Christopher Adler, PhD

Christopher Adler
Phone: (619) 260-7502
Office: Camino Hall 161D

Professor, Music

  • PhD, Duke University, Composition
  • MA, Duke University, Composition
  • BA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Music Composition
  • BA, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Mathematics

Christopher Adler, PhD, is a composer, performer and improviser. His music draws upon over a decade of research into the traditional musics of Thailand and Laos and a background in mathematics. He is a foremost performer of new and traditional music for the khaen, a free-reed mouth organ from Laos and Northeast Thailand. As Director of Composition for the nief-norf Summer Festival, pianist for the nief-norf Project and the ensemble NOISE, and co-founder of the soundON Festival of Modern Music, he is active in commissioning and performing new works, and he performs and records as an improviser on piano in many ensembles.

Adler studied:
Composition with Scott Lindroth, Stephen Jaffe, Sidney Corbett, Evan Ziporyn
Thai music with Panya Roongruang
Pipe organ with James David Christie and Haig Mardirosian.

Scholarly Work

Adler’s compositions encompass cross-culturally hybrid forms drawn from contemporary concert music and traditional musics of Thailand and Laos, algorithmic composition, and the integration of improvisation into structured composition. His works have been performed at Carnegie Hall, Chicago Symphony Center, Tanglewood, Merkin Hall, Shanghai Symphony Hall, the Seoul Arts Center, Sumida Triphony Hall in Tokyo and at new music festivals and universities across the U.S. by ensembles including the Silk Road Ensemble, red fish blue fish, Ensemble ACJW, the Da Capo Chamber Players, and many others. His compositions have been released on Tzadik, Innova, Rattle, Blue Leaf, Blue Griffin, and WGBH’s Art of the States. As the world’s leading innovator in the creation and performance of contemporary khaen repertoire, he has performed his own compositions and traditional repertoire at venues including Carnegie Hall, the Bang on a Can Marathon, Music at the Anthology, and the Cultural Center of Chicago. He is pianist and composer-in-residence with the chamber ensemble NOISE and co-director of the annual soundON Festival of Modern Music. His performances and improvisations have been released on Tzadik Records, Innova Recordings, Vienna Modern Masters, pfMENTUM, Nine Winds, Traditional Crossroads and Circumvention/Accretions.

Areas of Interest

Adler offers a wide variety of courses in music theory, composition, sound art and world music. In addition to directing the music composition area in the Music Program, he collaborates with the Department of Art, Architecture + Art History in the Art+Intermedia area in which students integrate creative work with critical scholarship on the contemporary arts in diverse media. Adler also contributes to the Honors Program with a course on music and religion in South and Southeast Asia.