University of Pittsburgh

Mathew Rosenblum

Codirector of Music on the Edge
Director of Graduate Studies
PhD, Princeton University, 1992
204 Music Building
rosenblu [at] pitt [dot] edu


Composition; Music Theory


I am best known for my work in microtonal music - music that uses alternate tuning systems derived from the natural overtone series. In this area, the study and analysis of pitch systems from other cultures, just intonation, and acoustics play a very important role. My compositions in this idiom have been performed worldwide at major music festivals and have been included on solo compact discs as well as those devoted to microtonal music. I have also worked extensively with language and music. In my compositions, texts are sometimes pre-recorded and digitally processed, and sometimes presented live, spoken or sung, in one or several languages. My creative work in this area is informed directly by my theoretical pursuits that have focused on the relationship between phonology, semiotics, and music. I am particularly interested in the sound shape of languages and correlations between the sound structure of language and musical structure, and the signifying relevance of that relationship. I am also interested in how texts and languages might combine or intersect, in the same way that different tuning systems might combine, clash, or intersect in a piece of music. Language and music parallels fascinate me on many levels and this is reflected in my compositions and my theoretical and analytical work. Computers and digital samplers have also played an important role in my music. In addition to aiding my research with tuning, acoustics, and the analysis of language sound, a computer’s ability to capture and digitally process speech and “found sounds” has enabled me to re-contextualize those sounds in compositions, and this has opened up new areas of research and expression.

My music is filled with diverse musical elements derived from classical, jazz, rock, and world music traditions and has been performed by a distinct collection of ensembles and musicians ranging from The Boston Modern Orchestra Project, conducted by Gil Rose to the Calmus Ensemble of Leipzig, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Rascher Saxophone Quartet, the California E.A.R. Unit, Newband, and Opera Theater of Pittsburgh. I have also been commissioned by a diverse set of organizations such as the Barlow Endowment, the Fromm Foundation, the Harry Partch Institute, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Gould Center for Humanistic Research, and Meet the Composer Commissioning Music/USA. My works are published by C.F. Peters. 

Recent Courses

  • Composition Tutorial
  • Composition Seminar
  • Language and Music Seminar
  • Compositional Semiotics in Theory and Practice
  • Music Since 1945
  • Analysis Seminar

Selected Honors/Awards

Featured Composer, ASEAN Music Week, Nanning, China (2016)

Featured Composer, Thailand International Composition Festival, Bangkok (2015)

Guggenheim Fellow (2013)

Barlow Endowment for Music Composition Commission (2011)

Composer in Residence, Dickinson College (2011).

Senior Faculty Composer, June in Buffalo (2009).

Featured Composer and guest lecturer at the Festival of New American Music in Sacramento (1998, 2010).

Pennsylvania Council on the Arts Music Fellowship Grants (1994, 1998, 2006, 2008).

Composer in Residence, Cleveland State University (2008).

Fromm Foundation Commission (1993, 2004)

Heinz Endowments Creative Heights Residency Grant (2004).

Invited to be one of 25 core participants in the American Composers Orchestra's Orchestra Tech Conference and Festival in New York City (2001).

Composer in Residence, Gould Center for Humanistic Studies at Claremont McKenna College (1998)

National Endowment for the Arts Music Fellowship Grant (1992).

New York Foundation for the Arts Artists Fellowship Grant (1989).

Residencies at the MacDowell Colony (1987, 1989), Djerassi Foundation (1987), The Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (1986, 1989, 2009), Hambidge Center (2013), and Yaddo (1987, 2013).

Awards and fellowships from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts (1981), the Institute of Contemporary American Music (1981), the Rockefeller Foundation (1980), and BMI (1978).

Selected Recent Compositions

Lament/Witches' Sabbath (2016) Clarinet and Orchestra
Guggenheim Fellowship Project, written for David Krakauer and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project

Portal, Site-Specific Eight Channel Sound Installation (2015)
Commissioned by the University of Pittsburgh Art Gallery. Semi-permanent.

Ostatnia Runda (Last Round) for String Quartet and Six Percussionists (2015)
Commissioned by Flux Quartet and Mantra Percussion.

Eliza Furnace (2013) for orchestra. Commissioned by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

Northern Flicker (2012) for solo percussion. Commissioned by percussionist Lisa Pegher.

Falling (2012) for soprano, chamber ensemble, and electronics. Commissioned by the Barlow Endowment for the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

Sharpshooter (2010) for orchestra. Commissioned by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Throat (2009) for bass clarinet and percussion. Commissioned by Jean Kopperud for the Rated X Project.

The Big Rip (A Science Fiction Cantata) (2008) for vocal quintet, saxophone quartet, and pre-recorded audio. Commissioned by the Niedersächsische Sparkassenstiftung for the Niedersächsische Musiktage.

Yonah’s Dream (2007) for flute and the Harry Partch instruments. Commissioned by the Harry Partch Institute at Montclair State University.

Double Concerto (2004) for Baritone Saxophone, Percussion, and Orchestra, written for Kenneth Coon, Lisa Pegher, and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, commissioned by the Fromm Foundation.

RedDust (2003) multi-media chamber opera, commissioned by Sequitur in conjunction with Opera Theater of Pittsburgh, and Meet The Composer's Commissioning Music/USA. 

Selected Recordings

Möbius Loop, Double Concerto, Sharpshooter. Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Gil Rose, conductor, Rascher Saxophone Quartet. BMOP/sound.

Yonah's Dream, Circadian Rhythms, Two Harmonies, Under The Rainbow, The Big Rip. New World Records.

Nü kuan tzu, Ancient Eyes, Maggies. Prism Players, Bradley Lubman, conductor. California E.A.R. Unit, Stephen Mosko, conductor. New World Records.

Words/Echoes. Michael Lipsey, percussion. Capstone.

Circadian Rhythms. Newband. Mode.

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