about David Arner

Composer, Improviser

Piano, Harpsichord, Percussion

David Arner is a long time proponent of innovative music and spontaneous composition.  His wide interests have encompassed the avant-garde, bird song and behavior, mythology, astrology, modern dance and silent film within his musical pursuits.

While well known for his solo piano work, over the years Arner has also worked with Michael Bisio,  Connie Crothers,  Jay Rosen, Joe Giardullo,  Lou Grassi,  Francois Grillot,  Rosi Hertlein, Pauline Oliveros,  Susie Ibarra, George Quasha,  Avram Fefer, Adam Lane,  Joe McPhee,  Tomas Ulrich, Charles Downs (Rashid Bakr), Tatsuya Nakatani, the Sirius Quartet,  David Taylor and Jennifer Choi.

In the 1970s he performed in Meredith Monk’s Vessel (for 75 dancers), and Education of the Girlchild (for 13 dancers) in NYC.  He also played flutes and percussion in a duet with poet Jackson Mac Low, in a boxcar at Grand Central Station for Charlotte Moorman’s 10th Annual Avant-Garde Festival.  Working with both these artists had a profound influence on him.

Also in the 1970s Arner met the poet Charles Stein, beginning a collaboration which continues to this day.  Stein was a mainstay in Arner’s Prometheus Project (1991-2004), which explored collective composition though spontaneous consensus.  The Prometheus Project was primarily focused on Greek mythology, but covered a wide variety of related interests, including sound poetry, philosophy and Tarot.  Arner and Stein were joined by percussionist Joakim Lartey for the Prometheus Project at the Knitting Factory in 1996.  Several other performances were at the Woodstock Guild (NY), the Center for Performing Arts (Rhinebeck) and the New Vanguard Series (Kingston).

Arner has been an avid birder since 1999.  Inspired by Olivier Messiaen, he began his ongoing series, Abstract Songs for Birds, working not only with bird song but also flight patterns and bird behavior.  He began presenting pieces from this series in 2001.  In 2007 Arner presented American Goldfinch (featuring a large 12-panel graphic score on a backdrop) at Deep Listening Institute’s Convergence (Rosendale NY; David Arner, harpsichord; Pauline Oliveros, accordion, Susie Ibarra, percussion).  In 2009 Arner presented his 55-minute Birds of Central Park at The Stone (solo piano).

After his experience with Meredith Monk, Arner collaborated with several choreographers.  He did 2 projects with Judson Church elder Aileen Passloff- Screaming Flower (1985) and Phantom Crossings for small ensemble as Composer-in-Residence at Bard College (1988).  He developed The Ritual for piano and chorus with Cunningham alumni Albert Reid (1987), and Opus 36 with the late Jeanette Leentvaar (1988).  Performances of these pieces were in Paris, Caracas, Bard College and in New York at the Cunningham Studio.

Arner collaborated with choreographer Susan Osberg on 8 productions ranging from 10-minutes to evening-length, from 2005-2007.  These were versions of Dancing on Earth, Dancing on Air and Dancing on Water presented at Osberg’s Dance Across Borders festival at the Fisher Center (Bard College), the 4th Annual Improvised and Otherwise Festival (Brooklyn), the New Vanguard Series (Kingston), a gym in Beacon and a factory in Hudson; scored for percussion, tape or piano.  Other scores for dance were for Jacques d’Amboise (Arlington NY, 1983-84), Elaine Colandrea’s evening-length Fool’s Journey (Percussion Ensemble, Center for Performing Arts, Rhinebeck,1999), and Noemie LaFrance’s outdoor Rapture at Dance Across Borders (Fisher Center, Bard College, 2007).

Arner is also recognized as a pioneer in the revitalization of live music for silent films. He has been scoring and performing innovative music for classic silents since 1986, including such films as The Wind, The Last Laugh, Peter Pan and The General. He has performed for films extensively throughout the country, including Upstate Films (Rhinebeck), the Knitting Factory, the National Gallery of Art (Washington, DC), the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the American Museum of the Moving Image (NYC).

From 2003 to 2007, Arner ran the weekly New Directions in Jazz and the New Vanguard Series in Kingston NY, which presented innovative and avant-garde jazz. He performed in the series about once a month.  The New Vanguard Series was sponsored by the Deep Listening Institute.

Arner also received a NEA Jazz Fellowship award in 1980, 2 NYFA Special Opportunity Stipends, and several Meet the Composer Performance Fund grants over the years.

He graduated from Oberlin College with a major in music, philosophy and religion.  He studied classical piano with Edna Golandsky for 21 years, jazz piano with Dave Burrell for a year and Dwike Mitchell for 6 years, and balafon with Yaya Diallo for 2 years.

He has also served as Visiting Assistant Professor of Dance at Bard College and is currently an adjunct music faculty member at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Bard College.