Ken Ueno

We commissioned the California-based composer, vocalist, improviser, and cross-disciplinary artist Ken Ueno to write a piece for us. We will be premiering his piece during the 2015-2016 season.


Meerenai met Ken at the Aspen Music Festival many moons ago. Her first introduction to Ken's music was when she was unceremoniously assigned one of his pieces to conduct at an Aspen Contemporary Ensemble concert. Everyone in the conducting class initially felt sorry for Meerenai because Ken's score for No How On was the only handwritten one in the bunch. It turned out to be one of the better pieces on that concert though so she was happy to be a part of its premiere!

Fast forward to a few years ago...

Ken and Meerenai ended up in the Bay Area and casually discussed possibilities of working together. Finally when we were looking for composers to commission in 2012, Ken's name was on the short list.

We look forward to working with Ken on a new piece and trust that he now has an army of copyists, unlike his grad student days.  :)




Winner of the 2006-2007 Rome Prize and the 2010-2011 Berlin Prize, Ken Ueno, is a composer, vocalist, improviser, and cross-disciplinary artist. His music coalesces diverse influences into a democratic sonic landscape. In addition to Heavy Metal sub-tone singing and Tuvan throat singing, he is also informed by European avant-garde instrumental techniques, American experimentalism, and sawari,  "beautiful noise," an aesthetic in traditional Japanese music.

In recent years, Ken has been collaborating with visual artists, architects, and video art ists to create unique cross-disciplinary art works. With the artist, Angela Bulloch, he has created several audio installations (driven with custom software), which provide audio input that affect the way her mechanical drawing machine sculptures draw. These works have been exhibited at Art Basel as well as at Angela’s solo exhibition at the Wolfsburg Castle. In collaborating with the architect, Patrick Tighe, Ken created a custom software-driven 8-channel sound installation that provided the sonic environment for Tighe’s robotically carved foam construction. Working with the landscape architect, Jose Parral, Ken has collaborated on videos, interactive video installations, and a multi-room intervention at the art space Rialto, in Rome, Italy.

Ken is currently an Associate Professor at the University of California, Berkeley. To see what he's up to now, please visit


A/B:  Any pre/during/post composition rituals?

Ken:  Composing IS the ritual in life.

A/B:  Favorite drink after finishing a composition?

Ken:  Lagavulin

A/B:  Stay-cation or vacation?

Ken:  Constantly in exile.  For serious, I have no home right now.  So, I keep traveling.

A/B:  Rom-com or Action-Thriller?

Ken:  Neither. Experimental film. I'm a snob.

A/B:  Nsync or Backstreet?

Ken:  The Shaggs.

A/B:  Cake or Pie?

Ken:  Depends.

A/B:  Favorite live musical moment?

Ken:  Seeing Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan double bill in LA back in the day.

A/B:  Apple or Microsoft?

Ken:  Apple. 

A/B:  Sibelius or Finale?

Ken:  Finale.

A/B:  Favorite Artist?

Ken:  Judith Scott

A/B:  Favorite Book?

Ken:  Ulysses

A/B:  Ideal vacation spot?

Ken:  Somewhere I've never been.

A/B:  Guilty pleasure?

Ken:  Kamen Rider!

A/B:  Favorite Sesame Street character?

Ken:  Big Bird

A/B:  Favorite breakfast food?

Ken:  Irish Full

A/B:  Your proudest moment?

Ken:  Passing my pre-school interview, when I was 2.

A/B:  Vinyl, cassette tape, compact discs, or mp3?

Ken:  Live.

A/B:  Name one item on your bucket list.

Ken:  Perform with Ryuichi Sakamoto!

A/B:  Favorite movie?

Ken:  8 1/2

A/B:  Your first LP, tape, CD, etc. purchase?

Ken:  Soundtrack to "Round Midnight," I think.  On CD.