Composer: Alex Temple

If I were to describe Alex Temple as the “David Lynch of New Music,” it wouldn’t do justice to her multifaceted, literary, and subtly subversive aesthetic. I first came to know Alex when she worked with me as program manager for the New York Youth Symphony’s composition program, Making Score. I was immediately struck by her profound engagement with the classical and contemporary canon, alongside a razor-sharp wit and a fierce intuition regarding semiotic essences and boundaries. Her interests in storytelling, philosophy, film and television, literary criticism, and modern history have given rise to a prolific and utterly singular catalogue of work that deforms and reconstructs staples of popular culture and modernism, delighting in the sinister underbelly of the banal—and vice-versa. Alex’s Liebeslied, composed for ACO’s first SONiC Festival in 2011—and showcasing the copious talents of Mellissa Hughes—was followed up in 2018 by the lengthier monodrama Three Principles of Noir, featuring the swashbuckling, inimitable Meaghan Burke; these two ACO commissions, both premiered at Zankel Hall, present uniquely surreal reimaginings of cabaret and film noir for symphonic forces in the 21st Century.  – Derek Bermel, ACO Artistic Director

Artist website:

A sound can evoke a time, a place, a cultural moment, or a worldview.  As someone who loves both the Western classical tradition and the world of pop culture, Alex Temple (b. 1983) has always felt uncomfortable with stylistic hierarchies and the idea of a pure musical language.  She prefers to look for points of connection between things that aren’t supposed to belong together, distorting and combining iconic sounds to create new meanings — often in service of surreal, cryptic, or fantastical stories.  She’s particularly interested in reclaiming socially disapproved-of (“cheesy”) sounds, playing with the boundary between funny and frightening, and investigating lost memories and secret histories.

Alex’s work has been performed by a variety of soloists and ensembles, including Mellissa Hughes, Timothy Andres, Mark Dancigers, the American Composers Orchestra, the Chicago Composers Orchestra, Spektral Quartet, Fifth House Ensemble, Cadillac Moon Ensemble, and Ensemble de Sade.  She has also performed her own works for voice and electronics in venues such as Roulette, Exapno, the Tank, Monkeytown, Galapagos Art Space, Gallery Cabaret, and Constellation.  As the keyboardist for the chamber-rock group The Sissy-Eared Mollycoddles, she’s performed at the South by Southwest Festival and at Chicago’s Green Mill Cocktail Lounge;  and with a·pe·ri·od·ic, an ensemble dedicated to the performance of indeterminate music in the tradition of John Cage, she’s made sounds using her voice, synthesizers and various household objects.

Alex got her BA from Yale University in 2005, where she studied with Kathryn Alexander, John Halle and Matthew Suttor, and released two albums of electronic music on a microlabel that she ran out of her dorm room.  In 2007 she completed her MA at University of Michigan, where she studied with Erik Santos and visiting professors Michael Colgrass, Tania León and Betsy Jolas, as well as collaborating with a troupe of dancers and playing in an indie bossa-nova band.  After she left Ann Arbor, she spent two years in New York, working as the program manager for the New York Youth Symphony’s Making Score program for young composers.  She recently completed a DMA at Northwestern University, where she studied with Hans Thomalla and Jay Alan Yim, and taught aural skills, theory, composition for non-majors, and private composition lessons. As of last fall, she is an Assistant Professor of Composition at Arizona State University.

Composer and Performer taking a bow
Meaghan Burke and Alex Temple at ACO’s November 2018 concert, “Phenomenal Women.” Credit: Pete Cecchia

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