Described as “gripping” by both the New York Times and the Chicago Tribune, “poignant”, “richly evocative” (San Francisco Chronicle), “taut, and hauntingly beautiful” (NY Times), Jonathan Berger’s recent works deal with both consciousness and conscience. His chamber operas, Theotokia and The War Reporter explore hallucination and haunting memories, while his monodrama, My Lai portrays the ethical dilemmas of an individual placed in an impossible situation.
Berger’s “dissonant but supple” (NY Times) compositions are often inspired by science and the human condition, including the adaptation of satellite imaging data to turn the dispersal of an oil spill into music (Jiyeh), spatial representation of brain activations of a schizophrenic hallucination (Theotokia), and sonic expression of the chemical spectroscopy of cancer (Diameters). His symphonic, chamber, vocal, and electroacoustic works are performed throughout the world.
Thrice commissioned by The National Endowment for the Arts, Berger has also received major commissions from The Mellon and Rockefeller Foundations, Chamber Music America, and numerous chamber music societies and ensembles. His most recent commissions include My Lai (commissioned by The National Endowment, the Gerbode Foundation, and Harris Theatre for the Kronos Quartet, Rinde Eckert and Van Anh Vo), Tango alla Zingarese (commissioned by the 92nd Street Y), and Swallow, (commissioned by the St. Lawrence String Quartet), and Rime Sparse, premiered by soprano Julia Bullock and the Lincoln Center Chamber Society.
A 2017 Guggenheim Fellow and winner of the Rome Prize.
His violin concerto, Jiyeh, paired with that of Benjamin Britten, was recorded for Harmonia Mundi’s Eloquentia label by violinist Livia Sohn, who also recorded Berger’s War Reporter Fantasy for Naxos and solo works on Miracles and Mud, his acclaimed Naxos recording of music for solo violin and string quartet.
In addition to composition, Berger is an active researcher with over 60 publications in a wide range of fields relating to music, science and technology,
Berger is the Denning Family Provostial Professor in Music at Stanford University.
His current commissions include The RItual of Breath is the Rite to Resist - musical theater about the murder of Eric Garner.