componist

Knehans, Douglas

Geboortedatum: 1957
Website: Official website:

Though first known through his collaboration with director Barrie Kosky in the Opera Australia production of his The Ascension of Robert Flau (1990), Douglas Knehans (b. 1957) is perhaps best known for his orchestral compositions. In this music the study of orchestral mass, expressive impact and sonic brilliance drive his musical language. Additional to his seven large works for orchestra, his music has come to the attention of soloists and orchestras through his now twelve concertos for instrument or voice and orchestra. His orchestral and other compositions, including opera, have been performed worldwide at major music festivals and been included on a number of solo and compilation recordings. He is also well known for his vocal and choral music that has been performed, awarded and recorded around the world. In this music he is drawn to the expressive and timbral power of language and has set texts in Latin, English, French, German, ancient Aramaic, and Italian, sometimes—as in his evening length Shoah Requiem—drawing on the surface friction that can arise through lingual juxtaposition and interpolation.
His creative work in both orchestral and vocal music as well as chamber music and electroacoustic music draws on his three major sources of theoretical interest—the study of time and memory; the study of human emotion; and the study of the organic and natural world. These three seemingly disparate areas of research coalesce naturally through music. This is because music is based in time and memory; it uses emotion as a major pathway for laying down of musical memory, emotional response, and time comparisons of ideas as they progress through a work, while utilizing the organic and natural world as an evocative, correlative surface for music. These elements can—and again through the use of time, memory and emotion— easily be drawn into a deeper and more crypto-spiritual world of the psycho-emotional by utilizing organic and natural world metaphors for deeper human existence and struggles.
The creation of sound worlds of great paradox is thus a huge fascination for Knehans. The outward representation of inner psycho-emotional dynamics is of particular interest. In seeking to allow fruitful pathways for the understanding and meaning of his works, he is increasingly drawn to summative and simple natural or organic symbols and signifiers that allow for a certain ‘pre-coding’ of a work in the mind of the listener: one that relies on time and memory, emotional response and intellectual engagement with organic and natural world metaphors.
His work has been performed by orchestras and ensembles throughout the world ranging from the National Symphony Orchestra of Ukraine (2005) to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (Australia) (1986) to the Brno Philharmonic Orchestra (2012, 2014) and many others; Opera Australia (1990), the Center for Contemporary Opera (Backwards from Winter 2018) and others to the chamber groups ELISION (1986, 1988, 1989), The Seymour Group (2000), No Exit Ensemble (2020) and soloists such as Chester Englander (cimbalom) (2015, 2020); Susan Narucki (soprano) (2009); Awadagin Pratt (piano) (2011); Dwight Parry (oboe) (2011); Paul York, cello (2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014); Dror Biran (piano) (2014); Gareth Davies (principal flute London Symphony Orchestra) (2014, 2021); James Tocco (piano) (2015, 2016) Madeleine Mitchell (violin) (2019, 2020) The Pridonoff Duo (2010, 2011) and numerous other. His work has been generously supported through commissions and grants from the Australia Council (fourteen commission grants between 1984 and 2000); Arts Victoria (Australia)(1988); the NEA (1999); The Kennedy Center (1999); Carnegie Hall (1994); The Alabama (1999) and Ohio (2018) State Arts Councils; The League ISCM (NY)(2018); ISCM World Music Days, Tallinn, Estonia (2019); Opera Dagen Rotterdam (2019); The Dark Mofo Festival (Backwards from Winter, Season of 6 performances, Australia) (2018); Premieres of the Season Festival, Kyiv, Ukraine (2005); New Works New Voices Festival, Krakow, Poland (2003) and many others.
Since 1980, he has been the recipient of numerous commissions, awards and fellowships in Australia and the U.S. Most notably, the inaugural $20,000.00 Victorian Council for the Arts Composition Fellowship (1987-88) which enabled him to write his first chamber opera The Ascension of Robert Flau (which premiered at The Australian Opera in a brilliant production by Barrie Kosky); a Bicentennial orchestral commission for the Canberra Symphony Orchestra (1988) from the Australian Bicentennial Authority; over a dozen commissions (1986-1988) for various media supported by the Australia Council Performing Arts Board; Fellowships from the MacDowell Colony (February, 1989) and the Leighton Artist Colony (March/April1989), and a composer-in-residence grant from Meet the Composer, Inc. (1990), The American Prize for Orchestral Music (2012) and the Winner of the International Music Prize for Excellence in Composition (2011), the George Rieveschl Jr. Award for Creative and/or Scholarly Works given by the President of the University of Cincinnati (2013), the Gold Medal-Best in Show from the Global Music Awards (2016) for his disc Concertos, The Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Grant (2019-2019) among numerous others.
His works have been broadcast on ABC Classic FM and ABC Television (Australia); National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting Service NPR and PBS (USA); RAI Radio and Television (Italy); and HTKY, the National Television Broadcaster in Ukraine. His music for television has been nominated for an EMMY Award and he composed music for the short film A Song of Air, which was invited to the prestigious Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival (France) (1988) and featured on the official selection list of over a dozen other prominent film festivals worldwide including Berlin, Turin, New York, Los Angeles, Sydney and numerous others.
Knehans received his initial music education at the Canberra School of Music (Australian National University) in Australia’s national capital, where he graduated in 1980 with a high distinction in music composition, the only such awarded that year. In 1990 he received scholarships and awards from Queens College, City University of New York where he gained his M.A. in music composition with Distinguished Professor and renowned composer Thea Musgrave. Upon graduation from Queens College, he received the first Luigi Dallapiccola Composition Award (1991) for outstanding achievement in music composition. After graduating from Queens College, Knehans entered the Doctoral program at Yale University where he studied music composition with Pulitzer Prize winning composer Jacob Druckman, Lukas Foss, Jonathan Berger, Martin Bresnick and others. He graduated Yale University in 1993 earning the Woods Chandler Memorial Prize (1993) for best composition in a larger form and received his Doctoral degree from Yale University in January 1996.
In 1993, he was appointed to the University of Alabama School of Music, where he was chair of Composition, Theory and Electronic Music and Director of the SCREAM (Southern Center for Research into Electro-Acoustic Music) Studio. Between 2000-2006 he was the Tasmanian State Chair, Federal Board member, Chair, and Executive Director (Syllabus Development) Music Craft of the Australian Music Examinations Board. In 2004 he created the Australian International Symphony Orchestra Institute and from 2004-2008 was the Artistic and Executive Director of that Institute. Knehans was Professor of Music and Director of the University of Tasmania Conservatorium of Music between 2000-2008, and Dean of the College- Conservatory of Music (CCM) at the University of Cincinnati from 2008-2010, where he is currently the Norman Dinerstein Professor of Composition Scholar at CCM.
Recordings of his music have received Gold Medal Best in Show from the Global Music Awards (2016-for Concertos); Best Classical Album from the Clouzine International Music Awards (2018) and Best Contemporary Classical Album for Unfinished Earth from the 16th Annual Independent Music Awards (2018). That same disc has garnered no less than five international music awards and was featured in The New Yorker who said of the disc “…the sounds of nature course through the orchestral pieces on his latest recording with a primitive force and melodic insistence that recall Stravinsky.” (May 28, 2018)
Knehans’ recordings are available on New World Records, ERM Media, Crystal Records, Move Records and Ablaze Records. His music is available exclusively through DONEMUS, Alexander Street Press (ProQuest) and Alea Publishing.