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A natural musical storyteller with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times), composer David T. Little is known for stage, concert, and screen works permeated with the power of the unexpected. Little probes the deep corners of human psychology, invoking political, historical, spiritual, and social themes as pathways for exploring the human condition. His broad catalog speaks to the mix of light and dark that we experience in life, unafraid to invoke the mythical, bewitching, disturbing, surreal, or comedic. He has drawn acclaim for operas including Dog Days, JFK, and the comedy Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (all with libretto by Royce Vavrek), as well as his opera Soldier Songs. Little’s latest work is Black Lodge, a metal-infused opera with a libretto by poet Anne Waldman, premiered by Beth Morrison Projects at Opera Philadelphia, with a soundtrack released by Cantaloupe Music.

Upcoming projects include the world premiere of a theatrical choral work, SIN-EATER, based on the ancient practice of paying the poor to ritualistically “eat” the sins of the rich, co-commissioned by The Crossing and Penn Live Arts. In 2024, Little will unveil his monodrama What Belongs to You, developed for tenor Karim Sulayman and Alarm Will Sound. He is currently composing music for a new production of Agamemnon and developing several new operas with frequent collaborator Royce Vavrek including a project commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program.

Little has been commissioned by the world’s most prestigious institutions and performers, including recent projects for The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater new works program, the Kennedy Center, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, London Sinfonietta, The Crossing, Kronos Quartet, and Beth Morrison Projects. His music has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Holland Festival, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Opéra de Montréal, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the LA Philharmonic. Little’s recorded catalog includes over 20 commercial releases, on such labels as New Amsterdam Records, Pentatone, Sono Luminus, Bright Shiny Things, and Cantaloupe Music.

Little is the founding artistic director and former drummer for the amplified chamber ensemble, Newspeak, which explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and rock traditions. They have released four commercial recordings, with a fifth on the way.

David T. Little received a 2023 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and is a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. Learn more at www.davidtlittle.com.

Updated August 2023.
For alternate versions, please contact Katy Salomon, VP Public Relations at katy@primoartists.com.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

(840 Words)

A natural musical storyteller with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times), composer David T. Little is known for stage, concert, and screen works permeated with eclectic influences and the power of the unexpected. Little readily probes the deep corners of human psychology, invoking religious, political, historical, spiritual, and social themes as pathways for exploring the human condition. He has drawn acclaim for operas including Dog Days, JFK, and the comedy Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (all with libretto by Royce Vavrek), as well as his opera Soldier Songs. His broad catalog speaks to the mix of light and dark that we experience in life, unafraid to invoke the mythical, bewitching, disturbing, surreal, or comedic.

Among his other key compositions are several large scale instrumental works, including the “ghost play” Haunt of Last Nightfall for percussion quartet, and AGENCY, a companion string quartet about the nature of choice and knowledge, in which “episodes of crushing sonic violence coexist with oases of serene lyrical beauty for an overall sense of smoldering, luxuriant noise” (The New York Times). Yet other works explore life’s many highs: the ecstatic, almost manic energy of Spalding Gray, the Iggy Pop-inspired “joyous honk” of raw power, the wry humor of Speak Softly, the fond nostalgia of 1986, or the moonstruck aches of first love in JFK and What Belongs to You. 

Little’s newest works include Black Lodge, a metal-infused film opera drawing on the complex mythologies of William S. Burroughs, Antonin Artaud, and David Lynch with a libretto by celebrated poet Anne Waldman and performances by Timur and the Dime Museum and Isaura String Quartet, Black Lodge was recorded remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, premiered by Beth Morrison Projects at Opera Philadelphia, and the soundtrack released by Cantaloupe Music.

Upcoming projects include the 2023 world premiere of a theatrical choral work, SIN-EATER. Co-commissioned by The Crossing and Penn Live Arts, and joined in the premiere by the Bergamot Quartet, SIN-EATER is based on the ancient practice of paying the poor to ritualistically “eat” the sins of the rich – allowing the privileged to move onto the next life cleansed of their guilty deeds.

In 2024, Little will unveil his monodrama What Belongs to You, based on the celebrated novel by Garth Greenwell and developed for GRAMMY-winning tenor Karim Sulayman and Alarm Will Sound. He is at work on a new production of Agamemnon for Theatre for a New Audience, premiering in 2025, and developing several new operas with Royce Vavrek including a project commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program.

Little set the tone for his operatic work with the 2006 premiere of Soldier Songs, drawing praise for “the imaginative way he draws on his varied musical interests to produce arresting and coherent works” (Musical America). Based on extensive interviews with military veterans, the work has been performed by Los Angeles Opera, Atlanta Opera, San Diego Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and by Beth Morrison Projects at the Holland Festival. A film adaptation of Soldier Songs was later produced for the Opera Philadelphia Channel, earning a 2022 GRAMMY Award nomination and a 2022 Opera America Award. 

Little’s many compositions for solo performer or small ensemble often include ghostly or spiritual themes. Ghostlight, commissioned for Eighth Blackbird by The Kennedy Center, looks to surrealist art and fairy tales for their unspoken lessons, while dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet is a meditation on Christ on the cross commissioned by The Crossing and International Contemporary Ensemble. Still other works draw from literary sources or history, such as The Crocus Palimpsest, a Samuel Beckett-inspired work for solo cello composed for Matt Haimovitz. The same is true for Little’s works for orchestra and large ensemble, including The Conjured Life, a centennial tribute to Lou Harrison, and CHARM, a celebration of city life commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra.

Little is the founding artistic director and former drummer for the amplified chamber ensemble, Newspeak, which explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and rock traditions. They have released four commercial recordings, with a fifth on the way.

Little has been commissioned by the world’s most prestigious institutions and performers, including recent projects for The Metropolitan Opera/Lincoln Center Theater new works program, the Kennedy Center, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, New World Symphony, London Sinfonietta, The Crossing, Kronos Quartet, and Beth Morrison Projects. His music has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Holland Festival, LA Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Opera Philadelphia, Opéra de Montréal, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the LA Philharmonic. Little’s recorded catalog includes over 20 commercial releases, on such labels as New Amsterdam Records, Pentatone, Sono Luminus, Bright Shiny Things, and Cantaloupe Music.

David T. Little received a 2023 Fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and is a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award. His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. Learn more at www.davidtlittle.com.

Updated August 2023.
For alternate versions, please contact Katy Salomon, VP Public Relations at katy@primoartists.com.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

(1900 Words)

A natural musical storyteller with “a knack for overturning musical conventions” (The New York Times), GRAMMY Award-nominee David T. Little is a composer known for stage, concert, and screen works permeated with eclectic influences and the power of the unexpected. Commenting on his ability to infuse classical works with pop and rock influences, The New Yorker declared Little “not a ‘post-classical’ composer, but a classical composer with a surprisingly broad range.” Little readily probes the deep corners of psychology, invoking political, historical, spiritual, and social themes as pathways to explore the human condition. He has drawn acclaim for operas full of “emotional insight and charm,” (The New York Times), including Dog Days, JFK, and the comedy Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (all with libretto by Royce Vavrek), as well as his “extraordinarily powerful” (Los Angeles Times) opera Soldier Songs.

Among his other key compositions are several large scale instrumental works, including the “ghost play” Haunt of Last Nightfall for percussion quartet, and the string quartet AGENCY, companion works in which “episodes of crushing sonic violence coexist with oases of serene lyrical beauty for an overall sense of smoldering, luxuriant noise” (The New York Times). Yet other works explore life’s many highs: the ecstatic, almost manic energy of Spalding Gray, the Iggy Pop-inspired “joyous honk” of raw power, the wry humor of Speak Softly, the fond nostalgia of 1986, or the moonstruck aches of first love in JFK and What Belongs to You. His broad catalog speaks to the mix of light and dark that we experience in life, with works that are unafraid to invoke the mythical, bewitching, disturbing, surreal, or comedic.

Little’s newest works include Black Lodge, a metal-infused opera film drawing on the complex mythologies of David Lynch, William S. Burroughs, and Antonin Artaud. Featuring a libretto by celebrated poet Anne Waldman and performances by Timur and the Dime Museum and Isaura String Quartet, Black Lodge was recorded remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic. Its premiere at Opera Philadelphia as a hybrid production by Beth Morrison Projects, and its subsequent soundtrack release on Cantaloupe Music, drew critical acclaim. The New York Times lauded Black Lodge’s “indefatigable goth aplomb” while Neue Musikzeitung proclaims “Little’s music sets the nightmare to music with virtuosity: it is always thrilling and always disturbing.”

Upcoming projects include the fall 2023 world premiere of a theatrical choral work, SIN-EATER, by The Crossing (conducted by Donald Nally) and the Bergamot Quartet in Philadelphia. Co-commissioned by The Crossing and Penn Live Arts, SIN-EATER is based on the ancient practice of paying the poor to ritualistically “eat” the sins of the rich – allowing the privileged to move onto the next life cleansed of their guilty deeds. In this “ritual grotesquerie,” Little draws parallels to modern day “sin-eaters” – first responders, essential workers, social media content moderators, soldiers – who absorb the ills of society, enabling others to lead safer, healthier, and oblivious lives.

In 2024, Little will unveil his monodrama What Belongs to You, based on the celebrated novel by Garth Greenwell and developed for GRAMMY-winning tenor Karim Sulayman and Alarm Will Sound, conducted by Alan Pierson. He is currently composing music for a new production of Agamemnon, to be directed by Robert Woodruff for Theatre for a New Audience, premiering in 2025, and developing several soon-to-be-announced new operas with frequent collaborator Royce Vavrek including a project commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater New Works Program.

Little set the tone for his operatic work with the 2006 premiere of Soldier Songs, drawing praise for “the imaginative way he draws on his varied musical interests to produce arresting and coherent works” (Musical America). Based on extensive interviews with military veterans, the work has quickly become part of the operatic repertoire and has been performed by Los Angeles Opera, Atlanta Opera, San Diego Opera, Des Moines Metro Opera, and by Beth Morrison Projects at the Holland Festival. A film adaptation of Soldier Songs was later produced for the Opera Philadelphia Channel, earning a 2022 GRAMMY Award nomination for Best Opera Recording and a 2022 Opera America Award for Digital Opera. This fall, baritone Nathan Gunn will make his role debut in the work at Chicago Opera Theater, conducted by Lidiya Yankovskaya.

2009 saw the beginning of one of Little’s most fruitful partnerships, with librettist Royce Vavrek. Called “one of the most exciting composer-librettist teams working in opera today” (The Wall Street Journal), Little & Vavrek first collaborated on works including Scenes from Dog Days, and the one-act comedy Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera, “consid­ered by many to be one of the funniest new operas out there” (Opera America Magazine). Houston Grand Opera produced a film version of the opera in 2020, in partnership with Austin Opera and Opera San Antonio, one of the first pandemic-era film operas to be produced by a major company.

2012 brought the premiere of Little & Vavrek’s breakout work Dog Days, a post-apocalyptic creation cited by The New York Times as proof “beyond any doubt that opera has both a relevant present and a bright future.” In 2016, following a successful US tour by Beth Morrison Projects and its European premiere, National Sawdust Tracks released the world-premiere recording of Dog Days, starring the original cast alongside Newspeak, the amplified chamber ensemble founded by Little in 2001. The CD was listed as one of NPR’s Best Recordings of 2016.

That same year, Little & Vavrek debuted their first grand opera, JFK, a phantasmagorical telling of the 35th President’s last hours. The work was lauded by Opera News as a “ravishing…triumphant work” and by The Wall Street Journal as “absorbing…at once grander and more intimate than Dog Days.” Commissioned by Fort Worth Opera, Opéra de Montréal, and American Lyric Theater, the opera has since been staged by opera companies in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.

Little’s many compositions for solo performer or small ensemble often include ghostly or spiritual themes: The “gloriously thunderous” (The Washington Post) Hellhound, composed for Maya Beiser, reflects on the legend of bluesman Robert Johnson selling his soul at the Crossroads. Ghostlight, commissioned for Eighth Blackbird by The Kennedy Center, looks to surrealist art and fairy tales for their unspoken lessons, while dress in magic amulets, dark, from My feet is a meditation on Christ on the cross commissioned by The Crossing and International Contemporary Ensemble. Still other works draw from literary sources or history. These include The Crocus Palimpsest, a Samuel Beckett-inspired work for solo cello composed for virtuoso Matt Haimovitz; Lessons, a setting of Walt Whitman for baritone voice and piano; and hold my tongue, a meditation channeling Hamlet commissioned by Bec Plexus for her project STICKLIP. The solo piano suite Accumulation of Purpose draws inspiration from the activism of the Freedom Riders, while the earthen lack, a solo cello work commissioned by the London Sinfonietta and Bowling Green State University, looks to antiquity for lessons about mortality.

Little’s works for orchestra and large ensemble likewise interrogate the ways that we engage or grapple with the world in which we live: The Conjured Life, a centennial tribute to maverick composer Lou Harrison; CHARM, a celebration of city life commissioned by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra; Haunted Topography and RADIANT CHiLD, which collectively explore the emotional landscapes of parenthood; and AM I BORN, a meditation on the ghosts of history, recorded by The Choir of Trinity Wall Street and recognized by Opera News as one of the best recordings of 2022.

Little’s recorded catalog includes over 20 commercial releases from ensembles such as The Crossing, International Contemporary Ensemble, Newspeak, Third Coast Percussion, The Choir of Trinity Wall Street, Novus NY, Isaura String Quartet, the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME), and Timur & the Dime Museum; soloists Maya Beiser, Matt Haimovitz, James Johnston, Bruce Levingston, Nick Photinos and Todd Reynolds, and singers James Bobick, Marnie Breckenridge, Cherry Duke, Blythe Gaissert, Ricardo Garcia, Alicia Gianni, Eve Gigliotti, Nicole Heaston, Mellissa Hughes, Michael Marcotte, Kelly Markgraf, Ryan McKinny, David Adam Moore, Bec Plexus, Peter Tansits, Elena Villalón, and Lauren Worsham. These recordings have been released on such labels as New Amsterdam Records, Pentatone, Sono Luminus, Bright Shiny Things, and Cantaloupe Music.

Little is the founding artistic director and former drummer of the amplified chamber ensemble, Newspeak. Hailed as “potent” (Alex Ross), “innovative” (New York Magazine), and “fierce” (Time Out New York), Newspeak explores the relationship of music and politics, while confronting head-on the boundaries between the classical and rock traditions. Newspeak released its first CD of commissioned works in November 2010, to critical acclaim. “You could call this punk classical,” Lucid Culture proclaimed, noting that the disc is “fearlessly aware, insightfully political (and) resolutely defiant.” The Washington Post wrote of their 2013 Washington DC performance, “Newspeak pretty much rules.” Newspeak founded the New Music Bake Sale, which fostered contemporary classical community annually in Brooklyn from 2009-2016. They have been featured at the Park Avenue Armory, on the Ecstatic Music Festival, on the 25th anniversary Bang on a Can Marathon and made their international debut at the 2014 Holland Festival. They have released four commercial recordings, with a fifth on the way.

Among Little’s many commissions are recent and upcoming works for The Metropolitan Opera / Lincoln Center Theater, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Carnegie Hall, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra / Marin Alsop, London Sinfonietta, Kronos Quartet, The Crossing, Matt Haimovitz, Beth Morrison Projects, Alarm Will Sound, Opéra de Montréal, Fort Worth Opera, Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Third Coast Percussion, and Dawn Upshaw / Bard Conservatory. In addition, his music has been presented by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Park Avenue Armory, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, International Festival of Arts and Ideas, Miller Theatre, Mostly Mozart Festival, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, PROTOTYPE Festival, Armitage Gone! Dance, Gaudeamus Muziekweek, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Singapore International Festival of Arts, the Oregon Bach Festival, and the Tanglewood, Aspen, MATA, Bang on a Can, and Cabrillo Festivals. Productions of his operas have been staged by North American companies in New York, Los Angeles, Houston, Philadelphia, Montréal, San Diego, Atlanta, Austin, Pittsburgh, San Antonio, Des Moines, and Fargo, as well as European companies in Amsterdam, Augsburg, Saarbrücken, Bielefeld, Braunschweig, and Schwerin.

Little has earned recognition from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, Meet The Composer, the American Music Center, the Harvey Gaul Competition, Yaddo, BMI, and ASCAP, among others. He is a 2023 Individual Artist Fellow from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts and a recipient of the Copland House Residency Award. He holds degrees from Susquehanna University (2001), The University of Michigan (2002), and Princeton University (PhD, 2011), where his research explored the intersection of music and politics. His primary teachers have included (in reverse chronological order) Paul Lansky, Steven Mackey, Osvaldo Golijov, William Bolcom, Michael Daugherty, Patrick Long, and David Mattingly. Since 2015, Little has served on the composition faculty at Mannes-The New School in New York City, where he is currently program chair. He previously served as Executive Director of New York’s MATA Festival (2010-2012) and Director of Composition at Shenandoah Conservatory (2012-2015). He has served as Composer-in-Residence with Opera Philadelphia and Music-Theatre Group (2014-2017), Zürich’s Apples and Olives Festival (2016), and the Mizzou International Composers Festival (2020 and 2021). He held the 2016 William Bolcom Residency in Composition at the University of Michigan.

His music is published by Boosey & Hawkes. Learn more at www.davidtlittle.com.

Updated August 2023.
For alternate versions, please contact Katy Salomon, VP Public Relations at katy@primoartists.com.
This biography can be reproduced free of charge in concert programs with the following credit:
Reprinted by kind permission of Boosey & Hawkes.

David T. Little - photo by Merri Cyr
David T. Little - photo by Merri Cyr