Ellen Ruth Harrison’s music is “stunning” and full of “sophisticated ensemble writing . . . “
- Allan Ulrich, The San Francisco Chronicle, February 8, 2001
“It has a very, very quick series of contrasting moods and atmospheres, which gives it a lot of texture and beauty, and it has a deep sonic realm.”
Jane Ring Frank, artistic director of the Boston Secession in theBoston Globe (September 30, 2004)
Ellen Harrison has won two commissions from the Fromm Music Foundation and four Ohio Arts Council Individual Excellence Awards. Her music has received additional honors and awards from organizations such as the American Guild of Organists, the IBLA European International Music Foundation, the International League of Women Composers, the Jacob K. Javits Foundation, the Rebecca Clarke Society, SPECTRI SONORI, and UC Berkeley. Her works have been widely performed both in the United States and abroad by a diverse range of performers such as A/tonal, Cincinnati Soundbox, the Cincinnati Symphony Chamber Players, concert:nova, Earplay, the Empyrean Ensemble, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, the Linton Chamber Music Series, the Lydian String Quartet, Octagon, Parnassus, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Society for New Music, Voices of Change, and Zafe Collective. Her music has been described as “stunning” and full of “sophisticated ensemble writing“ (The San Francisco Chronicle). Her chamber music often has “a very, very quick series of contrasting moods and atmospheres, which gives it a lot of texture and beauty, and it has a deep sonic realm.” (Boston Globe).
Harrison was born and raised in Streator, Illinois and is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Composition at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. She is also chair of music theory and composition in CCM’s Preparatory Department. As a recipient of a Jacob K. Javits fellowship, she earned her doctorate in composition from the University of California, Berkeley, where her teachers included Edwin Dugger, Richard Felciano, Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson. She spent two years studying in Paris supported by U.C. Berkeley's Prix de Paris, and attended composer workshops at IRCAM. She also studied with Milko Kelemen at the Musikhochschule in Stuttgart, and with Thomas Frederickson and Paul Zonn at the University of Illinois.
Penned for instrumental and vocal ensembles of various sizes, Harrison's compositions are inspired by diverse experiences and circumstances. Echoing her evocatively titled movements, her music at times seems to dip into distant and antique sonic realms to portray a series of contrasting moods and atmospheres. At other times the tone is more jocular as she juxtaposes impetuous activity with infernal calm at multiple levels, presenting an extraordinary variety of textures, melodic materials, and expressive gestures.