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Welcome to the web site for Thomas Osborne, composer

Thomas Osborne’s music draws inspiration from a wide variety of sources, places and eras. As a composer interested in the possibilities of both Western and non-Western music, he has written works inspired by African polyphony, Indonesian gamelan, Japanese court music, ancient Persian music and Kentucky country fiddle playing. He has written many works for standard Western orchestral instruments as well as Asian traditional instruments.

February 28, 2013

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New Year’s Ritual

Much of Asia recently celebrated the start of the new lunar year, and here in Korea I attended another kind of annual celebration – a sort of reunion of old friends. As I understand it (and my level of understanding here in Korea isn’t high) there was a small village located on an island (밤섬) in the Han River in Seoul. This community was known for their repairing of ships,…

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October 27, 2012

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Three Days in Shanghai

One advantage of living in Seoul is its proximity to plenty of places I’ve never visited. So when I found out that 4 of my colleagues from the University of Hawaii would be traveling throughout China on a performance tour, I jumped at the chance to meet them while they were “in the neighborhood.” We headed to Shanghai, where Thomas Yee, Jonathan Korth, Rachel Schutz and Bichuan Li were staying for…

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September 23, 2012

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Daybreak at Changgyeong Palace

Yesterday morning I was able to attend an early-morning performance at Changgyeong Palace in Seoul. The theme of the event was Pungnyu (풍류): music which is traditionally by and for the aristocracy. The small audience sat in a hall that formerly housed the kings and their families, while performers from the National Gugak Center played a variety of works, from a court dance to vocal music to sanjo. We even were served breakfast….

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September 15, 2012

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‘Dancing With Shadows’ in Busan

Recently I made the trip from Seoul to Korea’s second city, Busan, for a second concert celebrating the 20th anniversary of the Haegeum Research Society. Located on the Southeast coast, Busan, though large, has a very different feel from Seoul. The atmosphere here is much more laid-back, and strolling along the beach in Haeundae it felt not-so-different from Honolulu. For this concert, an ensemble from Daegu performed Dancing With Shadows…

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August 12, 2012

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Fiddling Around in Seoul

A few days ago we arrived in Korea with a couple of suitcases, a meager knowledge of Korean language, and plenty of enthusiasm. We’ve spent the past few days trying to settle in for a year-long stay: I’m in Seoul as a Senior Fulbright Research Scholar, where I’ll be focusing on writing music for Korean traditional instruments in combination with Western classical instruments. After eating some amazing food and spending…

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July 26, 2012

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Nocturnal Recording Session

I just finished working with saxophonist Todd Yukumoto and pianist Carla McElhaney in recording my piece Nocturnal here in Honolulu. I suppose the recording session wasn’t really nocturnal, since it was done during the daylight hours, but both performers did tremendous work and I’m very much looking forward to hearing the final product. Their CD should be out sometime in the coming year, with music by Astor Piazzolla, Allen Trubitt, and others….

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July 18, 2012

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Canyons and Craters

This past weekend, Ebb and Flow Arts presented a concert of music for multiple pianos in Kahului, Maui, and I came over to perform in my new piece for 4 pianos, Canyons. It was a pleasure working with the other pianists (Beatrice Scorby, Robert Pollock, and Anne Ku) in putting together the piece, in which all of us play essentially the same music. One pianist leads while the others trail behind…

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July 6, 2012

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Recording in the Ballroom

I recently returned from a trip to the Midwest, where I worked with pianist Derek Polischuk as he recorded the work I wrote for him last year. Since that piece, The Ends of the Earth, uses a number of extended techniques (the first movement is played almost entirely inside the piano), I was interested to see how it might be recorded. We went to Sergei Kvitko’s beautiful recording studio, located on the…

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January 25, 2012

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Vikings of the Sunrise

The University of Hawaii Contemporary Music Ensemble, a group I direct, is taking on a unique piece this Spring. Stephen Scott‘s Vikings of the Sunrise is a piece written for an ensemble of 10 performers, all playing a single piano. But most of this piece isn’t played on the keys. Instead, the ensemble plays directly on the strings by striking them with piano hammers, plucking with guitar picks and –…

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April 23, 2011

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The Ends of the Earth

Last night pianist Derek Kealii Polischuk premiered my new work “The Ends of the Earth” at Michigan State University (which is not at the end of the earth).  It’s a demanding piece, probably the most difficult piece I’ve written.  The score calls upon the performer to use some unfamiliar techniques – one movement is played almost entirely with piano hammers.  He navigated the unfamiliar territory with grace, and the premiere…

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October 24, 2010

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Shaman Ritual

I recently returned from Korea, where I was fortunate enough to attend a ‘performance’ on Jindo island of a shaman ritual called Ssitkim-gut.  This ritual for the dead is filled with singing (accompanied by percussion instruments), mourning, celebration, and drinking. We were told this may have been the last performance by the shaman (in the foreground in the first photo, with her apprentice singing behind her), who was exhausted by the end…

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