Gabriella Smith

Guest Artist

Gabriella Smith is a composer and environmentalist. She grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area playing and writing music, hiking, backpacking and volunteering on a songbird research project in Point Reyes. Whether for orchestras, chamber ensembles, voices, or electronics, Smith’s music comes from a love of play, exploring new sounds on instruments, building compelling musical arcs and connecting listeners with the natural world.

Many of Smith’s works address the climate crisis and the destruction of the environment. Through her music, she often tries to provide listeners with an emotional connection to the natural world in a plea for action. Mourning our planet’s loss of biodiversity, Smith’s Requiem is a 25-minute work for eight singers and string quartet, written for Roomful of Teeth and Dover Quartet and commissioned by Bravo!Vail in 2018. Instead of the traditional Requiem text, the text of Smith’s Requiem is a list of the scientific (Latin) names of all the species that have become extinct in the last 100 years. Smith’s first full-length album, Lost Coast, deals with the grief, loss, rage, fear and hopelessness experienced as a result of climate change, as well as the joy, beauty and wonder she has felt in the world’s last wild places. Originally conceived as a cello concerto, Lost Coast was written for and recorded with cellist Gabriel Cabezas, violist/producer Nadia Sirota, Smith singing, and all three of them playing found-object percussion. Lost Coast was recorded at Greenhouse Studios in Iceland and will be released June 25, 2021, on Bedroom Community. Smith has also written many works inspired by field recordings she has made of terrestrial and underwater soundscapes, including the sounds of dawn choruses, tide pools and coral reefs.

Described as “high-voltage and wildly imaginative” (Philadelphia Inquirer), and “the coolest, most exciting, most inventive new voice I’ve heard in ages” (Musical America), Smith’s music has been performed all over the world by yMusic, Aizuri Quartet, eighth blackbird, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Roomful of Teeth, Dover Quartet, Friction Quartet, PRISM Quartet, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, Nashville Symphony, Oregon Symphony, Cincinnati Symphony, the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, and Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, among others.

Recent highlights include the LA Phil’s performances of Tumblebird Contrails, conducted by John Adams and the premiere of music from Lost Coast for solo cello and backing track performed by Gabriel Cabezas on the New York Phil’s Nightcap series, curated by Nadia Sirota and Steve Reich. In April, pianist/composer Timo Andres gave the online premiere of Smith’s new work Imaginary Pancake for solo piano following the cancellation of his Carnegie debut recital due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her upcoming commissions include a 30-minute orchestral work for Eugene Symphony and Santa Rosa Symphony and an organ concerto for James McVinnie and LA Phil.

Smith’s work Carrot Revolution was written for and recorded by the Aizuri Quartet on their Grammy-nominated debut album Blueprinting. Her music has also been recorded by yMusic (Maré and Tessellations on their album Ecstatic Science), Friction Quartet (Inyo on Rising), Duo Noire (Loop the Fractal Hold of Rain on Night Triptych), Latitude 49 (Number Nine on Wax and Wire) and PRISM Quartet (Spring/Neap on The Curtis Project).

Smith has held residencies with the Nashville Symphony; Instituto Sacatar on the island of Itaparica in Bahia, Brazil; and a Copland House Residency at Aaron Copland’s home in upstate New York. She has received grants and awards from BMI, ASCAP, New Music USA, the Barlow Endowment, American Modern Ensemble, and the Theodore Presser Foundation, among others.

Smith received her Bachelors of Music in composition from the Curtis Institute of Music, where she studied with David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon and Richard Danielpour. After graduating, she returned to the Curtis Institute of Music as an ArtistYear Fellow for the 2015-2016 season, dedicating a citizen-artist year of national service in the Philadelphia region. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Princeton University, where she has studied with Steve Mackey, Paul Lansky, Dan Trueman, Dmitri Tymoczko, Donnacha Dennehey and Juri Seo.

When not composing, she can be found hiking, backpacking (playing trail songs on her ukulele along the way), birding, playing capoeira, recording underwater soundscapes with her hydrophone, and identifying bird songs and calls as part of a project with Soundscapes to Landscapes monitoring ecosystem health and biodiversity through sound. She currently lives in Oslo, Norway.

Banner photo by Susan and Neil Silverman Photography