photo by Mike Olson

photo by Mike Olson

Mike Olson is a Minneapolis based composer with a richly eclectic musical history. He started out as a self-taught composer, but went on to a formal musical education, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in music composition and theory from the University of Minnesota, where he studied composition with Dominic Argento, Eric Stokes, Lloyd Ultan and Paul Fetler. After college, Mike when on to receive various grants and fellowships, including two McKnight fellowships, a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation and the American Composer's Forum among others. 

Mike's work spans an unusually broad range of compositional styles and instrumental combinations. That being said, there are two aspects of his work that can be viewed as being relatively present through most of his career, and which are clearly evident in his current work. These are a highly linear through-composed compositional style and a love of electronic music. There have been of course, numerous exceptions along the way where Mike had done purely acoustic pieces and nonlinear conceptual or strictly formalistic works, but he has always gravitated back to the electronic palette and the highly linear through-composed compositional form. 

Photo by Stafford Photography

Photo by Stafford Photography

In more recent years, Mike has developed his own fragment-based compositional process, wherein a large number of musical gestures and textures are recorded, edited and then recombined into a finished piece. Constructing music in the computer from discrete gestures has only served to refine his through-composition approach, and his more recent works have a more organically evolving linearity than anything that has gone before. 

Mike is currently deeply immersed in an exploration of the new generation of analogue modular synthesizer technology. There is a rather remarkable renaissance going on in this field that he finds exceptionally stimulating and it has actually changed the course of his work.  Mike speaks at length about this in the History section of this website. 

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Graphic score gesture from the composition, Incidental.