Bio

Stephan Carlson (b. 1990) is a composer and song-writer from northern Illinois. Stephan's musical interests include popular musics like rock and metal; vocal musics, including classic, contemporary, and experimental choral works, as well as a cappella and barbershop music; experimental electronic musics and technologies; and experimental instrumental techniques exploring the foundational, physical motions idiomatic to any instrument for which he writes.

Stephan earned his B.M. in Music Theory and Composition at Elmhurst College in 2013, where most of his work was in vocal and choral music. Some of the choral music he wrote at this time and since has been published by Alfred Music, and has been performed in the States, Canada, Europe, and the Pacific Islands. In 2017 he continued his studies at Northern Illinois University, where he began to explore contemporary music more deeply-- being particularly stricken by composers like Julia Wolfe, Eriks Esenvalds, Salvatore Sciarrino, and Gerard Grisey. In his own compositional work he sought to explore different methods of organizing and developing sound, and to develop new idioms for himself. 

He completed his MM in 2019, and is currently at the University of Iowa pursuing his Ph.D. Stephan's work at UIowa has involved composing pieces which use the physical motions of "playing" the instruments for which he writes as the fundamental materials of the work, rather than the sounds themselves. He has described these works as "choreographies of motion". In addition to this Stephan has been exploring electronic music techniques, including the development of tools via Max/MSP for the manipulation of sounds' spectra. The electronic pieces he has composed often feature voice as a primary element, and feature spectral manipulations (as well as other forms of synthesis) as foregrounded means of musical expression.

Listen Below

In Chrysopoeia, the string quartet is joined together in a shimmering whole that is subjected to deconstruction. The divergent cell catalyzes change, and the instruments pass through phases of individuation and coagulation as they move toward change: toward transmutation. The conflict becomes clearer and clearer as the players begin to speak, their dialogues joining and clarifying the fray. In the end, the players find their questions to be much the same, and they join in becoming a newly transformed whole.

Ubi Caritas, The Search for the Sublime takes the listener on a journey through three aural environments. Threaded through these three environments, serving as both a point of reference as well as reflection, is a Renaissance-styled setting of Ubi Caritas. Each of these three environments seem to emerge from the vocal piece as it undergoes various transformations. Sound is warped in a stretching of the senses, submerging the listener into otherworldly spaces that seem to dwell just beneath the surface of the self.

The Thing in the Cave, for fixed media
 

Darkness— ut7er, and deep; flo0d at my feet
like the ravenous beast that dances and leaps.

Water— trickl1ng ripples like iron
and chain; prison that crushes b0th mem’ry and name.

Stone— maw of the pit; Temple and grave where
7he proud and unfit sit lordly 0n dolomite thrones.

Breath— mark1ng my passage through shadowy
caverns.