Aaron Cassidy (b. 1976) is an American composer and conductor based in England since 2007. His work as a composer has, for over 20 years, focused on the development of extended tablature notations that prioritise the physical, bodily, and mechanical aspects of sound-production in music. This approach is perhaps most notable through his work since 2010, which has created a multicoloured graphical notational practice that enables wildly multi-dimensional, multi-directional instrumental and choreographic instructions to be represented in a non-stratified notational space, as well as through a parallel strand of activity that has explored new ways of working with and representing what he refers to as ‘non-geometrical’ rhythm. His interest in notation has always been driven by an approach to musical material that is deeply physical, resulting in a soundworld that is expressive and energetic, fractured but dancelike, sometimes violently mangled and sometimes fragile and vulnerable, but always grounded in a fascination with the sounds and textures that become possible when we allow ourselves to rethink our assumptions about what might constitute musical material.
This compositional approach has garnered widespread international visibility. His compositions have been presented in hundreds of performances across 27 countries by leading contemporary music specialists, including ELISION, Ensemble Musikfabrik, EXAUDI, Ensemble SurPlus, ensemble recherche, Ictus Ensemble, Talea Ensemble, Line Upon Line, the Kairos, Diotima, and JACK string quartets, and soloists including Garth Knox, Ian Pace, Carl Rosman, Peter Veale, Mieko Kanno, Ryan Muncy, Jeffrey Gavett, Diego Castro, Christopher Redgate, Tristram Williams, and Peter Evans. That work has been presented at major international festivals and venues including Donaueschingen, Ultraschall, Warsaw Autumn, Huddersfield, Darmstadt, Gaudeamus, Dark Music Days, Bludenz, Bendigo (BIFEM), Tage für Neue Musik Zürich, Monday Evening Concerts, NYCEMF, June In Buffalo, the ISCM World Music Days, Southbank Centre, Merkin Hall, Miller Theatre, and Sendesaal Bremen, and has been supported through grants, stipends, and commissions from Südwestrundfunk, Haupstadtkulturfonds Berlin, the American Music Center, British Council, PRS Foundation, Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC), New York Foundation for the Arts, the Yvar Mikhashoff Trust for New Music, ASCAP, allerArt Bludenz, RMIT Gallery Sonic Arts Collection, and the London Cultural Olympiad 2012. Recordings of his work are available on 10 commercial CD releases from NEOS, NMC, HCR, and New Focus Records, with an additional forthcoming portrait CD on Kairos scheduled for release in 2021.
Also active as a conductor, Cassidy has appeared as a guest conductor with Ensemble Musikfabrik, ELISION, International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), and the Northwestern University Contemporary Music Ensemble. In 2009, he was selected for the Herrenhaus Edenkoben Conducting Master Course, in partnership with the International Ensemble Modern Academy, where he studied with Zsolt Nagy and Peter Eötvös, with performances broadcast by SWR-2. From 2008–13 he served as conductor of the University Symphony Orchestra and New Music Ensemble at the University of Huddersfield.
He has given invited lectures and masterclasses at many of the leading institutions for new music worldwide, including Harvard, Columbia, Northwestern University, CalArts, SUNY Buffalo, University of Chicago, Oxford, Southampton, Durham, York, University of Queensland, RMIT, Künstuniversität Graz, Norwegian Academy of Music, National University of Singapore, SEGi College Malaysia, Orpheus Institute Ghent, Goethe Institut-Los Angeles, Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf, and the Institute of Contemporary Arts London. His work has been written about and analysed in dozens of books, articles, theses, and dissertations—including in leading journals such as Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, Neue Musik Zeitung, and Tempo—and the work has increasingly been profiled in non-specialist publications as well, most notably in The Atlantic (‘Squiggles are the new quarter notes: why music looks different now’).
As an author his contributions include chapters in the first, second, and sixth volumes of Wolke Verlag’s New Music and Aesthetics in the 21st Century series and journals including Sonic Ideas/Ideas Sónicas, Search Journal for New Music and Culture, and Contemporary Music Review, and he was the co-editor of the book Noise In And As Music, published in 2013 by Huddersfield University Press, which sold out its first printing in less than three months and has had over 4,000 open access downloads.
He also works regularly as record producer. Over the past 16 years he has produced, edited, and mixed recordings for releases on many of the leading labels in contemporary music, including NMC, Kairos, NEOS, mode, aeon, and Winter & Winter. Since 2017, he has been the Director of Huddersfield Contemporary Records (HCR).
Cassidy joined the staff of the University of Huddersfield in 2007 and currently serves as Professor of Composition and Director of the Centre for Research in New Music (CeReNeM). He previously served as Lecturer of Composition at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, and as Visiting Assistant Professor of Music at Buffalo State College. He holds a PhD in Composition from the University at Buffalo (SUNY), where he studied principally with David Felder as a recipient of a Presidential Fellowship. Other teachers included Michael Pisaro, Jay Alan Yim, Alan Stout, Marta Ptaszynska, and Pauline Oliveros, in addition to further study with Brian Ferneyhough, Chaya Czernowin, Jonathan Harvey, Richard Barrett, and Alvin Lucier, among others.