Sam Pluta

Sam Pluta is a composer and electronics performer whose work explores the intersections between instrumental forces, reactive computerized sound worlds, traditionally notated scores, improvisation, audio-visuals, psycho-acoustic phenomena, and installation-like soundscapes.

Since 2009, Sam has served as Technical Director and composing member of Wet Ink Ensemble, one of the premiere new music ensembles in the United States. With Wet Ink, he has written numerous works, premiered compositions by some of the leading composers of today, and performed electro-acoustic masterworks of the past century. In addition to his work with Wet Ink, Sam has received commissions and written music for groups like the New York Philharmonic, Yarn/Wire, Ensemble Dal Niente, International Contemporary Ensemble, Mivos Quartet, Mantra Percussion, and Spektral Quartet. 

Laptop improvisation is a core part of Pluta’s artistic practice. Performing on his custom software instrument, the Live Modular Instrument, he has toured internationally with Rocket Science, the Evan Parker Electro-Acoustic Ensemble, and the Peter Evans Quintet, and for the past three years was named the top electronics performer in the world by the El Intruso International Critics Poll of jazz journalists. His sound-based approach to improvisation complements the timbre-rich playing of his collaborators, resulting in an improvised music with simultaneous roots in jazz, noise, and musique concrète.

Sam appears as a composer and performer on over twenty albums of new music and jazz, many of which are release on his label, Carrier Records. He has received commissions from the Fromm Foundation and the Barlow Endowment and has participated in residencies at The MacDowell Colony and iPark.

Sam received his D.M.A. from Columbia University, where he studied with George Lewis, Brad Garton, and Tristan Murail. He also holds a B.A.S. in Music and Computer Science from Santa Clara University, an M.M. from the University of Texas at Austin, and an M.Phil. from the University of Birmingham (UK).

Sam is currently Assistant Professor of Music at the University of Chicago, where he teaches composition, directs the CHIME Studio, and is Director of Undergraduate Studies. He is also Visiting Researcher at the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

Sam Pluta's piece Actuate/Resonate premiered with the Grossman Ensemble on December 7, 2018

Performance notes:

A number of years ago I heard the JACK Quartet perform Luigi Nono’s remarkable string quartet Fragmente — Stille at the Lucerne Festival. What amazed me about this work was the incredible slowness of it, the quietness of it, how the music seemed to be going nowhere and everywhere at the same time, the blatant orchestration of electronic sounds with acoustic instruments. Last year, we were blessed to hear Craig Taborn perform in the Performance Hall here in the Logan Center. What amazed me about his performance was the incredible slowness of it, the quietness of it, how the music seemed to be going nowhere and everywhere at the same time, the blatant orchestration of electronic sounds with an acoustic instrument. I almost never write quiet music and similarly seldom slow music. Aside from the bookends of this work, I do both. Actuate/Resonate starts with a brief statement of percussive sounds. Then time freezes. For the next 12 minutes we zoom into a single percussive attack to examine its resonances, timbrel changes, gradual unfoldings of colors and harmonies. Suddenly, we continue where we left off in the fifth bar. The ensemble has become a giant analog drum machine. Electronics can’t help but join in on the fun. The piano goes on a rogue mission.

Actuate/Resonate by Sam Pluta