Roscoe Mitchell


Doris Duke Artist Award, 2014
Jazz

Chicago, IL and Oakland, CA

Roscoe Mitchell is an avant-garde jazz and contemporary music icon, currently serving as the Darius Milhaud Chair of Composition at Mills College (CA). He is a founding member of the Art Ensemble of Chicago, the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the Trio Space, and founder of the Creative Arts Collective (MI). He leads several ensembles and his oeuvre boasts hundreds of albums and compositions. For more than 35 years, he has developed the Percussion Cage, an elaborate percussion instrument consisting of instruments of worldwide origin in addition to found objects. His honors include a John Cage Award (FOC), multiple grants from National Endowment for the Arts, Meet the Composer, and Mutable Music. Last year, he celebrated the AACM's 50th Anniversary with lectures, exhibitions, concerts, and recordings at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago. In 2016, he is redoubling his compositional efforts, beginning with the world premiere of “Conversations for Orchestra,” performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra with conductor Ilan Volkov.

  • Roscoe Mitchell- "They Rode for Them" performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (2016): http://vimeo.com/165288582
    "They Rode for Them" performed by the Iceland Symphony Orchestra (2016)
  • Roscoe Mitchell- “Rub" (2016): http://vimeo.com/166430956
    “Rub" (2016)
  • Solo Performance (2010)
  • Roscoe Mitchell- The installation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's stage setup at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2015): http://vimeo.com/164472820
    The installation of the Art Ensemble of Chicago's stage setup at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago (2015)
  • Interview, Part I
  • Interview, Part II
  • Interview, Part III
  • Photo Credit: Susanna Ronner
    The Percussion Cage
  • Photo Credit: Wendy Nelson
    Roscoe Mitchell
  • Photo Credit: Susanna Ronner
    Roscoe Mitchell

What are the creative challenges you face as an artist?

Having the time and money to do things is increasingly important to me, not only for future work and projects, but also for nourishing my quest for more knowledge. It is essential for musicians who want to become master improvisers to study composition and improvisation as a parallel. Studying these two elements simultaneously is helpful to me in making informed compositional choices in real time. I have created over a 400 compositions, and I continue to develop compositions that I make up on the spot. In the present time, I’m at the beginning of a new approach for improvised solo saxophone compositions that I have titled Conversations. This technique allows me to play several lines at once on the saxophone. For example, sustaining a single pitch while playing a moving line. I have also started to use this method when working with other improvisers to set the parameters for creating spontaneous composition.