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Born in Los Angeles in 1962, Joseph Klein is a composer of solo, chamber, and large ensemble works, including instrumental, vocal, electroacoustic, and intermedia compositions. His music—which has been described as “a dizzying euphoria... like a sonic tickling with counterpoint gone awry” (NewMusicBox) and exhibiting a “confident polyvalence [that] heightens its very real excitement” (The Wire)—reflects an ongoing interest in processes drawn from such sources as fractal geometry, chaos, and systems theory, often inspired by natural phenomena. His works frequently incorporate theatrical elements, either as an extension of the extra-musical references or as an organic expression of the musical narrative itself. Literature is another important influence on his work, with recent compositions based on the writings of Franz Kafka, Elias Canetti, Alice Fulton, W.S. Merwin, Milan Kundera, and John Ashbery.
Klein's compositions have been performed and broadcast internationally and his work has been recognized by the National Endowment for the Arts, American Music Center, Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, Gaudeamus Foundation, International Society for Contemporary Music, International Confederation of Electroacoustic Music, American Composers Forum/Jerome Foundation, Meet the Composer, National Foundation for Advancement in the Arts, and the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (two Morton Gould Young Composer Awards and honorable mention in the Nissim Prize Competition). Commissions, recordings, and other collaborations with new music specialists in the US and abroad include the International Contemporary Ensemble, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Voices of Change, Texas New Music Ensemble, TrioPolis, Amorsima Trio, cellist Madeleine Shapiro, pianist Redi Llupa, saxophonist Andreas van Zoelen (Raschèr Saxophone Quartet), flutists Helen Bledsoe (Ensemble Musikfabrik) and Elizabeth McNutt, contrabassoonist James Rodgers (Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra), bassist Michael Hartt (Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra), glass harmonica player Thomas Bloch, and vocalists Joan LaBarbara and Dora Ohrenstein (Philip Glass Ensemble). Klein's recorded works are available on the Innova, Centaur, Crystal, and Mark labels.
Notable presentations of Klein’s works included such national and international venues as the Tempo Reale Lampi di Rete Online Audiovisual Marathon (2022; Florence, Italy), MISE-EN Music Festival (2022), Boston New Music Initiative Prismatic Congruency Series (2022), Festival of Contemporary Concert Music at Washington State University (2022), Arc Project Online Festival (2021; York, England/UK), American Spring Festival (2021; Czechia), Film Fest by Rogue Dancer (2021), Audiovisual Frontiers Virtual Exhibition (2021), Bowling Green State University New Music Festival (2020, 2013, 1999), James Madison University Contemporary Music Festival (2018), New York City Electronic Music Festival (2015), Connecticut College Biennial Symposium on Arts and Technology (2012, 2008), Twelve Nights Electroacoustic Music and Arts Festival/Miami (2009), Dallas Museum of Art (2009), Florida Electroacoustic Music Festival (2005), Electronic Music Midwest (2004), Florida State University New Music Festival (2001), University of Memphis “Imagine 2001” Festival (2001), American Music Week in Bulgaria (2000), Western Illinois University New Music Festival (2000), The Juilliard School Focus Festival (1999), Towson University 20th Century Music Festival (1999), Sonic Circuits Festival (1998), Louisiana State University New Music Festival (1998), Morehead State University New Music Symposium (1994), Composers’ Forum New Music/New Composers Workshop (1991), 21st Bienal of São Paulo (1991; Brazil), NOW MUSIC Festival (1990), Gaudeamus MusicWeek (1988; Amsterdam, Netherlands), and the Virginia Band Directors National Association “Symposium XII for New Band Music” (1987).
Klein’s research and teaching interests include the role of the composer in society, contemporary notational practices, the intersection of science and music, and the work of Frank Zappa. His music and research have been presented at numerous professional and academic conferences, including the 21st Century Guitar Conference (2022), Society of Composers, Inc. (2021, 2020, 1993, 1990), International Trombone Association (2021, 1995), National Flute Association (2021), Henri Selmer Paris International Summer Clarinet Academy (2018), “On Growth and Form” Centenary Conference (2017; Dundee, Scotland/UK), North American Saxophone Alliance (2014, 1995), Percussive Arts Society (2009, 2006), “Composer au XXIe siècle: processus et philosophies” Conference (2007; Montreal, QC/Canada), Society of Electroacoustic Music in the United States (2007, 2000), International Workshop on Computer Music and Audio Technology (2007; Hsinchu, Taiwan), World Saxophone Congress (2006; Ljubljana, Slovenia), Conference “Politics and Media” (2006; Lodz, Poland), International Double Reed Society (2001, 1999, 1998), College Music Society (1995), Music Educators National Conference (1994), International Trumpet Guild (1993), and was resident scholar for Orchestra 2001's performance of Frank Zappa's The Yellow Shark at the Fillmore Philadelphia (2018). He has been a guest composer at Cornell University, University of Chicago, Northwestern University, University of Michigan, Indiana University, University of California-Los Angeles, SUNY Buffalo, University of Louisville, University of Oklahoma, Pepperdine University, and University of Redlands, and at academic institutions in the United Kingdom (Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), Hungary (Franz Liszt Academy), Czechia (Janácek Academy, Masaryk University, Palacky University), Bulgaria (American University), Korea (Myongji University, Dankook University, University of Suwon), Taiwan (National Taiwan Normal University, National Chiao Tung University), and China (Sichuan Conservatory), where he has presented lectures and master classes, organized concerts, and conducted performances of new music.
Klein holds a Doctor of Music degree in Composition (1991) from Indiana University where he studied with Harvey Sollberger, Claude Baker, and Eugene O'Brien. He also holds a Master of Arts degree (1986) from the University of California at San Diego, where his composition teachers included Robert Erickson, Roger Reynolds, and Bernard Rands, and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Music (1984) from the California State Polytechnic University at Pomona. He is currently Distinguished Teaching Professor at the University of North Texas College of Music, where he has served as Chair of Composition Studies since 1999.