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Photo: Annette Hornischer

Composer, Sound Artist, and Performance Artist, Los Angeles, California

Inga Maren Otto Fellow in Music Composition - Class of Spring 2020

Carolyn Chen completed her BA in music and MA in modern thought at Stanford University and her PhD in music at the University of California, San Diego, where she taught from 2011-2014. Chen’s work reconfigures everyday sounds in order to reorient listeners’ aural habits, using a blend of sound, text, light, image, and movement. For over a decade, her studies of the guqin, the Chinese seven-string zither traditionally played for private meditation in nature, have informed her thinking on listening in social spaces. Chen places traditional instruments in conversation with everyday objects and recorded sounds, and invites participation in musical games and live installations. Recent commissions include those for Klangforum Wien and the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group. Chen’s writing appears in MusikTexte, Experimental Music Yearbook, and New Centennial Review.


Described by the New York Times as “consistently alluring … a quiet but lush meditation,” Chen’s work has been supported by the Fulbright Association, Paul and Daisy Soros Fellowships for New Americans, Stanford University Sudler Prize, and the ASCAP Foundation Fred Ho Award. Chen has received commissions from MATA Festival, impuls Festival, and Emory Planetarium, and her work has been presented at international festivals and exhibitions, including Carnegie Hall and the Kitchen (New York), Disney Hall and the Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art (Los Angeles), the Menil Collection (Houston), Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Guggenheim Bilbao, CYCLE Festival (Iceland), and the Institute for Provocation (Beijing). Chen has worked with musical ensembles such as SurPlus, Southland, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Pamplemousse, Mocrep, Curious Chamber Players, Chamber Cartel, Die Ordnung Der Dinge, orkest de ereprijs, S.E.M., red fish blue fish, Wild Rumpus, and The Syndicate for New Arts.

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