Paul Dresher exemplifies the spirit of West Coast music both in the richness of his sound world as well as the inventiveness of his mind. In the tradition of Harry Partch, Conlon Nancarrow, Lou Harrison, and Bill Colvig, Paul has invented new instruments, both mechanical and electronic, each of which has expanded his musical thinking. To that he adds a background in North Indian and Balinese traditions, all of which results in music of exceptional individuality and beauty.. He's a maverick in the very best sense of the world. John Adams, Interview, 2004
[Paul Dresher has] an omnivorous sensibility that combines rock'n'roll, minimalism, Indian music and ambient sounds into a pungent and wonderfully elusive hybrid. Joshua Kosman, San Francisco Chronicle, 2004
The music [in Dresher's Tyrant ] embraces pungent and delicate modernism even as it teases deftly with anxious waltz figures, menacing marches, and expansive lyricism. Donald Rosenberg, The Plain Dealer (Cleveland), 2006
As both a composer and performer, Paul Dresher is uniquely able to integrate different musical influences into a coherent and remarkably personal style. A polymath who makes music in an astounding variety of ways, he composes and performs experimental opera and music theater, chamber and orchestral music, and instrumental electro-acoustic music. He also creates and performs on newly invented musical instruments and collaborates each season with artists in theater, dance, and film.
A 2006-07 recipient of a prestigious Guggenheim Fellowship in Composition, Dresher has been commissioned by the Library of Congress, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Spoleto Festival USA, the Kronos Quartet, the San Francisco Symphony, California EAR Unit, Zeitgeist, Walker Arts Center, University of Iowa, Meet the Composer, Seattle Chamber Players, Present Music, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Chamber Music America, National Flute Association, and the American Music Theater Festival.
His music has been performed throughout North America, in Asia and Europe, at such venues as the New York Philharmonic, Munich State Opera, Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, Festival d'Automne in Paris, Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival, CBC Vancouver Radio Orchestra, Minnesota Opera, Arts Summit Indonesia '95, Festival Interlink in Japan, and five New Music America Festivals. Among Dresher's many collaborators are such prominent choreographers as Margaret Jenkins, Brenda Way, Nancy Karp, Wendy Rogers, and Allyson Green.
Accomplishments in 2005-06 include a week-long performance of The Tyrant, a solo chamber opera starring tenor John Duykers, on the subscription series of the Cleveland Opera; as well as an evening-long collaboration with the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company entitled A Slipping Glimpse (San Francisco, May 2006).
During the 2004-05 season, the Paul Dresher Ensemble Electro-Acoustic Band made its Carnegie Hall debut performing a complete program of his chamber music on the In Your Ear Festival at Zankel Hall. In addition, the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra premiered his Still, Rise, Fall, Again, commissioned by the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation. Also that season saw the release on New Albion Records of Dresher's latest CD, entitled Cage Machine.
Other notable accomplishments include Snow in June, a collaboration with playwright Charles Mee and director Chen Shi-Zheng, commissioned by the American Repertory Theatre; and a collaboration with former Kronos Quartet cellist Joan Jeanrenaud on his cello concerto Unequal Distemperament. In 2001 Dresher built and composed Sound Stage , a music theater work performed on a set comprised entirely of very large-scale invented musical instruments. Sound Stage was commissioned and performed with the new music ensemble Zeitgeist (with support from the Walker Art Center) and was directed by Rinde Eckert.
Born in Los Angeles in 1951, Dresher earned his undergraduate degree in music from UC Berkeley and his MA in composition from UC San Diego where he studied with Robert Erickson, Roger Reynolds, Pauline Oliveros and Bernard Rands. For many years he studied music of Asia and Africa, learning Ghanaian drumming from C.K. and Kobla Ladzekpo, Hindustani classical music from Nikhil Banerjee. Dresher's recordings are available on the Lovely Music, New World (with Ned Rothenberg), CRI, Music and Arts, 0.0. Discs, BMG/Catalyst, MinMax, Starkland, and New Albion labels.