Last Updated 1 September 2015

Roger Lee Reynolds is an American composer, writer, producer and educator. A pioneer in sound spatialization, theater and intermedia and also algorithmic concepts, Reynolds joins the American Experimental tradition with European ideals. Critics have understood him to have an uncommonly broad and visionary profile, as a synthesizer of diverse capacities and perspectives. He has also been a noted commentator on the music of others, on compositional methods and ideals, and in particular has been a guiding force in the evolution of UCSD’s uniquely innovative graduate program in music. Perhaps Reynolds’s most notorious composition is The Emperor of Ice Cream. Using the graphic depiction of the musicians’ positioning on stage and a “homemade” approach to theatrical impact, it became an often-imitated model. Eight singers and a jazz trio gloss and enact a Wallace Stevens poem – while constantly re-forming their positions. Reynolds also responded to Beckett in the 1968 intermedia work PING, as well as in his quadraphonic VOICESPACE creations and the Ircam commission, Odyssey. This body of work – virtual collaborations – demonstrates how seamlessly text, electroacoustic resources, and novel presentation strategies can be melded with live instrumental and vocal performance. More recently, joint projects with individual performers and ensembles, theater directors, and choreographers have shown the way towards more direct and challenging collaboration. A notable instance was Sanctuary: Chatter/Clatter, Oracle, and Song (2003-2007) for percussion quartet and real-time computer processing. It is intended for non-traditional architectural spaces.

Reynolds’s teachers included Ross Lee Finney and Roberto Gerhard whose mentorship spanned the folk origins of musical gesture and line and an appraisal of avant-garde techniques emerging in Post-War Paris and Darmstadt. They led Reynolds to the inescapable conclusion that what was needed was the principled weaving together of threads from tradition with novel borrowings from science. Paul Fraisse’s The Psychology of Time effected his outlook, as did friendships with Cage, Nancarrow, Takemitsu and Xenakis. Reynolds’s nearly 100 compositions are published exclusively by C.F. Peters Corporation. The Library of Congress established a Special Collection of his work in 1998, and, in 2014, the Sacher Foundation initiated a “Fonds Reynolds” in its archive.

Reynolds sees composition as “a process of illumination”, a path in a turbulent and chaotic time toward (occasional) clarity, the satisfaction of proposing and experiencing unexpected connections, of bringing the elevating capacity of music into public spaces, engaging with other arts and artists to discover new amalgamations of sensation and insight that can “improve the human experience” and “ennoble individual life”.