Michael Dessen

Michael Dessen is a composer and improviser. He plays the slide trombone as well as on the computer. He is active in many ensembles, both as a leader and as a collaborator. He creates music for improvisers and uses new technologies like telepresence or digital networking. His music has been highly praised by jazz and contemporary music critics. It was released on labels like Clean Feed and Cuneiform and supported by commissions from organizations such as Chamber Music America and The Fromm Foundation. Dessen is also a University of California, Irvine faculty member where he co-founded the innovative MFA Music emphasis on Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology. He performs his own compositions with a trombone and laptop, along with an acoustic drummer and bassist in the Michael Dessen Trio. Dessen’s second album, Forget the Pixel, was released on Clean Feed Records in 2011. It features Christopher Tordini (bass), and Dan Weiss(drums). Chamber Music America awarded Dessen a “New Jazz Works” award to help him compose a concert-length piece for his trio, Resonating Abstractions. It was premiered on a bi-coastal US tour between November and December 2012. Dessen is not only a composer for concert spaces but also explores the possibilities of telematic performance. Telematic performance allows artists from multiple locations to perform together via Internet2 networks. He co-directed Virtual Tour 2013, his most recent large-scale, telematic project. This was a series that featured three concerts with a core band of Dresser and Myra Melford. Each night, a new remote ensemble performed. The group used hi-bandwidth connections and collaborated with a variety of composer-improvisers located in New York City and Zurich MA. Dessen also created networked “score stream” compositions, which are dynamically displayed on computer screens for improvising performers to interpret. Dessen is currently working on a trio scorestream, which was commissioned in 2012 by the Fromm Foundation. He performs solo on the digibone as a trombone player and live electronic musician. As an acoustic trombonist, he is known as a member of Mark Dresser’s quintet, where he forms the horn line along with saxophonist Rudresh Mahanthappa, and as a founding member of Cosmologic, an internationally-acclaimed collective quartet (1999-2011) with Jason Robinson, Scott Walton and Nathan Hubbard. Dessen earned a performance degree at the Eastman School of Music, as well as a Masters in Jazz Composition degree from UMass Amherst, where he studied alongside Yusef Lateef. He also received a Ph.D. degree in Music from the University of California San Diego in an innovative program called Critical Studies and Experimental Practices. His teachers were George Lewis and Anthony Davis. Dessen’s writings on music include articles in The Other Side of Nowhere (Wesleyan University Press), Critical Studies in Improvisation / Etudes Critique en Improvisation, Musicworks magazine, and a Preface for Yusef lateef’s Songbook. His publications focus on the role of African American tradition in late-twentieth-century experimental music worlds. Michael Dessen lives with Mariangeles Soto-Diaz, a visual artist, and their son in southern California. http://mdessen.com

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