Aaron Clarke is a composer and musician based in the Boston area. He is currently attending Longy School of Music of Bard College in pursuit of a Master of Music in Composition, studying with John Morrison. Clarke graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2017, where he received a Bachelor of Music in Composition, studying under Dan Sonenberg.
A guitarist and drummer originally from Rockland, ME, Clarke spent his teenage years playing in various rock, jazz, and blues groups. As early as 6th grade, he was performing regularly and releasing recordings, including a full-length progressive rock album during high school with his band Sideways Highways.
Upon arriving at USM’s School of Music, Clarke shifted his focus to spend more time writing what would generally be termed "classical" music. It has been his consistent priority, however, to compose across genres, rather than write in any one particular style.
At USM, Clarke had numerous and varied musical opportunities, writing for both large and small ensembles, recording his own works and the works of others, and performing with different groups, including as a pit musician for productions such as Catch Me If You Can, Reefer Madness, and most recently Avenue Q. Clarke was also fortunate enough to have the opportunity to study with some well-known industry professionals: his recording classes were taught by renowned mastering engineer Adam Ayan; he had the opportunity to attend master classes with composers such as Paul Dresher and James Kallembach, and as a featured composer in a master class given by Matt Heimovitz on the performance of new music.
While studying at USM, Clarke some exceptional recording opportunities. He was featured in Sonenberg’s composition Machine Shop (2015) as the pre-recorded guitar track which accompanied percussionist Lynn Vartan on marimba. Clarke helped record and perform on an album of free, original, and covered music in a non-idiomatic ensemble led by trumpeter/composer Chris Klaxton. Clarke also composed and recorded “A More Perfect Union,” an album of music with saxophonist/composer Barry Saunders, as the culmination of two years studying under Saunders in improvisation and alternative compositional styles. Subsequent to graduating from USM, Clarke released “Brutality,” an EP of jazz-based compositions.
Throughout his final year of college, Clarke was heavily involved in the multi-media production Molded by the Flow, a collaboration between the music, theatre, and art departments at USM which highlights both historical and modern experiences in Maine. This production was spearheaded by Paul Dresher and the performer/director Rinde Eckert, and was built entirely from the ground up over the course of the 2016-17 school year, culminating in a string of performances throughout April 2017. Clarke’s personal involvement consisted of writing some of the music which was in the production and performing in the pit on guitar and several invented instruments, which had been designed and built by the art department.
From his freshman year of college through his post-undergraduate career, Clarke was heavily involved with preparations for several productions of Daniel Sonenberg’s opera, The Summer King (concert: Portland, ME May 2014; staged: Pittsburgh, PA April-May 2017; staged: Detroit, MI April 2018). “The Summer King” is an opera about the life of Negro League baseball legend Josh Gibson. Clarke’s role as Sonenberg’s principal opera assistant was that of a copyist, assisting in the proofreading, correction, and formatting of the opera’s orchestral score, piano/vocal score, and the instrumentalists’ parts.
After finishing his degree at Longy, Clarke hopes to write and perform his own eclectic works regularly with a group of musicians, seeking to further blur and ultimately break down the delineations between various musical genres, as well as non-musical subjects, such as politics, history, and science. In short, Clarke advocates for a “unity of knowledge” approach to composition, and anticipates spending his musical career further advancing that ideology.