Oscar Bettison

Oscar Bettison

Described as possessing "an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty" and a “unique voice”, British/American composer Oscar Bettison's music has been commissioned and performed by leading ensembles and soloists around the world. His work demonstrates a willingness to work within and outside the confines of concert music. He likes to work with what he calls "Cinderella instruments", either by making percussion instruments or by re-imagining other instruments as well as writing for instruments more common in rock music and the inclusion of electro-acoustic elements. More recent pieces have been concerned with bringing these strands together. His music as been featured and reviewed in the LA Times, the New York Times, the British, Dutch and Italian press as well as having been played on radio throughout the US, Australia, Britain, The Netherlands and Brazil and on British and Dutch Television. His latest work has been described as “pulsating with an irrepressible energy and vitality, as well as brilliant craftsmanship.”

Recent commissions include major new works for the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, musikFabrik (twice), The Talea Ensemble, Slagwerk Den Haag, So Percussion, the Bang on a Can All-Stars and a commission for a solo work from the New York Philharmonic for their 2014 Biennial.

He has been the recipient of a number of awards including a Chamber Music America Commissioning Award (2013), the Yvar Mikhashoff Commissioning Fund Prize (2009), a Jerwood Foundation Award (1998), the Royal Philharmonic Society Prize (1997), the first BBC Young Composer of the Year Prize (1993) as well as fellowships to both the Tanglewood and Aspen music festivals.

The subject of several recordings, his first full-length album, O Death (featuring the evening-long work of that name, performed by Ensemble Klang), was released in 2010 to great acclaim in the Dutch and US media. Other recordings include B&E (with aggravated assault) as performed by NEWSPEAK on New Amsterdam Records.

Born in the UK, he studied with Simon Bainbridge at the Royal College of Music (London), with Louis Andriessen and Martijn Padding at the Royal Conservatorium of The Hague (The Netherlands) and at Princeton University where he completed his PhD with Steve Mackey as his advisor. He has served on the composition faculty of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University since 2009.

April 2014

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