100 Composers Under 40

A Crowdsourced Project to Determine the Range of the 21st-century Composer

Sunday, April 17, 2011

A few weeks ago, Q2 and NPR Music launched a crowdsourced project to determine who were your favorite composers under the age of 40, and by extension those pieces which were shaping our contemporary musical scene and defining what it actually means to be a composer in the 21st century. On Facebook, Twitter and the aggregating pages on Q2 and NPR Music, an international array of comments poured in, reaching almost 800 suggestions in total. With much debate and awareness of such a list's limitations, we've narrowed the field down to 100 composers, each represented by one song, and are proud to present it here in a randomized stream.

If there is any lesson in what a user-generated project such as this can offer, it's that the narrow notion of what it meant to be a composer - writing in the shadow of the three B's (Bach, Beethoven and Brahms) - is well on its way to obsolescence. Forget dusty ideals of court or church appointments, or those Romantic notions of plumbing the depths of the soul for salvation. The 21st century composer makes his home wherever he sees fit, uses a battery of electric guitars and drums in the same breath as a section of violins and violas, performs for a rabid, dancing audience on one night and at a concert hall subscription series the next.

How do you know when you're hearing a composer? All we can really say, to paraphrase the late Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court, Potter Stewart, is: "I know it when I hear it." We're thrilled that this project has brought together singer-songwriters and bandleaders, experimental musicians and technophiles, jazz artists and composition students, composer collectives and one-man shows, and couldn't be more excited to reclaim the terms "composer" and even "classical music" for a contemporary, evolving vocabulary. Read below for a complete list of those 100 composers featured and most importantly, let us know your thoughts on what it means to compose in the 21st century.

Included composers:

  • Arooj Aftab
  • Andy Akiho
  • Karin Dreijer Andersson (The Knife)
  • Timothy Andres
  • Darcy James Argue
  • Ólafur Arnalds
  • Lera Auerbach
  • Rusty Banks
  • Mick Barr (Ocrilim)
  • Mason Bates
  • Abbie Betinis
  • Andrew Bird
  • Jón Þór Birgisson (Jónsi, Sigur Rós)
  • Daníel Bjarnason
  • James Blackshaw
  • Tyondai Braxton
  • Peter Broderick
  • Caleb Burhans
  • Jason Cady
  • Ryan Carter
  • Christopher Cerrone
  • Ann Cleare
  • Anna Clyne
  • Zach Condon (Beirut)
  • Dan Deacon
  • Dennis DeSantis
  • Bryce Dessner (Clogs, The National)
  • Nicholas Deyoe
  • Avner Dorman
  • Alexandra du Bois
  • duYun
  • Steven Ellison (Flying Lotus)
  • Roshanne Etezady
  • Jefferson Friedman
  • Ben Frost
  • Ashley Rose Fure
  • Judd Greenstein
  • Jonny Greenwood (Radiohead)
  • Rachel Grimes
  • Ben Hackbarth
  • Joseph Hallman
  • Mary Halvorson
  • Andrew Hamilton
  • Imogen Heap
  • Ted Hearne
  • Tim Hecker
  • Robert Honstein
  • Matthew Hough
  • Takuma Itoh
  • Vijay Iyer
  • Colin Jacobsen
  • Richard D. James (Aphex Twin)
  • Gabriel Kahane
  • Mikael Karlsson
  • Zoe Keating
  • Amy Beth Kirsten
  • Andrea La Rose (Anti-Social Music)
  • David T. Little
  • Dave Longstreth (Dirty Projectors)
  • Charlie Looker (Extra Life)
  • David Ludwig
  • John Mackey
  • Rudresh Mahanthappa
  • Missy Mazzoli (Victoire)
  • Matt McBane
  • Clint McCallum
  • Alex Mincek (Wet Ink Ensemble)
  • Pat Muchmore (Anti-Social Music)
  • Nico Muhly
  • Eric Nathan
  • Angelica Negron
  • Jonathan Newman
  • Joanna Newsom
  • Andrew Norman
  • Dustin O'Halloran
  • Tarik O'Regan
  • Owen Pallett
  • Carter Pann
  • Jessica Pavone
  • Tristan Perich
  • Paola Prestini
  • Gabriel Prokofiev
  • Joel Puckett
  • Kevin Puts
  • Carl Schimmel
  • Aaron Siegel
  • Valgeir Sigurðsson
  • Sarah Kirkland Snider
  • Esperanza Spalding
  • D.J. Sparr
  • Sufjan Stevens
  • Kjartan Sveinsson (Sigur Rós)
  • Joby Talbot
  • Anthony Vine
  • Matthew Welch
  • Keith Fullerton Whitman
  • Charlie Wilmoth
  • Daniel Wohl
  • Eric Wubbels
  • Katherine A. Young

Look for your favorites to begin coloring Q2 playlists. 

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Comments [4]

Terry from Manhattan

Where do they get the money to pay this guy to write bootlicking garbage like this?

Sep. 05 2013 05:53 PM
Robert from NYC

Mr. Ambrose and Editors,

While some of the folks listed above might produce "technofiles," the people enthusiastic about such stuff are technophiles. And were the Romantics really so concerned with salvation?

I enjoy a lot of different popular musics, but I resist the current fashion for discarding standards entirely. A pop-song writer does not a composer make. Heck, even the Stones conceded "I know it's only rock and roll" before asserting "but I like it." I'd hate to think serious music ended in 1904, but when I see some of the names included above, I'm not optimistic . . . .

Apr. 22 2011 02:09 AM
Ferenc from Queens

Mozart will always be 35...

Apr. 21 2011 07:24 AM
George Jochnowitz from New York

Music ended in 1904, between the composition of the 3rd and 4th movements of Mahler's 6th Symphony.


Apr. 19 2011 03:29 PM

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