Paul Dooley

Point Blank crescendos with an energy that promises to keep the musicians and audience on their toes.” – Alexander Treger

Paul Dooley’s music was recently described as “impressive and beautiful” by American composer Steve Reich. Mr. Dooley’s path has embraced not only his Western Classical heritage, but also a cross-cultural range of contemporary music, dance, art, technology and the interactions between the human and natural worlds. He has written works for solo instrument, orchestra, band, electronics, and chamber ensemble.

Paul was born in 1983 in Santa Rosa, CA. With the passionate guidance of two musically progressive parents, he began his musical career by playing in a wide range of genres: from drum set and piano in rock and jazz groups to orchestral percussion. At age 12, he began studying composition and improvisation with Doc Collins, and later with Charles Sepos. Mr. Dooley earned a degree in music composition, and a second bachelors degree in mathematics, at the University of Southern California where his mentors included Frank Ticheli, Stephen Hartke and Frederick Lesemann.

Paul is currently completing a doctorate in composition at the University of Michigan, where he works primarily with composers Michael Daugherty, Bright Sheng and Evan Chambers. While at the University of Michigan, Dooley has taught courses in electronic music, co-directed the 2009 Midwest Composers Symposium and in 2010 was coordinator of the ONCE. MORE. Festival, a 50 year anniversary of the ONCE Festival of contemporary music. He has also studied with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Christopher Rouse, Martin Bresnick, Derek Bermel, Louis Andriessen, Martijn Padding, Richard Ayers and others.

A band version of Paul’s composition Point Blank (2012) was recently commissioned by a consortium of fourteen bands organized by Gary Green of the University of Miami Frost Wind Ensemble. In 2010, Paul was commissioned by San Francisco Ballet Principle Dancers Muriel Maffre and Damian Smith to create a project for Marina Abramovic Institute West (Making Visible, 2010) directed by Cameron Jackson. San Francisco Chronicle writer Leah Garchik noticed “whispered admiration for the work” and San Jose Mercury News regarded the project as “fascinating.” Other recent commissions include Scordatura Music Society (Brisé2011), the Pacific Symphony Youth Wind Ensemble (Forgotten Highway, 2011), and the Michigan Music Teachers Association and National Music Teachers Association (Gradus, 2009). Paul’s music has been performed by Alarm Will Sound, the Charlotte Symphony, University of Michigan Concert Band and Symphony Band Chamber Winds, USC Thornton Symphony, the Aspen Music Festival’s American Academy of Conducting Orchestra, American Philharmonic, the Atlantic Classical Orchestra, Omaha Symphony. In February 2011, Paul Dooley worked with librettists Jessica Cox and Cameron Jackson to create Ulyssea, a short electronically inspired operatic piece commissioned for the Young Composers Meeting in Apeldoorn, Holland. Due to the success of this project the trio are in the process of creating a new, full length multi-media opera to be premiered in Ann Arbor and San Francisco in 2013.

In 2011/12, Paul was composer-in-residence with the Detroit Chamber Winds, who premiered Salt of the Earth (2012) for brass ensemble and percussion, conducted by H. Robert Reynolds.

Paul has received a wide range of prizes for his work, including: a 2010 BMI composer award for Gradus (2009) for solo cello, a 2008 ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award for Dani’s Dance (2007) for piano trio, a fellowship to the 2008 Aspen Music Festival Composition Masterclass with Christopher Rouse, a Regents fellowship to the University of Michigan and a fellowship from the 2011 Cabrillo New Music Festival Composers Lab.

Paul will join the American Youth Symphony for the performance of Point Blank, Sunday, September 30, 2012 at Royce Hall. 

Point Blank Program Notes:

Point Blank (2011) for orchestra, was inspired by the sounds, rhythms and virtuosity of New York City-based new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound, who premiered a chamber version of the piece in 2010. Featuring synthetic sound worlds and tightly interlocking percussion ideas, the drum set, timpani and strings whirl the ensemble through an array of electronically inspired orchestrations, while the winds and brass shriek for dear life. Point Blank is a central processing unit of floating point tremelos, discrete pizzicatos, multi-threading scales and random access modulations.”

Meet Paul Dooley

Pre-concert talk, Royce Hall, 6 pm


Paul will be joining the orchestra in rehearsals in the first of this season’s three composer residencies (Anatoly Zatin and Anna Clyne will be involved in the Spring). He will also talk about his work with Chris Rountree at the pre-concert talk. For a taste, here’s a sneak-peek with Orchestra Manager Isabel Thiroux:
Isabel Thiroux: Where did you grow up? How did your upbringing influence your decision to pursue music?
Paul Dooley: I grew up in Santa Rosa, CA. I am not from a musical family, but my parents were very supportive of my interests. They let me try the drum set, bass guitar, and trombone. From very early on, I remember listening to, for hours on end, my father’s extensive collection of LPs and CDs. I developed emotional attachments to different kinds of music, from classic rock to Beethoven.
IT: Were you ever interested in pursuing something outside of music?
PD: I played soccer for eleven years throughout my childhood and thought about trying to play at the college level. But in high school, music took over. At USC, along with the music composition degree, I did a second bachelors degree in mathematics. I love to teach math, but music has always been most important.
IT: What lead you to composing specifically?
PD: Around twelve years old, I discovered the piano that had been in our house since before I was born. I would use fragments of classical piano sonatas and turn them into my own. My mother found me a wonderful composition teacher, Doc Collins, and I worked with him until enrolling in college. I did not have a “real” piano lesson until I was at USC (my technique was horrible)!
IT: What was the inspiration for Point Blank? Tell us about other performances, both past and future.
PD: Point Blank was originally composed for the sixteen member chamber ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, and premiered at the 2010 Mizzou New Music Festival in Columbia, Missouri. I was inspired by Alarm Will Sound’s virtuosic acoustic interpretations of the music of electronic composer Aphex Twin. I wanted to write my own acoustic piece with roots in electronic dance music, exploring the interaction between synthetic sound worlds (created using computer hardware and software) and the expressivity of human performers on classical acoustic instruments.
Last year I had the opportunity to expand Point Blank for full orchestra. After revising about half the piece (adding a big timpani and brass battle scene!), the premiere was given at the 2011 Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music. Since then it has been performed by the Charlotte Symphony and Chautauqua Festival Orchestra. At the request of conductor Gary Green at the University of Miami, I arranged Point Blank for wind ensemble. There are currently scheduled performances for this new version of Point Blank at the University of Miami, University of Michigan, and USC [November 4, 2012].
 IT: How has being an educator informed your work as a composer?
PD: When teaching composition I have to put my thought processes into words. So much of composition is intuitive and naive, but having to break it down allows me to question or reinterpret my own ideas. In turn, this analytical process cycles back to, and informs the more intuitive side of composition.
 The other great joy in teaching is seeing my students’ ideas; they are always inspiring.
IT: After finishing up your doctorate, what’s next for you?
PD: I plan to continue teaching composition and electronic music, while leaving ample time to work on new commissions. In the next year I hope to complete my new opera Gate of Ivory Gate of Horn, to be premiered at the University of Michigan, a new orchestral work, Run for the Sun, for the New York Youth Symphony, and begin work on a new large orchestral work further exploring electronically inspired sound worlds.