About Ken

Ken Walicki is an American composer who is widely recognized and acknowledged for his dramatic, engaging, and often humorous music, which reflects the time we live in.

Because of his unusual and interesting background, his sound world has evolved into a unique combination of Art, Pop, Jazz, and World music.  Walicki‘s influences include Ligeti, Zorn, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, vegetarianism, Public Enemy, Buddhism, Che Guevara, Duran Duran, and the Zapatista Revolution in Mexico.  Walicki was one of the first composers to use turntables in his music and the first composer to have turntables as a regular instrument in a standing ensemble.

His music has been performed throughout the world by the Kronos Quartet, ETHEL, the New Century Saxophone Quartet, the Soldier String Quartet, and members of the New York Philharmonic, The Los Angeles Symphony, The Detroit Symphony, The Pacific Symphony, the Istanbul Borusan Orchestra, and the SWR Kaiserslautern Orchestra.  He is the composer-in-residence for the new music ensemble the Divan Consort, and the Rio Hondo Orchestra.

Walicki has received grants and commissions from a variety of organizations and performing ensembles including the American Composers Forum, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Jerome Foundation, the Kronos Quartet, the Mary Flagler Cary Trust, and Meet the Composer.

Growing up playing guitar in local Detroit garage bands, Walicki decided, at early age, he wanted to dedicate his life to music.  After hearing the Detroit Symphony play Prokofiev’s “Alexander Nevsky Suite” and attending a concert by Andres Segovia, his life was changed.  He decided to pursue a career as a composer and concert artist.  Following an injury to his left hand, Walicki turned to composition full-time.  His studies included a two-year period in Germany as a Fulbright scholar where he studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, and Rolf Hempel.  He was also an active participant in master classes with Aaron Copland, Samuel Barber, and William Schumann.  His formal education ended when he received his Ph.D. a long time ago.

Aesthetically, Walicki is a combination of his parts.  He enjoys traveling and finds it to be an enormous source of inspiration.  After spending a great deal of time in the Middle East and the Indian Subcontinent, he has found these cultures to be particularly close to his heart and psyche.  Together these experiences have made him a composer of diverse, accessible yet rigorous music.  In addition to traditional concert music venues such as Lincoln Center in New York and the Liszt Academy in Budapest, his music has been performed in new music clubs such as CBGB’s, the Knitting Factory, and countless cafes and storefronts throughout the world.  Without compromising his values, Walicki has made a point of writing music that relates to people and their situations.

His musical philosophy has opened up many musical possibilities for him.  Walicki has collaborated with a variety of artists in the classical, pop, theater, film, and dance worlds, such as Lydia Lunch, Dora Ohrenstein, the Doug Elkins Dance Company, Emmy winning producer/director Mark Obenhaus, American Opera Projects, and Bermuda Triangle.  He was the founder and composer of the Ken Valitsky Ensemble, which has included Regina Carter and Thomas Chapin as members.

Previously, besides being on the faculty at New York University, Walicki taught composition in Istanbul, Turkey at the Center for Advanced Music Techniques (MIAM), a department of Istanbul Technical University.  Currently, he lives in Southern California with his wife and son, the ashes of the family cat Fatihye, and their dogs Sparky and Marta.  He is a practicing Buddhist and a Professor and Director of the Composition/Theory program at California State University, Fullerton.  Ken’s music is available on Knitting Factory Works, C.R.I., CRS Artists, and Channel Records

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