Aaron Helgeson


Chicago Center for Contemporary Composition Postdoctoral Fellow


PhD in Composition, University of California, San Diego (2013)
MA in Composition, University of California, San Diego (2007)
BMus in Composition, Oberlin Conservatory of Music (2005)
BA in Theater, Oberlin College (2005)


Office: Goodspeed 401
Phone: (773) 702-3072
Email: ahelgeson@uchicago.edu



Aaron Helgeson's music — described by Sequenza 21 as "beautifully ethereal" and the New York Times as "simultaneously virtuoso display and engaging instrumental drama" — draws on the diverse fields of acoustics, literature, philosophy, and cognitive science to find new ways of engaging with old musical traditions. 

In 2013, he was commissioned by Grammy-winning soprano Susan Narucki to write Poems of sheer nothingness, a 40-minute song cycle for voice and chamber ensemble that re-imagines Occitan troubadour song poetry, set by Helgeson in its original language with consultation from the University of Toulouse. Awarded a grant from the Aaron Copland Fund in 2014, the cycle was recently recorded by Narucki and the Talea Ensemble and released on Innova Recordings.

His recent “anti-cantata” for chamber orchestra and choir, Snow requiem, was premiered in 2015 with soloists David Bowlin and Alice Teyssier of ICE, and subsequently received an award from the Ohio Arts Council in 2016. Based on author David Laskin’s book The Children’s Blizzard about the Homestead-era snowstorm of the same name, the work combines original transcriptions of Norwegian-American immigrant folk music with sonifications of weather data using orchestral tone clusters, wordless vocal chorales, and percussive noise.

In 2017, he was awarded a commission from the Barlow Endowment to begin work on a new cycle of choral works for The Crossing using fragments from the Novgorod Codex, an 11th-century psalm book containing dozens of non-canonical religious texts handwritten on top of one another. Other current projects include collaborations with Imani Winds, Ensemble Dal Niente, and Lyric Opera Chicago stage director Matthew Ozawa.

Before his appointment at the University of Chicago, Helgeson served as Clinical Assistant Professor of Composition at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music from 2013-2016. He currently teaches at the Longy School of Music of Bard College and Third Street Music School Settlement in New York.