Howdy! Thank ye kindly for perusing my website. Presumably you’re here and/or clicked on “About” because you want to know about me. If not, avert thine eyes and go to, like, literally any other website; otherwise, read on, friend! If you want to learn about Red Wierenga in the third person and in formal language I suggest you scroll down the page a bit, or if you’re in a hurry scroll down a bit more. And here you can download my curriculum vitæ in PDF.
I am a pianist, accordionist, respectronicist, improviser, and composer based in New York City. For years I’ve been working in a variety of seemingly disparate musical contexts: as a performer of various instruments across many genres, a composer of acoustic and electronic music, and a designer and builder of hardware and software instruments. A few years ago I decided to pursue the concept of modularity as both a practical organizational method in my work and more generally as a way of connecting my otherwise apparently disparate activities. My exploration of modularity has led me to research the history of analog modular synthesizers (and work with one of the legends of modular synthesis, Morton Subotnick) as well as to embark on building my own analog modular synthesizer, including designing many of the circuits. I also explore compositional modularity through the use of modular forms and algorithmic composition software, particularly PWGL and Max.MSP, that allow me to develop small modules and connect them together to create musical material for compositional sections. I use many of these same basic algorithms in the software patches I create for digital signal processing.
Meanwhile, I’ve been active as a performer, especially as the accordionist for the last many years with the Claudia Quintet, touring internationally and recording the album September (2013) as well as 2016’s Super-Petite. I’ve continued to compose for, and perform with, the Respect Sextet, a collectively-run group that I co-founded in 2001 with some of my closest friends and musical compatriots. In addition to releasing numerous albums on our own Roister Records, Respect has released two albums on Mode/Avant, including Sirius Respect: The Respect Sextet Play the Music of Sun Ra and Stockhausen (2009) and Respect In Yule (2012), the latter featuring guest spots from our friends the JACK Quartet, Ensemble Signal, and Marco Cappelli.
I received my Ph.D in composition from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, where I studied with Jason Eckardt, Douglas Geers, and David Grubbs, who advised my dissertation, “Searching for Sounds: Instrumental Agency and Modularity in Electroacoustic Improvisation.” Previously I attended the international Course at the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, and I received my bachelors degree in Jazz and Contemporary Media from the Eastman School of Music, studying improvisation with Harold Danko and Ralph Alessi and composition with Kevin Puts, among others.
I work at ROLI, supporting the development of new expressive musical instruments, including the groundbreaking Seaboard.
When I am not engaged with music—and even sometimes when I am—I enjoy homebrewing, cooking and eating vegetarian food, taking photographs, reading, watching baseball, and sipping espresso and red wine and craft beer (although not at the same time).
I live in Brooklyn with my wife—the singer Kate Maroney—our son, and our two cats, Misha and Ayler.
I promise to write more about myself in the first person soon. In the meantime, you’ll have little choice but to read about me in the third person.
Red Wierenga is a pianist, accordionist, respectronicist, improviser, and composer based in New York City. His longest creative association is with the Respect Sextet, called “a group which has released one of the most compelling recordings of the year” by the Wall Street Journal and “one of the best and most ambitious new ensembles in jazz” by Signal To Noise.
He performs and records in a wide array of musical settings, from free improvisation, jazz, and new music to rock, pop, and world musics. Since 2011 he has been the accordionist in the Claudia Quintet. Wierenga has also performed and/or recorded with Ensemble Signal, Bang on a Can Opera, ICE, Talea, Ensemble X, Kamala Sankaram, the Fireworks Ensemble, David Crowell, Salo, and many others.
As a creative musician and researcher, Wierenga is particularly concerned with improvisation and with electronic and electroacoustic sound. He interfaces acoustic instruments with electronics and builds physical devices for the control of electronic sound, producing new instruments and meta-instruments. He explores the continuum of performer control with new interfaces, parameter mapping, physical modeling, and microsound. He designs both his self-termed “respectronics” and his compositions to be conducive to improvisation. His software creations have been used in performances by musicians including Keith Rowe and Jim Black. He teaches at Brooklyn College, where he directs the Brooklyn Electroacoustic Ensemble and teaches computer music and composition within the Sonic Arts MFA program. He is also Creator Support Manager at ROLI, creators of MIDI Polyphonic Expression instruments like the Seaboard.
Wierenga received his Bachelor of Music in Jazz and Contemporary Media from the Eastman School of Music, where his teachers included Harold Danko, Ralph Alessi, and Kevin Puts. During his time at Eastman, Wierenga appeared as soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, the Eastman School Studio Orchestra, and Ossia, and performed in small group settings with Dave Holland, Wycliffe Gordon, Ben Monder, and others. At Eastman, Wierenga researched several lesser-known historical jazz pianists, including Richard Twardzik and Herbie Nichols, transcribing, arranging, and performing their music. In Rochester Wierenga served as on-air host on Jazz90.1, and performed regularly as a soloist and with the Respect Sextet, the Dave Rivello Ensemble, and the Red Wierenga Unit.
Wierenga studied electronic and computer music with Joel Ryan and Paul Berg, among others, at the Institute of Sonology at the Royal Conservatory in The Hague, where he began to design and build physical interfaces for gestural control of electronic music, including the Respectron #1.
Since settling in New York City, Wierenga has continued to perform, compose, and develop a variety of software and hardware instruments. The Respectron #2 has seen use live and on recordings with the Respect Sextet, and the electronically-prepared piano appears on Figure, his duo album with the guitarist Ryan Ferreira. He composes for a variety of settings, from fixed media electronic music to concert music to jazz and improvisational forms. Recent works include Xylocybin, commissioned by Dr. Faustus and premiered by Jonathan Singer; apsiclodet, commissioned by guitarist Dieter Hennings; Death of a Soldier, written while composer-in-residence with the Contemporary Music Ensemble, CUNY Graduate Center; and O’er the Aether (or, Either or Either Either/Or or Either/Or), written for Either/Or. He has taught music appreciation and electronic music at Baruch College. He received his Ph.D in composition from CUNY Graduate Center, where he was an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow and studied with Jason Eckardt and Douglas Geers. Wierenga wrote his dissertation on uses of musical instruments in electroacoustic improvisation, under the supervision of David Grubbs.
He lives in Brooklyn with his wife—the singer Kate Maroney—their son, and their two cats, Misha and Ayler.
Red Wierenga is a pianist, accordionist, respectronicist, improviser, and composer based in New York City. His longest creative association is with the Respect Sextet, called “a group which has released one of the most compelling recordings of the year” by the Wall Street Journal, and “one of the best and most ambitious new ensembles in jazz” by Signal To Noise.
He has performed and/or recorded with artists including The Claudia Quintet, Ensemble Signal, Bang on a Can Opera, the Fireworks Ensemble, and David Crowell.
Wierenga builds and performs with new interfaces for electroacoustic improvisation, working with analog and digital synthesizers.
He received his bachelor’s degree from the Eastman School of Music, studying with Harold Danko, Ralph Alessi, and Kevin Puts. After having studied at the Institute of Sonology in The Hague with Joel Ryan and Paul Berg, he received his Ph.D. from CUNY Graduate Center, where he was an Enhanced Chancellor’s Fellow and where his teachers included Jason Eckardt, Douglas Geers, and David Grubbs He has taught at Baruch College and currently teaches at the Brooklyn College Center for Computer Music and works for the music technology company ROLI.
Photograph by Gerry Szymanski, cyanotypeproductions.com