Ben Leeds Carson1 

Benjamin Carson’s work as a composer is supported by theory and research in the psychology of perception, historical gender studies, and empirical philosophy. Both in scholarship and in musical practice, Carson is primarily concerned with the sometimes unpredictable locations of musical “subjects,” which he defines broadly as any identity-bearing aspects of musical experience. Carson’s creative works explore the connections and distinctions between event groups, especially in regards to the ways that one kind of connection or distinction (melodic, rhythmic, timbral, contrapuntal) might conflict with another. Carson also attempts, in his research, to broaden these technical issues to address questions about the history and ideology of compositional method.2 

Carson’s music has been performed at local and international festivals, including Aspen, the 25th-anniversary “June in Buffalo” (2000) festival of new music, the Sydney Conservatory’s Music and Social Justice conference (2005), and at the New England Conservatory’s Summer Institute for Contemporary Piano Performance (2004). Carson’s music has been supported by a number of international awards and research grants, including the first prize in chamber music (2001) for the London-based International Bass Society. Carson’s piano music is the subject of essays by music critic Christopher Williams in the Fall 2003 issue of The OPEN SPACE Magazine; eight musicians presented a retrospective concert of his music at Columbia University in March 2009, with the assistance of the Franklin Furnace Collective and the acclaimed piano/percussion quartet Yarn/Wire. The music of Ben Leeds Carson will appear in the 2009-2010 catalogs of Centaur Records and Albany Records.

Ben Carson completed his PhD (2001) at the University of California, San Diego, where he developed a habit of working across disciplinary boundaries. He has collaborated in projects at the Institute de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique in Paris, and at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla. He has lectured on music and the mind sciences at Perception et Cognition Auditives (Paris Universite VI), at the controversial Thurgood Marshall Writing Program (UC San Diego), at the UC Santa Cruz Cultural Studies Colloquium, at the Columbia University Theory Colloquium, and at several national and international conferences. His research appears in several journals, including Routledge’s Journal of New Music Research, and [forthcoming] in Search: Journal for New Music and Culture (Issue 6, September 2009), and Search Yearbook: Anthology of New Music and Culture 2009-2010 [forthcoming from Edwin Mellen Press, 2010].

In 2003, Dr. Carson joined the department of music at UC Santa Cruz, where he offers seminars in empirical musicology, perception, and media studies, for the DMA program in Composition, the PhD in Music, and the MFA program in Digital Arts and New Media. Carson also teaches advanced undergraduate courses in music theory and analysis, and general education courses in U.S. popular culture.


1. This lengthy bio may be pared down without my permission; for example, I would be happy to see any of the above paragraphs stand on their own. Please contact me for alternate versions.

2. Specifics are not warranted in a short biography, but these “questions about…compositional method” should be clarified, a little. How do composers’ works reveal characteristics of individual or cultural consciousness, or a sense of being in the world? In what ways does the structure of a musical idea reflect the nature of ideas in general? Can musical practices offer us insights into particular ways that we relate to information and identity?