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Michael Bushnell: Biography

Michael Bushnell
1950 -
Region: British Columbia

Michael Bushnell

Michael Bushnell was born in New York City in 1950. He completed his undergraduate studies at Bennington College where he worked with Vivian Fine, Henry Brant and Lionel Nowak. He received his Ph.D. (1984) in music composition from SUNY in Stony Brook studying with Bulent Arel. For many years Bushnell was the resident composer for the Mimi Garrard Dance Theatre in New York City. In 1989 he moved to Vancouver where he has taught at both the University of British Columbia and Simon Fraser University, and created works with several Vancouver choreographers.

Bushnell's compositions can be roughly divided into three categories: instrumental works (composed primarily for chamber ensembles), electroacoustic works, and electroacoustic scores composed specifically for modern dance choreography.

As an instrumental composer, Bushnell has been primarily interested in polyphony and in large scale transformations of musical motion. His most characteristic piece is the work for chamber orchestra, East River Motions, inspired by the ebb and flow of New York's East River. In this work, small fragments are repeated and gradually expanded in waves of motion, building up to dense polyrhythmic textures, which then subside into short, aimless ripples. A 1990 octet, Night's Swift Dragons, combines instrumental music with live electronic sound, and contains fragments from Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream Overture echoing thoughout the work.

Bushnell began composing electroacoustic music with the early analog Moog synthesizers and "classical" tape studio sound manipulation techniques in the 1970's. His current work uses both instrumental and household sampled sounds combined with digitally synthesized sounds. A 1994 work, Midnight, features counterpoint with lines accelerating and decelerating in completely independent tempi, and sounds inspired by memories of ticking clocks, music boxes, and dripping water.

His dance scores range from short abstract solos to evening-length dance theatre works integrating text, music and sound with choreography.

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