Piano Garden


Composer Annea Lockwood.

Composer Annea Lockwood
Photo by Julia Dratel

New Zealand-born American composer Annea Lockwood (b. 1939) brings vibrant energy, ceaseless curiosity, and a profound sense of openness to her music. Lockwood’s lifelong fascination with the visceral effects of sound in our environments and through our bodies—the way sounds unfold and their myriad “life spans”—serves as the focal point for works ranging from concert music to performance art to multimedia installations.

In recent years Lockwood and her music have received widespread attention, including a Columbia University Miller Theatre Composer Portrait concert, a feature article in The New York Times, a SEAMUS Lifetime Achievement Award, a documentary film by director Sam Green, and most recently, election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Her recent collaborative works Into the Vanishing Point with the ensemble Yarn/Wire and Becoming Air with avant-garde trumpeter Nate Wooley were released on Black Truffle Records to great acclaim. Her work has been presented internationally at institutions and festivals such as Lucerne Festival, Tectonics Athens Festival, Signale Graz, Counterflows International Festival of Music and Art, Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and many others.

Born in New Zealand in 1939, Annea Lockwood moved to England in 1961, studying composition at the Royal College of Music, London, attending summer courses at Darmstadt, and completing her studies in Cologne and Holland, taking courses in electronic music with Gottfried Michael Koenig. She felt a strong connection to such American composers as Pauline Oliveros, John Cage, and the Sonic Arts Union (Ashley, Behrman, Mumma, Lucier). In 1973 composer Ruth Anderson invited her to teach at Hunter College, CUNY, and Lockwood moved to the US, settling in Crompond, NY. She is an Emerita Professor at Vassar College.

During the 1960s, Lockwood created works such as the Glass Concerts, initiating her focus on timbre and new sound sources. In synchronous homage to Christian Barnard’s pioneering heart transplants, Lockwood began a series of Piano Transplants (1969-82) in which defunct pianos were burned, drowned, beached, and planted in an English garden. Piano Burning continues to be performed around the globe.

Lockwood’s deep affection for all things water-related is evident throughout her catalog. Her attention to performance works focused on environmental sounds and life narratives began in the 1970s and ’80s with World Rhythms and A Sound Map of the Hudson River. A Sound Map of the Danube weaves field recordings of the rivers with recorded stories of the people living and working on the water. Delta Run features a recorded conversation with the sculptor Walter Wincha near the time of his death. Her 2016 tribute to the composer Pauline Oliveros, bayou-borne, for Pauline, is a graphic score; a map of the six converging bayous in Houston, Texas, where Oliveros was born.

Collaboration and improvisation are vital features of Lockwood’s output. Jitterbug, commissioned by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for the dance eyeSpace, incorporates Lockwood’s recordings of aquatic insects, and three improvising musicians working from photographs of rock surfaces. She has worked with engineer and sound designer Robert Bielecki on devices such as the Sound Ball, created for Three Short Stories and an Apotheosis in which a ball containing six small speakers and a receiver is rolled, swung on a long cord, and passed around the audience. Lockwood and Bielecki also collaborated on the outdoor installation Wild Energy (2014), which resides in the permanent collection of the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts and draws on geophysical and atmospheric infra and ultra sound sources transposed into the human hearing range.

Lockwood has received commissions from numerous ensembles and solo performers, including Bang On A Can, baritone Thomas Buckner, pianists Sarah Cahill, Lois Svard, and Jennifer Hymer, the Holon Scratch Orchestra, Essential Music, Yarn/Wire, and Issue Project Room.

Her music is recorded on the Lovely, XI, Mutable, Pogus, EM Records (Japan), Rattle Records, Recital, Harmonia Mundi, CRI, Superior Viaduct, Black Truffle, New World, Gruenrekorder, and Moving Furniture Records. Hearing Studies, co-authored with Ruth Anderson, was published by Open Space in 2021.