Eugene Alexander BIRMAN
20202023

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Biography

EUGENE BIRMAN (b. 1987) is the composer and creator of numerous highly awarded international multidisciplinary productions, with commissioners and partners extending far beyond the concert hall to major international bodies such as the European Union, Hong Kong SAR, the United States Department of State, and others. His creative output, encompassing ambitious, socially relevant works for the stage, synthesizes virtuosic musical content with cutting-edge technology; he has pioneered the use of large-scale holography, immersive opera environments, and interactive digital media in classical music. “High drama” and “intense emotion” (BBC), “magnificent and compelling” (OPERA magazine), “the most stunning and divisive” (Business Times), “the most radical and ambitious” (5:4), “animalistic” (Eesti Kultuurileht “SIRP”), “from haunting and atmospheric to plain brutal” (BBC Music Magazine), “a breakthrough in public art” (ReNew Vision), “at once, ingenious, hypnotic, brave, and beautiful” (Festival Internazionale A.F. Lavagnino)- his work exists at “the convergence of major current issues and supreme beauty” (Gulbenkian). He has been recognized with prominent fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (2018) and the US Department of State’s Fulbright Program (2010-11), awarded the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize, leading to a season-long residency at the Southbank Centre and world premiere with the Philharmonia Orchestra at Royal Festival Hall, and appointed the sole Artist-in-Residence of the 2018 Helsinki Festival, Finland’s biggest yearly cultural event. In 2021, he took up the position of Artist-in-Residence at the Manchester International Festival. His work has been prominently featured on major news and media outlets worldwide: CNN, BBC World TV, Bloomberg, National Geographic, the New York Times, Radio France, Deutsche Welle, and the South China Morning Post are among countless others that have broadcast and reported on his projects.

A new opera for the Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg (in co-production with the Grand Théâtre de Genève, Queen Elisabeth Music Chapel, Royal Flemish Opera, and Staatstheater Saarbrücken) with the Orchestre de Chambre du Luxembourg and stage director Stéphane Ghislain Roussel (LU), an ambitious multidisciplinary collaboration with the South Korean virtuoso violinist Bomsori Kim (SK), Kingsley Ng and Stephanie Cheung for MIF and New Vision Arts Festival, a multimedia work for Hong Kong Dance Company and Chinese star cellist LiLa (CN/DE), and a new work for the Quatuor Arod (FR), are joined by a relentless research into expanding horizons of expression and virtuosity. Ongoing projects include Os dias mais longos e o mais curtos (2022), a technologically pioneering concert-length mixed reality choral work on the pandemic that premiered in September 2022 at the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in partnership with the Portuguese-Angolan writer Djaimilia Pereira de Almeida; The Once and Future (2021), an expanded cinema work directed by Yeo Siew Hua, co-commissioned by the New Vision Arts Festival and the Singapore International Festival of Arts with the Berliner Philharmoniker musicians, and featuring the world-pop vocal soloist Anandi Bhattacharya, which premiered at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay in Singapore in June 2022 as well as via interactive video digital release in October 2021, helmed by French art director Xavier Reyé; Russia: Today (2020), supported by the Guggenheim, US Department of State, and the Austrian Foreign Ministry, among a half-dozen international NGOs, which gives (anonymous) voice to the real experiences of Russian people across the former USSR, premiered on the EU-Russia border in September 2021, screened in Russian cinemas in October-November 2021, and recently presented at Kings Place, London in February 2023 with EXAUDI, where it was lauded as a “powerful” (Telegraph), “eerily prescient” (New York Times), “hour-long immersion in the complexities and contradictions of contemporary Russia” (Financial Times); and ARIA 空氣頌, a pioneering multimedia collaboration with installation artist Kingsley Ng and Theatre of Voices, premiered in November 2020 in the middle of pandemic over sixteen sold-out performances, labeled “a Covid-proof opera for our times” (Financial Times). Further collaborations and world premieres with major orchestras (London Philharmonic, Minnesota Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra, Orquestra Gulbenkian), opera houses (Staatsoper Stuttgart, les Théâtres de la Ville de Luxembourg), choirs (Theatre of Voices, BBC Singers, Latvian Radio Choir), leading ensembles and soloists (Maxim Vengerov, Maurizio Ben Omar, etc.) across four continents in venues ranging from London’s Southbank Centre to Carnegie Hall to the European Parliament to above the Arctic Circle speak of a “booming career” (Festival van Vlaanderen).

Now based primarily in Hong Kong, Birman began composing at the age of three in Moscow at the Gnessin School, and continued his studies privately in the United States with John Adams; he has since worked closely under Samuel Adler, Luis Bacalov, David Conte, Azio Corghi, Christopher Rouse, Toivo Tulev, and, most recently, Salvatore Sciarrino. He was awarded a D.Phil from the University of Oxford, Christ Church, under the generous support of the Stone-Mallabar Foundation and the American Friends of Christ Church and graduated with an M.M. degree from the Juilliard School, where he was awarded the A. Ellstein Memorial Scholarship, the Rodgers and Hammerstein Scholarship, and the Gretchaninoff Prize. He received a B.A. in Economics from Columbia University, where he contributed to published scholarly research from Columbia University Business School and developed his own model of elasticity of trade sanctions as part of his undergraduate thesis; he is perhaps the only living composer to be cited by Steve Forbes for his work in both economics and music, and has taught in both fields at the University of Oxford. Eugene Birman currently holds the position of Associate Professor, and leads the Composition Concentration, at the Academy of Music, Hong Kong Baptist University.

Research Interests

Music Composition

Chinese Name

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Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

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