The music of Curtis K. Hughes (b. 1974) has been described as "fiery" in the New York Times, "well crafted" in the Boston Phoenix, and "colorfully scored" in the Boston Globe. A member of the composition faculty at the Boston Conservatory, his work is characterized by its rhythmic restlessness, its harmonic inventiveness and its often political subject matter. Most recently, he received national notice for his chamber opera about the 2008 Vice Presidential Debate between Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, "Say it Ain't So, Joe," first produced in 2009 by Guerilla Opera. Other recent events have included the premiere of a 2011 commission for Boston Musica Viva and the PALS Children's Chorus, and the release of two new CDs of Curtis' music on Cauchemar Records, featuring performances by Guerilla Opera and the Firebird Ensemble.
Curtis's music has been heard across the US and internationally, from New York to Rotterdam. He has served as composer-in-residence for Collage New Music and the Radius Ensemble, and his music has been commissioned and performed by many other chamber groups, including the Callithumpian Consort, Primary Duo, DuoKaya, Endy Emby, and Prana Duo. His orchestral and large ensemble music has been performed by the Boston University Tanglewood Institute Young Artists Wind Ensemble, the Cleveland Chamber Symphony, the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, the Oberlin Chamber Orchestra, the Greater Twin Cities Youth Symphonies, and numerous others, including the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, for whom he has served as a member of the 'Score Board' and as a curator of outreach club performances.
In 2005 he was awarded the ASCAP Foundation Leonard Bernstein Composer Fellowship at the Tanglewood Music Center, and he has also been a fellow at the Composers' Conference in Wellesley, MA. He has received support and recognition from the St. Botolph Club Foundation and the John Anson Kittredge Fund. In 2010, the New England Conservatory of Music (NEC) honored him with its Outstanding Alumni Award, and he has previously been a recipient of NEC's Tourjée Alumni Award and the Boston Japan Society's Toru Takemitsu Award. He received his DMA and Masters from NEC, having completed undergraduate degrees at Oberlin College and Conservatory of Music and summer studies at June in Buffalo and the Aspen Music School. His teachers have included Lee Hyla, Evan Ziporyn, Michael Gandolfi, Joe Maneri and Pieter Snapper.
Curtis has received critical acclaim for performances and recordings of his music, such as the premiere of his 2006 composition "danger garden," which was described by David Cleary in New Music Connoisseur as "energetic, compelling stuff" handled with "seasoned sureness," and by critic Richard Dyer as a "little winner." A later performance which opened the Ditson Festival of Contemporary Music in 2008 was described by critic Lloyd Schwartz as "an engagingly lively trigger for the entire festival." Curtis' 2003 debut CD, "AVOIDANCE TACTICS," was praised in The Wire as "spiky" and "absorbing," and in New Music Box as "feisty" and "audacious." A live version of the title track, described by critic Randy Nordschow as sounding like "cocktail music you'd play if Cecil Taylor, Morton Feldman and Iannis Xenakis were coming over," was broadcast internationally by WGBH's Art of the States. Most recently the premiere of "Say it Ain't So, Joe," described by critic Matthew Guerrieri as a "cheerfully cracked mirror," was noted in the Boston Musical Intelligencer for receiving "rapturous" audience response and praised in the Boston Herald for its "major chops and energy."
In 2010, Curtis was the featured guest composer at the Here/Now New Music Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria, sponsored by the Trust for Mutual Understanding, and his music has been featured at unique events and venues worldwide, from Boston's New Gallery Concert Series and Summer Institute for Contemporary Piano Performance, to the Library of Congress in Washington, to the BKA-Theater in Berlin.
In addition to teaching at the Boston Conservatory, Curtis has taught theory and composition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis University and NEC, and he is a former performing member of Gamelan Galak Tika. Upcoming events include a new commission for Boston Musica Viva, and performances by the Xanthos Ensemble and the Ludovico Ensemble. His music will appear on a forthcoming CD by violinist Ben Sung and pianist Jihye Chang, and is also available on recordings by the Third Rail Saxophone Quartet and the Yesaroun' Duo. His most recent CD releases, "Say it Ain't So, Joe" and "Danger Garden" are available now for pre-order at curtiskhughes.com and will soon be available at all major online music stores.