Discipline: Music Composition

Chaya Czernowin

Discipline: Music Composition
Region: Waban, MA
MacDowell Fellowships: 1992, 2024

Chaya Czernowin was born and educated in Israel. At the age of 25, she continued her studies abroad in Germany and the United States, and then was invited to live in Tokyo and Vienna through several Fellowships. Her music has been performed throughout the world, by some of the best orchestras and performers of new music. Her works have played in most of the significant new music festivals in Europe and also in Japan, Korea, Australia, the US, and Canada.

She was the first woman to be appointed as a composition professor at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna, Austria and at Harvard University, where she has been the Walter Bigelow Rosen Professor of Music since 2009.

Czernowin works imaginatively and analytically to create an evolving sonic experience, which at its base is multisensory, as it folds the tactile and visual into sound. This is a speculative world where every piece attempts to open a yet unfamiliar field of existence where visceral and emotional experience can emanate. Nothing is taken for granted, and risk serves as an opportunity for unpredictable growth and vitality.

Together with Jean-Baptiste Jolly and with composer Steven Kazuo Takasugi, she has founded the summer Academy at Schloss Solitude, a biannual course for composers. Takasugi and Czernowin also teach at Tzlil Meudcan, an international course based in Israel founded by Yaron Deutsch of Ensemble Nikel.

Her major works include the orchestral piece Maim; Hidden, for quartet and electronics; The Wintersongs cycle I-V; the operas Pnima, Infinite Now, and Heart Chamber; and recent pieces The Fabrication of Light, Atara, Immaterial, and Seltene Erde. Pnima and Infinite Now were selected as best premieres of the year in the international critics’ survey of Opernwelt.

She was composer in residence in Salzburg Festival 2005-06, Lucerne Festival 2013, and Huddersfield Festival in 2021. Czernowin’s work was awarded the Composer Prize from the Siemens Foundation, GEMA musikautorinen Preis; a Guggenheim fellowship, and Rockefeller, Fromm, and Kranichsteiner Musikpreis at Darmstadt Ferienkurse, among many others. The WERGO portrait CD The Quiet was awarded the Quarterly German Record Critics’ Award. She is a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin and the Akademie der Schönen Künste Munich and is on the board of the European Musiktheater Akademie. Her work is published by Schott.

At MacDowell in 2024, Czernowin worked on two pieces: Unforeseen Dusk: Bones into Wings; and a violin concerto for violin and a string orchestra.



Chaya Czernowin worked in the Watson studio.

Built in 1916 in memory of Regina Watson of Chicago, a musician and teacher, this studio was donated by a group of her friends, along with funds for its maintenance. Originally designed to serve as a composers’ studio with room for performance, Watson was used as a recital hall for chamber music for a…

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