one of the most imaginative young composers on the music-theatre scene…not a post-classical composer but a classical composer with a surprisingly broad range.

—Russell Platt, The New Yorker

one of the most promising stars on the 21st century opera scene

—Olivia Giovetti, WQXR/Q2

perhaps the most prominent member of a group of young composers who are reviving the unabashedly political music-theatre tradition of Marc Blitzstein.

—The New Yorker: featured in Goings on About Town

among the brightest lights to emerge in recent seasons.

—Steve Smith, Time Out New York

“I think the kind of pieces he’s doing are much more real than what most of young composers are doing,” says Osvaldo Golijov, a Grammy-winning composer to whom Lincoln Center devoted a festival in 2006 and who has mentored Little since 2001.  “He’s not an ivory tower kind of guy or a polite guy when it comes to music, even though he’s a very nice guy… What comes through in every single piece… is the dramatic instinct, the incredible sense of pacing, of the shift of gears.  On one hand, there is something very modern about him, but on the other hand, he has this knack for theater and drama that Verdi had and the great operatic composers had.”

from Rocking Classics by Ronni Reich, NJ Star Ledger

AM I BORN (2012)

The highlight of the second half was the third world premiere of the evening, David T. Little’s Am I Born. …At the crossroads of sound and sight, it’s a wonder of artisanal artistry that enhanced and even overpowered the projections that accompanied the whole of the performance. At times it even violently exploded with an epic mysticism.  …Little’s Am I Born also owes much to American shape-note hymn singing, particularly Charles Wesley’s Idumea. …Librettist Royce Vavrek picked up on the hymn’s line “Am I born to die?” and explored further in Little’s work.  Such a weighty question was left to the individual listener to answer, but given what was on display in Brooklyn this weekend, it’s inarguable that there are other things besides death to warrant being born. Music is chief among them.

—Olivia Giovetti, Operavore

“…an epic and dramatic choral piece (which) expanded on (Idumea’s) “am I born to die?” motif, underscoring the program’s major theme—mortality.  It fades out on a repeated phrase: “an intersection of times.”  It was hard to walk out into Brooklyn afterward and see anything but palimpsest, a city thick with the ghosts not just of poets but of all Brooklynites.  …a people’s history of the borough in song.”

– Henry Stewart, The L Magazine,
March 26, 2012

“David T. Little’s craft was remarkable.  In a previous interview, Little told us about his collaboration with the BYC, his interest in the Shape Notes tradition, and the orchestration challenges that he had to overcome. The result was stunning: Little’s fresh orchestration, rhythmic and colorfully grounded in the low register, was emotionally effective and made great use the resources that were available to him.’

– Thomas Deneuville, I Care If You Listen
May, 14, 2012

“(Am I Born) combines Little’s virtues: a tough lyricism, strong structure, and a good helping of heavy rock aesthetic. …the ruminative sense of both joy and regret in the lost history of the borough came through powerfully. The meaning of it was clear to all.”

– George Grella, The Brooklyn Rail,
May, 2012

and the sky was still there (2010)

engages both the ear and the spleen.

– Daniel Johnson, New Haven Advocate
March 2, 2011

an affecting meditation

– Allan Kozinn, New York Times
May 27, 2011

“a tense seven-minute ride…It’s like a more intense edition of This American Life, when Ira Glass or whatever mumble-mouth essayist is shutting up and letting their subject do the talking.”

– John Garratt, Pop Matters
May 20, 2011

Conspiracy Theory (2011)

Inspired loosely by the old saw that being paranoid doesn’t mean someone isn’t following you, David T. Little’s “Conspiracy Theory” began with ominous thunderclouds that built up in big brassy layers to a berserk cataclysmic conclusion….

– Richard Gehr, The Village Voice
March 12, 2012

descanso (after omega) (2004)

Situated just after or before these displays of rhythmic intensity were a pair of acoustic works of resonant emotional intensity. “Descanso/ After Omega” by David T. Little – which I liked a great deal – (is) for saxophones, piano, vibraphone (frequently bowed) and crystal glasses. The crystal glasses were played behind the audience, providing a backdrop of an invisible drone for the staggered melodic phrases from the instruments at the front of the performance space. The texture had an aching beauty hinting at the deep agony of loss.

– Devin Hurd, Hurd Audio
April 25, 2007

descanso (waiting) (2005)

“David T. Little’s ‘Descanso (waiting)’ proved the artistic standout of the evening. … An emotional-filled sonic poem for a small ensemble, ‘Descanso’ reverberated with haunting layers. The playful ring of ordinary wind chimes floated in and out of melancholic yet slightly dissonant melodies that rose and fell, intensifying then pulling back. ‘Descanso (waiting)’ was the perfect musical portrait of the swirl of contradictory emotions that surge when anticipating the loss of a loved one.”

– Jeanne Claire van Ryzin, Austin360.com
November 13, 2007

“David Little’s Descanso (waiting) refers to the Spanish tradition of weary pallbearers placing a small cross, flowers or a stone on a spot where they stopped to rest. These markers then become sites of reflection for future travelers. Written for eighth blackbird, Little disperses the group around a darkened room, the players’ lighted music stands as little “markers” – the tiny oases in the title. As each gesture appears, it is passed around in turn, in the same way that friends might gently hold each other in grief. Eighth blackbird’s delicate yet fiery wizardry somehow evoked the composer’s reflections on sorrow and mourning…”

– Bruce Hodges, musicweb-international.com
May, 2006

Dog Days (2012)

an opera in three acts

Think about it: When was the last time a new opera got under your skin the way an Edward Albee play does?…a taut, nuanced work that clawed beneath the surface of every situation… its poetry is indelible and affecting… Mr. Little responded with music of emotional insight and charm, suggesting pop-music modes at times without ever resorting to pastiche. Harsh, angular lines and abrasive textures cede to wistful melodies and touches of hymnody… Newspeak, augmented with guests and conducted by Alan Pierson in plain view upstage, played with a stylishness born of familiarity and commitment. …With the approaching centenary of Stravinsky’s ballet “The Rite of Spring,” whose 1913 premiere provoked an outraged riot, conversation about the purpose and efficacy of shock in art is in the air. I had been struggling to think of something to add to the discussion. But on Saturday evening, near the end of a new opera, “Dog Days,” I saw the most genuinely unsettling incident I have yet witnessed on any stage.

Steve Smith, The New York Times

This gripping two-hour opera…wastes no time: A taut libretto and varied, original music deliver its grim story like a punch in the stomach.

Heidi Waleson, The Wall Street Journal

Most young composers put the influences of rock, post-minimalism, and Benjamin Britten into a cocktail shaker and hope for the best; Little channels them into a seamless flow that fosters structural cohesion and expressive impact. ‘Dog Days’ showed off another rare talent: a gift for settings the English language that helped make the characters in Royce Vavrek’s taut libretto into fascinating, three-dimensional beings.

Russell Platt, The New Yorker

Be prepared to hold onto your seat if — as you really should — go to see “Dog Days,” the new opera from composer David T. Little and librettist Royce Vavrek… The emotional score, with spiky, jarring moments, never loses its lyrical bearings. “Dog Days” signals Little as one of the great compositional voices of his generation….Newspeak serving as the chamber orchestra…clearly knows Little’s style well, and deliver it (with) incredible power.
Dog Days will blow you away.

Steven Marsh, Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone

The work seamlessly melds emerging and veteran artists with distinctive viewpoints and serious craft. Little’s rhythmically driven score is stylistically diverse but cogent, fusing impeccable classical vocal writing, heavy metal, and musical theater.  Conductor Alan Pierson leads Little’s plugged-in chamber ensemble Newspeak and a versatile cast in unforgettable performances. …It is difficult to think of anything with this kind of power and originality on any other opera stage in the area.

Ronni Reich, The Star-Ledger 

“Dog Days,” a black comedy with music by David T. Little and libretto by Royce Vavrek, was dramatically wild and at times exhilarating, a post-apocalyptic story about a family of five.  The young daughter adopts a dog, which seems to be a young man in a costume. Mr. Little’s rustling, raunchy, eclectic score showed real imagination.

—Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

…”Dog Days,” [is] based on a short story by Judy Budnitz, in which a family in postapocalyptic survival mode descends (or in some cases resists descending) into barbarism. Mr. Little’s writing is melodic and shapely, and the five singers… gave wrenching portrayals of a couple and their three children.

—Allan Kozinn, New York Times

…an elaborate, multimovement cantata…Mr. Little demonstrated a thrilling authority in writing for larger forces, mixing orchestral movements of cinematic sweep and urgency with rich a cappella choral passages and instances of chamberlike intricacy.

—Steve Smith, New York Times

Ghostlight (2015)

ritual for six players

“Ghostlight travels from the quiet of dusk through an often fierce, turbulent night to an introspective dawn.”
Musical America

“fertile sonic imagination”
– Chicago Tribune

 

haunted topography (2011)

…reflected the sensation of impossible, mournful longing through its careful craftsmanship.

– Matt Weber, I Care If You Listen
October 27, 2011

“the piece I liked was by David T. Little… with repeated piano chords, long somber string lines and sky-high xylophone ticks.  I’m glad I stayed for it, and I hope chamber ensembles will give it another shot.”

– Leslie Kandell, Daily Gazette
July 27, 2011

JFK (2016)

grand opera in 2 acts

Heidi Waleson, Wall Street Journal

“Absorbing…at once grander and more intimate than ‘Dog Days’”

“Surreally layered, poetic and theatrically well-paced”

“They have captured the national sorrow and shock of that time.”

“Mr. Little’s score juxtaposes the insistent, propulsive cacophony of ‘Dog Days’ with expressive melody.”

“Orchestration that lets the voice and the words soar”

“Mr. Little uses the chorus for prophetic statements that slip forebodingly into alternate tonalities”

“Heartbreaking”

“The ensemble is so well set up that the knowledge—and lack of knowledge— about what is to come is implicit in each character’s part.”

“Thaddeus Strassberger’s direction gave this multilayered piece the requisite clarity.”

Henry Stewart, Opera News

“The scene is so sweetly composed—both text and score, Vavrek and Little at their most symbiotic—that I almost choked on my tears, and I could hear from the sniffling around me that I wasn’t the only one. It stopped the show.”

“Ravishing…a triumphant work”

“A bold work—in score, forces, ambition, tone and presentation.”

Anthony Tommasini, New York Times

“Sensitively written, beautifully intimate”

“Haunting…rapturous”

“Diffuse pungent orchestral harmonies, with pitches that split and chords that slide, cushion the tender vocal writing… Mr. Little’s piercing, misty music makes it work.”

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

“Rather than document, opera’s job is to fancify … [JFK] show[s] through phantasmagorical nightmares and prosaic frailties how even real physical and emotional pain beats the alternative.”

“An opera operating on many levels, it has something for everyone.”

“Little’s score has flashes of his brilliant, hard-driving percussive style. His music theater is often haunted by ghosts, and some of the most effective moments in “JFK” are found in the otherworldliness of the orchestral colors. Add to that his talent for songful melody and weakness for instrumental shock, and you have a fine cocktail for modern grand opera.”

“A measure of visual spectacle necessary for an opera in which worlds collide … blithely moves from the bizarre to the real, from melodrama to farce.”

Anne Midgette, The Washington Post

“Little, 37, has become a hope for the future of opera”

“[David T. Little] has written a score that retains a cinematic clarity: Here the effulgent romance of a love duet, here the ominous precursors of what is to come.”

“A work of art that can communicate with a broader audience without sacrificing its integrity…worth a second look”

Wayne Lee Gay, Dallas Observer

“A musical and visual spectacle well worth the attention of any opera lover.”

“The most striking and unforgettable moment arrives in the second act when first lady Jacqueline Kennedy (mezzo-soprano Daniela Mack) confronts her future self, Jacqueline Onassis (mezzo-soprano Katharine Goeldner), launching into a soul-shattering aria which turns into a brilliant duet, and, when the maid/Clara/Fate (soprano Talise Trevigne) joins in, a trio.”

“The drama and ideas flowed seamlessly, thanks not only to a beautifully structured libretto that pulls these ideas together, but a score in which a smooth quasi-minimalism provides a foundation for frequent journeys into radiant neo-romanticism.”

Scott Cantrell, Dallas Morning News

“In often poetic flights of fancy, [David T. Little and Royce Vavrek] imagined the couple’s dreams and worries that night.”

“Both Jackies and the hotel maid spin out a trio of Straussian loveliness.”

Olin Chism, Fort Worth Star-Telegram

“Engrossing…the musical score of JFK is highly effective”

Paul Selar, Opera Chaser Australia

“A piece of operatic history”

“Indelibly absorbing, poignant and at times entertainingly piquant”

“JFK has the ability to reach globally, just as the shock of the president’ assassination did.”

Jarrett Goodchild, I Care If You Listen

“At the heart of the opera is a strong score and thoughtfully-projected libretto. David T. Little’s music serves the drama well without overshadowing the story.”

“Overall, the work is a beautiful example of what is possible in modern opera.”

RADIANT CHiLD (2015)

…a surefire crowd pleaser.

– Lawrence Bundmen, South Florida Classical Review
April 26, 2011

SCREAMER! – a three-ring blur for orchestra (2002)

“David T. Little’s “Screamer” from 2002 evokes the multi-sensory world of a circus with what he calls a “three-ring blur” for orchestra. In the space of a few minutes, diverse melodic ideas charge into the fray to brilliant sonic effect; a droopy, scratchy recording of “The Stars and Stripes Forever” pops up now and then (as the composer explains, circus bands used to strike up that march as a distraction whenever an accident occurred). Given the pileup of ideas and a lot of humor in the piece, it sounds like something Charles Ives would be writing if he were around now…

Tim Smith, Baltimore Sun’s Clef Notes Blog
March 19, 2010

David Little’s 2002 “Screamer, a Three-ring Blur for Orchestra” is a hilarious homage to the circus. This 26-year old composer captured – and augmented – the high spirits, drama and chaos of big-top happenings in his high-speed, multilayered, orchestral frolic.

Little’s musical high jinks with pie-tin trumpet mutes and Whoopee Cushions, were matched by the orchestra’s cello section in their yearly prank – this time wearing Day-Glo clown wigs, red bulb noses and balloons tied to cello scrolls.

Little’s work was repeated at Sunday’s Free Family Concert, an idea suggested by an audience member during Saturday’s after-concert “talk-back.”

– Phyllis Rosenblum, Santa Cruz Sentinel

That entire evening was a winner, opening with David Little’s hilarious Screamer!–a three-ring blur for orchestra, a five-minute laugh riot, complete with whoopee cushions, aluminum pie-plate trumpet mutes and cellists in clown attire.

– Scott MacClelland, Santa Cruz Metro

Soldier Songs (2006)

Soldier Songs Rocks.  … David T. Little brilliantly expounds upon the life of the soldier through three archetypal phases of life…His music is both complex and simple…using percussion liberally to utilising the simple sounds of a flute or clarinet to convey the enormous range of emotions the Soldier experiences.

The Houston Chronicle
May 26, 2009

Soldier Songs has the force of emotions tossed around, allowed to bruise each other and then served up raw.

Bruce Hodges, Musicweb International
September 7, 2009

“Oh, this is cool, a piece by a younger composer named David T. Little about soldiers listening to hip-hop on their iPods, from a group of songs called Soldier Songs. It’s kind of an anti-war song cycle, and he’s one of a group of composers based around New York that I find really interesting.”

– Alex Ross, in The Onion’s A.V. Club
March 18, 2008

“Soldier Songs” – a theatrical cantata for solo baritone composed by David T. Little, who grew up listening to heavy metal, classical music and musical theater – also had a military theme, with driven, slashing figures juxtaposed with moments of melodic calm. The work, based on interviews with soldiers, opens with audio interviews with Vietnam veterans, and the libretto (written by Mr. Little) is based on their recollections. James Bobick vividly illuminated the narrative flow, from a child’s war fantasy to a grieving parent’s loss.”

– Vivien Schweitzer, New York Times
May, 13, 2008

“A compelling antiwar piece, David T. Little’s multimedia Soldier Songs, an oratorio-like song cycle, powerfully juxtaposed the Marine Corps creed (“my rifle is my friend,” “without my rifle I am useless”) against a soldier’s graphic retelling of a hideous roadside bombing.”

– D.L. Groover, Houston Press
June 28, 2007

“Composer David Little is not yet 30 and is still working on his Ph.D., yet his list of classical works is as long as your arm. If his latest, “Soldier Songs,” premiered on Friday by Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble at City Theatre on the South Side, is any indication, quality equals quantity in a big way. … Little’s compositional language is eclectic and diverse, encompassing 19th-century Romanticism and polytonality, percussive counterpoint and musical theatre lyricism, semi-tone tuning and diatonic harmonies. … “Soldier Songs” is not a loosely connected cycle, but a dramatic, theatrical solo cantata that builds to a heartrending climax… With each of the 11 songs as gripping as the last…(it is) a glowing paean to peace activism.”

– Eric Haines, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Monday, July 31, 2006

Composer David T. Little avoids many of the problems associated with political art in his one-hour “Soldier Songs” … Little focuses on the experience of war … not any particular conflict or the domestic political divisiveness of some wars. (The) selection and creation of his texts provides a variety of expressions — poignant, ironic and direct. …masterful.

– Mark Kanny, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Tuesday, August 1, 2006

Speak Softly (2004)

for four percussionists playing sticks of varying bigness

a virtuoso tour de force in complex polyrhythms

– Christopher Hyde, Portland Press Heralld
August 1, 2011

Sunday Morning Trepanation (2002)

I was completely gripped by David T. Little’s ‘Sunday Morning Trepanation,’ for mixed quartet and CD playback, which equates contemporary religion with the drilling of holes in the skull. This ultra-dissonant composer, who doubles as a heavy-metal drummer, is coming to Princeton in the fall, and every bad-ass new-music ensemble in the city will want to play him.

– Alex Ross, The New Yorker

sweet light crude (2007)

sensuously rock-inflected

– Zachary Woolfe, New York Times
February 18, 2011

“It should come as no surprise that the album’s standout track is one penned by Little himself. Sweet light crude, Little’s love song to oil, stands as a perfect encapsulation of Newspeak’s abilities and capabilities. Reminiscent of vintage quasi-epic Metallica tracks like “For Whom the Bell Tolls” (Ride the Lightning) and “One” (…And Justice for All), sweet light crude manages to rock hard without ever sounding self-conscious or contrived, an all-too-familiar pitfall of cross-genre experiments like this one. In Little’s hands, even a clarinet doesn’t sound out of place with a distorted guitar and cymbal-heavy metal drumming.”

– Brian Sacawa, New Music Box
November 23, 2010


“…described by the ensemble as a “dark and crooked love song to oil”, (sweet light crude) exhibits many of the finest traits of his compositional surroundings. The piece features plenty of beautiful writing, particularly for the voice and clarinet. The off-kilter shifts between two steady drum beats also presents a rock-influenced take on the tempo contrasts of 1990s ‘Downtown’ composers.”

– Patrick Nickleson, The Silent Ballet
January 17, 2011

“It’s not every day that you see a composer leading his work from the drumkit, but that’s exactly what Little did for his sweet light crude (2007). Set to his own gothic poem relating a lover’s desperate pleas, Little built a soundscape of searing intensity, mixing techniques from rock ballads and free jazz. … Refreshingly, Little writes from his gut, not like he’s participating in an academic exercise. Keep an eye on him.”

– Pete Matthews, feastofmusic.com
April 6, 2008

“Also impressive was David T. Little’s ‘sweet light crude,’ a passionate love song dedicated to oil.”

– Sydney de Lapeyrouse, Phillyist.com
October, 25, 2007

Valuable Natural Resources (2004)

The high point of the concert was the premiere of the work “Valuable Natural Resources” of US American David T. Little (born 1978), (composed for) the symposium…(it)…illuminated and indispensable level of the topic (of Nature and Music): the exploitation of nature by humans, in addition, the exploitation of humans as a part of nature.

– C. Hoppe, Dresdner Neueste Nachrichten
September 30, 2004

Vinkensport, or The Finch Opera (2010)

Vinkensport has an exuberant, rhythmically vibrant score by David T. Little with an infectious opening chorus.

– Zachary Woolfe, New York Times
May 16, 2010

rhythmically vibrant and melodically charming music. …his is a distinctive compositional voice.

– Christian Carey, Musical America
May 20, 2010