Paula Matthusen, composer

Paula Matthusen headshot

Paula Matthusen is a composer who writes both electroacoustic and acoustic music and realizes sound installations. In addition to composing for a variety of different ensembles, she also collaborates with choreographers and theater companies. She has written for diverse instrumentations, such as “run-on sentence of the pavement” for piano, ping-pong balls, and electronics, which Alex Ross of The New Yorker noted as being “entrancing”. Her work often considers discrepancies in musical space—real, imagined, and remembered. Recent areas of creative inquiry include extensive field recording, which has led to compositions and sound projects in aqueducts, caves, and sites of historic infrastructure.

Her music has been performed by Dither, Mantra Percussion, the Bang On A Can All-Stars, Brooklyn Rider, Loadbang, the Scharoun Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), orchest de ereprijs, The Glass Farm Ensemble, the Estonian National Ballet, James Moore, Terri Hron, Kathryn Woodard, Todd Reynolds, Kathleen Supové, Margaret Lancaster and Jody Redhage. Her work has been performed at numerous venues and festivals in America and Europe, including the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music, the MusicNOW Series of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Ecstatic Music Festival, Other Minds, the MATA Festival, Merkin Concert Hall, the Aspen Music Festival, Bang on a Can Summer Institute of Music at MassMoCA, the Gaudeamus New Music Week, SEAMUS, International Computer Music Conference and Dither’s Invisible Dog Extravaganza.

Matthusen performs frequently on live-electronics as well, and has been a featured composer and performer at 2017 BEASt FEaST (Birmingham, UK), Ultrasons (Montreal), and Salon Bruit (Berlin). She also performs frequently with Object Collection, and through the theater company Kinderdeutsch Projekts.

Awards include the Walter Hinrichsen Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Fulbright Grant, two ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composers’ Awards, First Prize in the Young Composers’ Meeting Composition Competition, the MacCracken and Langley Ryan Fellowship, the “New Genre Prize” from the IAWM Search for New Music, and recently the 2014 Elliott Carter Rome Prize. Matthusen has also held residencies at The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, create@iEar at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, STEIM, and the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Matthusen completed her Ph.D. at New York University – GSAS.

Matthusen was Director of Music Technology at Florida International University for four years, where she founded the FLEA Laptop Ensemble. Matthusen is currently Associate Professor of Music at Wesleyan University, where she teaches experimental music, composition, and music technology. She has additionally served on boards for the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music in the United States, Object Collection, the International Society for Contemporary Music, and the Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Art.

Matthusen’s work is available through Innova, New Amsterdam Records, Quiet Design Records, and C.F. Peters.

Paula Matthusen's piece Hold (or, the gift of patterns) premiered with the Grossman Ensemble on March 13, 2020. 

Performance notes:

Hold (or, the gift of patterns) draws its inspiration from thinking about small sounds ranging from the discrete ring of a plucked string to the gentle noise of crumpled paper. Specifically, I’m interested in the repetition of such sounds, their variance, and how, depending on context, they may offer surprise or, at times, comfort. The piece unfurls in five short movements articulated by contrasting material and spatial pairings of instruments (especially percussion, piano, and harp):

I. Let us begin

II. at a moment

III. in which, tumbling toward its consequent

IV. a span half-spent

V. springs to conclusion.

Many thanks to Roger Mathew Grant for the original prose titling these movements.

Grossman Ensemble premieres Paula Matthusen's "Hold"