Rand Steiger creates music that combines both highly complex and sonically accessible sounds. His pieces sound like a rich brew of shrewdly crafted modern orchestration, futuristic electronic music, and richly expressive lyricism. At its core, his is a contemplative music, with surges of energy that make one’s heart race. Steiger creates more than pieces; his works are happenings unto themselves.
"Rand Steiger's music celebrates instrumental virtuosity. Highly accomplished as a conductor, Steiger saturates his scores with a sense of music's physicality. The instruments interact vividly with electronics. In these collaborations a satisfying ecological balance is reached, natural and invigorating points of contrast are found." American Academy of Arts and Letters
“In Rand Steiger’s achingly lovely Cryosphere Mr. Steiger and Miller Puckette used computers to manipulate sounds meant to evoke the formation and dissolution of glaciers and icebergs. Rolling cymbals stretched into enveloping hums that swirled around the hall. Clattering vibraslaps and brittle synthesizer notes ricocheted; long tones wobbled through microtonal inflections. The effect was like sitting in a huge, resonant Tibetan prayer bowl.” New York Times
"Steiger's music succeeded not merely for the novelty of its electronic elements, but because it was created by a composer with a genuine aptitude for shaping music of substance and appeal. Ecosphere is a marvelous, imaginative score." Steve Smith, Night after Night
“After a 'Carterish' opening of energetically rhythmic dense dissonance, the work continued, emphasizing the individuality of each instrument in turn, and in ensemble, and using hocket-like techniques to sustain long “melodic” lines. The work builds up to a fortissimo climax, and ends on a beautiful chord you wish to hear a little longer. In fact, I’d like to hear this entire piece again soon.” The Boston Musical Intelligencer
"Ecosphere is a world whose individual components seem familiar, yet the result taken as a whole eludes facile description. Maybe that is the particular quality of dreaming that runs throughout Steiger’s music: concrete musical objects – what we might call musical “material” elsewhere – become uncertain and vaporous as we approach. Something held coolly in the hand suddenly springs to life. In another moment a vital arc of melody dissolves into mists. Everything is enshrouded in a bio-net of reminiscence, in a dream language we seem to know but have not heard." Steven Schick, Ecosphere liner notes
Rand Steiger's music has been commissioned and performed by many ensembles, including the American Composers Orchestra, Boston Musica Viva, Ensemble Intercontemporain, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, NYNME, Prism Quartet, San Diego Symphony, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Southbank Sinfonia, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he served as Composer Fellow. Soloists he has composed for include Matthew Barley, Maya Beiser, Claire Chase, Daniel Druckman, Alan Feinberg, George Lewis, Susan Narucki, and Steven Schick.
Throughout his career, Steiger has been deeply involved in computer music research. He has held three residencies at IRCAM, and has enjoyed a long fruitful collaboration with Miller Puckette, the leading computer music researcher of his generation. Steiger is currently Composer-in-Residence at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology.
Many of Steiger's works combine orchestral instruments with real-time digital audio signal processing and spatialization. They also propose a hybrid approach to just and equal-tempered tuning, exploring the delicate perceptual cusp between a harmony and a timbre that occurs when tones are precisely tuned. Some examples of works deploying these techniques include: Ecosphere, developed during residencies at Ircam and premiered by the Ensemble Intercontemporain at the Centre Pompidou in Paris; Résonateur, composed for the Ensemble Sospeso to commemorate the 80th birthday of Pierre Boulez; Traversing, written for cellist Mathew Barley and the Southbank Sinfonia; and Cryosphere, premiered by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in New York.
Steiger is also active as a conductor specializing of contemporary works. He has conducted the Arditti Quartet, Aspen Chamber Ensemble, Ensemble Sospeso, La Jolla Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group, New York New Music Ensemble, Nouvel Ensemble Contemporain (Switzerland), and the California EAR Unit, of which he was the founding artistic director. Among his recordings as conductor are operas by Hilda Paredes and Anthony Davis, and works by Abrams, Carter, LeBaron, Lewis, Osborn, Reynolds, Stockhausen, Subotnick, Xenakis and Wadada Leo Smith. He has also conducted many premieres, including works of Andriessen, Babbitt, Boulez, Brant, Carter, Ferneyhough, Harvey, Kernis, LeBaron, Newton, Nono, Read-Thomas, Reynolds, Riley, Rudders, Rzewski, Saariaho, Scelsi, Subotnick, Wolfe, Takemitsu, Tavener, and Tuur.
His compositions and performances are recorded on the Centaur, CRI, Crystal, Einstein, EMF, Koch, Mode, New Albion, New Dynamic, New World and Nonesuch labels.
After serving on the Faculty of California Institute of the Arts from 1982 through 1987, Steiger joined the Music Department at U.C. San Diego. In 2009 he was a Visiting Professor at Harvard University.
Works in Progress
Coalescence Cycle: a major collaboration with ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble) and Miller Puckette, consisting of a collection of solos, duos, trios and a large ensemble piece with live audio and video processing. ICE will premiere these pieces on a portrait concert in New York City in Fall 2013, followed by performances in other cities and a CD and DVD recording.
Earth Cycle: a series of works for chamber orchestra and electronics that draw inspiration from the natural world. This performance and recording project are being developed with Gil Rose and BMOP, supported by a grant from the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University.
A third recording project is also in the works with the Talea Ensemble. This recording will include A Menacing Plume (2010), composed for Talea as a musical response to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.