about robert

Robert Black's interests range from traditional orchestral and chamber music to solo recitals of cutting-edge music, collaborations with actors, music with computers, movement-based improvisations with dancers, and live action-painting performances with artists.  He has commissioned, collaborated, or performed with musicians including Philip Glass, John Cage, Julia Wolfe, Elliott Carter, David Lang, Meredith Monk, Michael Gordon, Cecil Taylor, Paquito d’Rivera, as well as many young emerging composers. His recital activities take him throughout the world and he has appeared at major festivals (Festival de Eleazar Carvalho, Fortalzea, Brazil; Colombo-Catalan Festival, Medellin, Colombia; Moab Music Festival (Utah), New Music on the Point (Vermont), etc.), on radio and television broadcasts (KZMU-Moab UT, Colorado Public Radio, Asia Live, Singapore, VPRO, Holland; NPR, United States; CBC, Canada; etc.) and as an artist-in-residence (Omnibus Ensemble, Tashkent, Uzbekistan; the Banff Centre, Canada. 

Robert is a current and founding member of the Bang On A Can All Stars, New York City’s hard-hitting new music ensemble.  He has been a member of the NYC based performance art company, Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks for 35 years. He is also a member of the chamber group, Cuatro Puntos.  Additional chamber music activities include annual appearances at the Moab Music Festival, New Music on the Point, and the Festival de Eleazar Carvalho in Fortaleza, Brazil.  Collaborative performances include dancer/choreographer Katie Stevinson-Nollet (“Je Ne Sais Quoi”), Kathryn Walker and the Music Theater Group (The Odyssey), the Full Force Dance Company (Life, Death, Immortality), films by Rudy Burckhardt, and live action-painting improvisations with the Brazilian painter Ige D'Aquino.

Current projects include First Fridays with Robert Black – a monthly series of streamed bass recitals, a new theater piece for one actor and double bass with original music written for Robert by Philip Glass based on the life and writings of Franz Kafka, a 10-channel audio/video bass installation reflecting on the Anthropocene with sound-artists Brian House and Sue Huang filmed at NYC’s Fresh Kills landfill, an outdoor environmental work for 24 basses with composer Eve Beglarian, a site-specific outdoor work in Southern Utah for solo double bass and sacred canyon by composer Daniel Sabzghabaei, and an evening length work by Swiss composer, Marcel Zaes for a multi-channel bass. Additional recent commissions include solo bass pieces from John Luther Adams, Carman Moore, Joan Tower, Phil Niblock, Nick Dunston, Žibuolkė Martinaitytė, Krists Auznieks, and Jakhongir Shukurov. 

His solo recordings include Philip Glass-Bass Partita and Poetry (Orange Mountain Music), Possessed (Cantaloupe Records), the double CD Modern American Bass featuring mid-20th Century American bass repertoire (New World Records), The Complete Bass Music of Giacinto Scelsi (Mode Records), The Complete Bass Music of Christian Wolff (Mode Records), and State of the Bass (O.O. Discs). He has recorded 25 CDs with the Bang On A Can All Stars (Cantaloupe Music) and has also recorded for Sony Classical, Point/Polygram, Koch International, CRI, Opus One, Artifact Recordings, Folkways Records, and others. 

A recipient of numerous grants and awards, he received the Degree of Comendador - Mérito Cultural e Artistico from the Fundação Educacional, Cultural e Artistica Elezar de Carvalho in recognition of 25 years of distinguished contributions to the cultural and artistic life of Brazil.  He also received a Bessie Award for his collaborative work with Yoshiko Chuma and the School of Hard Knocks.

Until recently, Robert maintained a full teaching schedule at The Hartt School at the University of Hartford, was on the faculty of the Manhattan School of Music’s Contemporary Performance Program, and taught a summer course at the Festival Eleazar de Carvalho(Brazil). 

For 10 years, Robert was on the Board of Directors for the International Society of Bassists (ISB), for 7 years, he served as the editor of the New Score column in the Journal Bass World, and for 14 years directed the ISB’s biennial International Composition Competition. 

He founded and directs the Robert Black Foundation Trust, a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to support contemporary musical arts activities in all possible manifestations. 

Robert performs on a French double bass made by Charles Brugere in Paris in 1900. He tours with a B-21 instrument that he commissioned from French luthier, Patrick Charton.  His principal German bows were made by W. Renz (1920’s) and Sue Lipkins (modern).