Transcribing the Body: the Music of Ken Ueno


January 13, 2012 - 4:00pm

Multiple shocks transformed Ken Ueno's life.  The shock of an injury transformed him from a West Point Cadet into a composer.  The shock of hearing Bartok and Stravinsky made him into a composer, but it was the shock of hearing Jimi Hendrix's music that made him into a musician. Related to post-Hendrixian values, Ken composes "person-specific" music with frequency-based harmonies analyzed from the specific performance possibilities of the performers with whom he collaborates. The lecture will also include a demonstration of Ken's extended vocal techniques, as part of his discussion on his "person-specific" vocal concerto.

A recipient of the Rome Prize and the Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno, is a composer/vocalist who is currently an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. Ensembles and performers who have played Ken’s music include Kim Kashkashian and Robyn Schulkowsky, Mayumi Miyata, Teodoro Anzellotti, Wendy Richman, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, the Nieuw Ensemble, and Frances-Marie Uitti. His music has been performed at such venues as Lincoln Center, the Kennedy Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, MusikTriennale Köln Festival, the Muziekgebouw, the Hopkins Center, Spoleto USA, Steim, and at the Norfolk Music Festival, where he was guest composer/lecturer. Ken’s piece for the Hilliard Ensemble, Shiroi Ishi, has been featured in their repertoire for over ten years, with performances at such venues as Queen Elizabeth Hall in England, the Vienna Konzerthaus, and was aired on Italian national radio, RAI 3.  Another work, Pharmakon, was performed dozens of times nationally by Eighth Blackbird during their 2001-2003 seasons. A portrait concert of Ken’s was featured on MaerzMusik in Berlin in 2011. As a vocalist, he specializes in extended techniques (overtones, multiphonics, extreme extended registers, circular breathing), and has collaborated in improvisations with Joey Baron, Robyn Schulkowsky, Joan Jeanrenaud, Tim Feeney, and David Wessel amongst others.  A former ski patrol and West Point cadet, Ken holds a PhD from Harvard University. A monograph CD of three orchestral concertos was released on the Bmop/sound label.  For more information, please visit

Concert Series