twenties overseas: a year in London, working on a Master’s degree at the Royal College of Music with Julian Anderson; a year in Istanbul, studying microtonality in Ottoman music on a Fulbright grant; and seven years in Paris, where he studied with Philippe Leroux and worked at IRCAM, both on the composition cursus and later on a musical research residency.
Christopher is currently based in New York City, where he earned a doctorate at Columbia University, studying with Tristan Murail, Georg Friedrich Haas, Fred Lerdahl, and George Lewis.
Christopher is the winner of the 2016 Rome Prize, as well as the 2007 Gaudeamus Prize, the first American in over 30 years to win the international young composers’ award. Other recent honors include an award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters (2015), a nomination for a British Composers Award (2014), and a grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange (FACE) towards a new piece for ICE and Ensemble L’Itinéraire. He has also won the Julius F. Ježek Prize (2013), three Morton Gould Young Composers Awards from ASCAP (2005, 2006, and the Leo Kaplan Award in 2009), and a BMI Student Composer Award (2006). His scores have been performed by ICTUS, Ensemble Modern, the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, Nieuw Ensemble, Asko Ensemble, Ensemble L’Itinéraire, Ensemble Orchestral Contemporain, Ensemble Mosaik, Talea Ensemble, JACK Quartet, Argento Ensemble, Spektral Quartet, Wet Ink, Earplay, Yarn/Wire, Atlas Ensemble, pianists Sergey Schepkin and Marilyn Nonken, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, and the American Composers Orchestra.
In March 2011, Christopher was featured in a portrait concert on the Philharmonia Orchestra’s Music of Today series at the Royal Festival Hall in London. His music has also been programmed in international festivals such as the Venice Biennale, Ultraschall Festival in Berlin, Musica Nova Helsinki, and IRCAM’s festival Agora. He has held residencies at Copland House (New York), Récollets (Paris), and Cité Internationale des Arts (Paris), and was a 2013-15 fellow at Akademie Schloss Solitude (Stuttgart).
Recent projects include a new ensemble work for Ensemble Modern and Wittener Tage für neue Kammermusik, a Chamber Music America commission for Ekmeles (six voices and electronics), a new piece for four electric guitars commissioned by the Transit Festival for Zwerm, and a new work for viola d’amore and electronics for Marco Fusi, to be premiered at the Casa Giacinto Scelsi in Rome.