Profiles

Michael Dessen - Trombone

Michael Dessen

Michael Dessen is a composer and trombonist who creates music for improvisers and explores the artistic potentials of technologies including live electronics, telepresence and networked scores. He is a faculty member at the University of California, Irvine, where he co-founded a new PhD program in Integrated Composition, Improvisation and Technology (ICIT).

Dessen’s electro-acoustic trio, which features bassist Christopher Tordini and drummer Dan Weiss, has been praised by critics for its unique blend of intricately composed materials, highly open improvisation and live sampling/processing. The trio’s releases on Clean Feed Records include Resonating Abstractions (2014), a piece commissioned through Chamber Music America’s “New Jazz Works” award, Forget the Pixel (2011), and Between Shadow And Space (2008), which featured Tyshawn Sorey on drums. More recently, the trio premiered Somewhere In The Upstream (2014), a concert-length composition dedicated to Yusef Lateef that was commissioned by the Fromm Foundation.

Working with his own trio and many collective projects, Dessen has focused on creating works for improvisers, including networked “scorestreams” that are displayed dynamically on screens for performers to interpret. As an improviser, he collaborates with diverse bands in addition to performing solo on digibone, an animistic world of slide trombone and live electronics. Dessen has also been involved in numerous telematic concerts that link performers in distant locations via high-definition networking technologies. He has composed new works specifically for the telematic stage, and has co-directed large-scale telematic projects featuring renowned composer-improvisers, including Virtual Tour 2013, a 3-concert series he co-directed with Mark Dresser that featured a quartet in California with Nicole Mitchell, Myra Melford, Dresser and Dessen performing with ensembles located in Zurich, New York and Massachusetts.

Dessen’s teachers include Yusef Lateef, George Lewis, and Anthony Davis, and he is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM performance), the University of Massachusetts, Amherst (MM jazz composition), and the University of California, San Diego (PhD in Music, Critical Studies and Experimental Practices). His writings on music include articles in The Other Side of Nowhere: Jazz, Improvisation and Communities in Dialogue (Wesleyan University Press), the online journal Critical Studies in Improvisation / Etudes Critique en Improvisation, and Musicworks magazine, as well as a Preface to Yusef Lateef’s Songbook. His publications have focused especially on the role of African American traditions within late-twentieth century experimental music worlds.

Michael Dessen lives in southern California with visual artist Mariángeles Soto-Díaz and their son.