Dresher, Paul (Joseph)

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Dresher, Paul (Joseph)

Dresher, Paul (Joseph), American composer and performer; b. Los Angeles, Jan. 8, 1951. He studied music at the Univ. of Calif, at Berkeley (B.A., 1977) and composition with Erickson, Reynolds, and Oliveros at the Univ. of Calif, at San Diego (M.A., 1979). He also received training in Ghanaian drumming, Javanese and Balinese gamelan, and North Indian classical music. In 1985 he founded the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and in 1993 the Paul Dresher Ensemble’s Electro-Acoustic Band. The latter ensemble has commissioned and/or performed significant new works by such composers as John Adams, David Lang, Eve Beglarian, and Terry Riley. In 1997 it began an ongoing program to commission concerti from noted soloists. The first pair of works (1998) were by Alvin Curran and Dresher, both featuring noted violinist David Abel, and the second (2000) were by Anthony Davis and Dresher, both featuring noted cellist Joan Jeanrenaud, formerly of the Kronos Quartet. In 1998 the ensemble also commissioned and produced Ravenshead, an opera by Steve Mackey to a libretto by Rinde Eckert. After touring this work throughout the U.S. in 1999–2000, the ensemble em-barked on the production of Erling Wold’s A Little Girl Dreams of Taking the Veil, a chamber opera based on Dorothea Tanning’s translation of Max Ernst’s 1930 surrealist collage novel.

Dresher’s awards include an NEA grant (1979), the Goddard Lieberson fellowship of the American Academy and Inst. of Arts and Letters (1982), and a Fulbright fellowship (1984). In 1996–97 he was a fellow in the Asia Pacific Performance Exchange at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles. In addition to orch. and chamber works, he has written experimental operatic and theater pieces, as well as various electroacoustic taped scores for use in theater, dance, video, radio, and film. As a composer, he is perhaps best known for his collaborations with writer/performer Rinde Eckert on “American Trilogy,” a set of experimental operatic works comprised of Slow Fire (1985–88), Power Failure (1988–89), and Pioneer (1989–90).


Guitar Quartet (1975); Z for Soprano, 6 Percussion, and Tape (1978); Liquid and Stellar Music, live perf. solo piece (1981); The Way of How, music theater (1981); Dark Blue Circumstance, live perf. solo piece for Electric Guitar and Electronics (1982); Casa Vecchia for String Quartet (1982); Are Are, music theater (1983); Seehear, music theater (1984); re:act:Ion for Orch. (1984); Was Are/Will Be, staged concert piece (1985); Freesound (1985–88); Slow Fire, music theater/opera (1985–88); Figaro Gets a Divorce, theater score (1986); The Tempest, theater score (1987); Shelflife, live perf. dance piece (1987); Rhythmia, tape piece for Dance (1987); Loose the Thread, dance piece for Violin, Piano, and Percussion (1988); Power Failure, music theater/opera (1988–89); Pioneers, music theater/opera (1989–90; Spoleto Festival, May 26, 1990); Awed Behavior, music theater (1992–93; Los Angeles, May 1, 1993); The Gates, music theater (Lee, Mass., July 23, 1993; in collaboration with Margaret Jenkins); The Myth of the Hero, opera/dance theater piece (1996–97; in collaboration with Chen Shi-Zheng).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire