Erik Santos (b. October 21, 1967) is a musician constantly driven to illuminate the connections between music and magic: how mundane elements, musical and non-musical, are galvanized into powerful poetic and ecstatic experience.
Santos is an Associate Professor at the University of Michigan School of Music where he teaches Composition and is the Director of the Electronic Music Studios. He has been the recipient of numerous prizes and fellowships from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Broadcast Music Incorporated (BMI), The MacDowell Colony, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, the Rackham Graduate School of The University of Michigan, and was named the 1999 “Shepherd Distinguished Composer of the Year” by the Music Teacher s National Association (MTNA) of America.
As a multi-instrumentalist, singer, and composer, who makes music in multiple genres (classical, rock, soul, country, jazz, and electronic music, to name a few) for many different performance situations (concert hall, theater, dance, church, clubs, and street corners), Santos’s music is not easily categorized. But, regardless of genre or venue, he continues to attract performances in other countries as far as Australia, Denmark, the Philippines, Israel, and Japan, eliciting positive reviews: “Erik Santos captivates the listener, giving rise to both a sense of rapture and a feeling of bewilderment...” The New Music Connoisseur described his "Guernica Dances…" for two pianos as “full of positive excitement with a final coda that is so thrilling that the audience broke out into loud shouts of approval at its conclusion.”
Santos has had three large-scale orchestral commissions from the Bozeman and Butte Symphony Orchestras of Montana, directed by Matthew Savery, and a number of commissions for chamber works. Among them: "Zauberkraft (Magic Power)," commissioned by Danish-American percussionist Timothy Lutte for performance at the 1996 Percussive Arts Society International Conference (PASIC) in Nashville, "…con Cruces de Fuego (…with Crosses of Fire)", commissioned by the Michigan Music Teachers Association, "Sun Dogs" commissioned by the percussion duo, Equal Temperament, and "Dreamer: 7 Poems of Langston Hughes" for voice, harp and piano, commissioned by tenor Darryl Taylor, and "Star Rising," commissioned by the American Guild of Organists.
In 1998, in an effort to unify the wide variety of his artistic experience into a powerful new form of expression, he produced "Cruces de Fuego (Crosses of Fire)." This large-scale synthesis of music, dance, theater, art, poetry, and video projections sought to dissolve traditional barriers that exist between audience and performer and the experience of deep wonder. One of the pieces from that production, "Mariposa Morena (Dark Butterfly)" appears on the CD, Alternating Currents: Electronic Music from University of Michigan Faculty (Centaur)
These interdisciplinary interests took over in 2002, when Santos was invited to be the resident composer for the internationally-acclaimed Japanese butoh (avant-garde dance/theater) company, Dairakudakan. Santos is the first American composer to work with this group since they formed in 1972. His first collaboration with Dairakudakan, “Universe of Dara – Return of the Jar Odyssey”, was performed in Tokyo and New York in 2003. Santos has compiled this music for a new CD called "KUU: Journey to the Jar" (Centaur Records). He is now in collaboration with butoh dancer Jun Wakabayashi to create a new butoh performance for March 2006.
Santos recently completed a set of five symphonic dances for the Bozeman Symphony Orchestra of Montana called called "Sun Road." It will receive its world premiere performance in February 2006. He has also just completed a new percussion duet called "Kata-Kata," which was showcased at the 2005 Percussive Arts Society International Conference main stage, on a concert dedicated entirely to his music.
He is now putting together a new album of rock songs called "Inokashira Park" on which he is the sole instrumentalist, singer, lyricist and producer. Upcoming commissions include a piece for the University of Michigan Symphony Band, an oboe solo for Nancy Ambrose-King, and a work for harp, cello, and violin for Patricia Terry Ross, Nadine Deleury, and Velda Kelly of the Michigan Opera Theater.
Recordings of Santos’s concert music appear on CD’s by Naxos, Centaur, and Eroica Classical. His "Star Rising for organ" is published by Theodore Presser, Inc.