Ned McGowan

U.S.A., 1970

If you are having a slow day, his samples will wake you right up.” (Alex Ross)
Ned McGowan was born in the United States in 1970. He has been living in the Netherlands since 1994.
McGowan holds degrees in composition from the Royal Conservatory in The Hague and in flute from the Cleveland Institute of Music and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In September, 2016, McGowan started a PhD artisic research about speed, frame, and time in music of the Leiden University on the DocARTES program of the Orpheus Instituut in Ghent.
McGowan is a professor of composition, ensembles, and advanced rhythm at the Utrecht Conservatory and Music and Technology branches of the HKU University of the Arts Utrecht. He has also lectured on a variety of topics, including the perception of time, European, and Carnatic music, as well as on his own music as a Barlow lecturer at the Brigham Young University and on TEDx.
As a flutist, he specializes in the contrabass flute, which he often performs solo. In 2008, he composed the first concerto for contrabass flute and orchestra. Premiered at Carnegie Hall with the American Composers Orchestra, he “proved there’s still plenty of life in old-fashioned virtuosity with Bantammer Swing, a playful, athletic concerto for his unwieldy contrabass flute," according to Steve Smith of the New York Times.
McGowan's compositions are informed by his experiences as a flutist in European contemporary, improvisational, and non-western musical circles and his main artistic goal is to create self-contained musical worlds through a process of cross-genre translation. By utilizing the possibilities of notation and a variety of performance practice approaches, he seeks to create practical methods to universal, cultural and personal expressions. “McGowan’s music strives for an idiom in which various musics – American popular, European classical and avant-garde, Carnatic, a fascination with proportionally intricate rhythms, the use of microtones in the search for new subtleties of melody – and many others, rub against each other and generate new meanings.” (Bob Gilmore)
Many of his works utilize unusual instrumentations, extended techniques or theatrical setups. For 'Tempest in a Teapot', commissioned by the Dutch Music Days for the Radio Kamer Philharmonic, the orchestra is spatialized around the public. His recent set of 'six pièces mécaniques' for Calefax is mostly comprised of text directions and staging diagrams. McGowan also composed the world's first 'Concerto for iPad' (tablet computer) and orchestra, which saw its premiere with soloist Keiko Shichijo and the Rotterdam Sinfonia.
One strong facet of McGowan's influence is the Carnatic music from South India. “What fascinates me is the Carnatic use of rhythmical complexities developed through a tradition of performance.” Works exploring Indian forms from a European perspective include 'Chamundi Hill', for flute and harp, 'Alap' for voice and ensemble, 'Stone Soup' for jazz ensemble, 'Tusk' for ensemble and 'Three Amsterdam Scenes' for voice, viola, and keyboards.
The festivals World Minimal Music Festival, Acht Brücken, Grachten, Klankkleur Festivals, MATA, Nederlandse Muziek Dagen, Voorwaarts Maart have commissioned new works from McGowan, and his music has been performed at the following festivals: Aspen, Gaudeamus, Dag in de Branding, North Sea Jazz, November Music, SinusTon, Huddersfield, Klap op de Vuurpijl. Other current commissions include new works for Eight Blackbird and Scordatura and music for a radio play for the NTR Dutch Public Service Broadcaster.
Known for rhythmical vitality and technical virtuosity, McGowan's music has won awards and has been performed at Carnegie Hall, the Concertgebouw and other halls and festivals around the world by many orchestras, ensembles and soloists. His piece, 'Tools', winner of the Henriette Bosmans Prize, was described as “brutal and humorous” (Geneco), while at the same time “packed with discreet acoustic rooms, some more resonant than others, but all proving that... subtlety pays off” (Guy Livingston, Paris Transatlantic).
As winner of the Harvey Gaul Competition from the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, he composed 'Sound becomes visible in the form of radiance' (2010), which is built around the bowing of a piano. In 2014, he was awarded the Alumni Achievement Award from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Live performances of Ned McGowan’s works

Ned McGowan on Spotify

Ned McGowan on SoundCloud

Recently published works by Ned McGowan