Dylan Schneider is widely recognized as a leading voice among today’s generation of composers. His work, praised for its innovative structure and dramatic flair, has drawn an international audience and has been performed by Grammy-Award-winning ensembles such as Eighth Blackbird, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra. His latest opera, STRIP-TEASE, a surreal critique of the modus operandi of totalitarianism, received its recent premiere at Chicago’s Logan Center for the Arts. Schneider's music pioneers a new frontier in performance, traversing the diversity of human experience with a sense of lyricism and play.
A dynamic instructor and mentor, Schneider is dedicated to the artistic development and future success of his students.
At the outset, a constellation of motives, sonorities, and gestures emerges in stark juxtaposition. Each of these minute musical seeds is developed and juxtaposed again, in a more evolved iteration of the cycle. Wash, rinse, and repeat. Before long, it starts to take quite a bit of time to “make it” through any one of these individual strains: they each sprout into entire sections of music, often interrupting one another as bits of one strain intrude on another.
I make a significant distinction in this piece between linear music (forward moving) and more static moments (let's call them hammocks for the brain) that afford the listener opportunities to reflect on where we've come—and how we got there.
STRIP-TEASE received its premiere during the inaugural season of the Logan Center for the Arts, as part of the Contempo series at the University of Chicago. The performance featured three singers and the University of Chicago’s two Grammy-Award-winning ensembles in residence: eighth blackbird and the Pacifica String Quartet.
In the opera, a pair of office workers find themselves detained, for unknown reasons, in an empty room. Instead of escaping through the unlocked doors, the men quarrel about whether or not they are truly free to leave. Soon, however, it is too late: a supernatural, man-sized hand crawls into the room, subjecting the pair to outlandish punishments.
I have always been fascinated by the notion of a piece that would blur the boundaries between composer, performer, and audience. In 2016, my installation project, entitled Hear/Act, allowed viewers in a gallery to interact with an instrument I created using a nine-square MIDI pad linked to a laptop running Max/MSP. My program transforms the participant’s simple inputs of velocity and duration into a rich soundscape, allowing the user to create nuanced improvisations.
STRIP-TEASE, a chamber opera in one act
By Dylan Schneider
Imagine yourself partway up a free-solo climb of a wall of towering, Biblical beauty and proportions, such as El Capitan in Yosemite. You have no climbing partners. No ropes. It's just you and the wall.
You stretch out one foot, test a new hold. It's insecure, you retreat. Try again. And again. Once more. This time you surely got it. This means you can ascend to the next position.
You look up in awe. The top glistens in the morning light. You're still a long way down, but you're inspired. One more step. Then another. And another. Before you know it, you're halfway up.
Cliffhanger takes on the ecstasy, vertigo, and euphoric insanity of free-solo rock climbing.
The Cassatt String Quartet premiered a major new work by Dylan Schneider, Dancer at an Exhibition, at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. Composed in response to artwork at the Clark, the piece follows Degas' iconic ballerina (Little Dancer of Fourteen Years) on a whirlwind tour of the museum's collection and architecture.
In January 2022, the acclaimed Cassatt String Quartet recorded Schneider's “GOES A-A-A-H…” The work takes its inspiration from Antônio Carlos Jobim’s classic The Girl from Ipanema: “And when she passes, each one she passes goes ‘ah!’"
GOES A-A-A-H will feature as part of the 2022 Seal Bay Festival of American Chamber Music, at which Schneider will serve as composer-in-residence.
Cassatt Quartet, 2022
It is at the meeting place between intellect, discipline, and play where our minds our primed to create.
- Dylan Schneider