BiographyComposer Daniel Thomas Davis’ wide range of musical activities has taken him from the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Royal Opera House to monasteries in the Horn of Africa to directing new-music festivals in the rural South. Praised as “ingenious” by The Guardian and “fun and unpretentious” by The New Yorker, he creates music singled out for its “soul-wrenching” connection to the human voice and its “deft and beautiful, rich harmonic and textural language.” (Classical Voice North America).
Dan's music has been performed, commissioned and/or recorded by cellist Lynn Harrell, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Lontano and Odaline de la Martinez, American Opera Projects, the Momenta Quartet, the Lexington Philharmonic, Ensemble X, Yarn|Wire, the 21st-Century Consort, the Charlotte Symphony, the Ossian Ensemble, the BBC Singers, the Locrian Ensemble, Boston’s Back Bay Chorale and eighth blackbird. Other performers of his music have included members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Anonymous 4 and Roomful of Teeth, as well as performers from the Chicago Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra, and BBC Symphony Orchestra. His chamber work, “To Canaan’s Fair and Happy Land” has received over 100 performances on several continents.
In the past year, he has enjoyed the premieres of two new operas – SIX. TWENTY. OUTRAGEOUS. in an American Opera Projects/Symphony Space co-production directed and designed by polymath artist Doug Fitch, and Family Secrets (or Kith & Kin) with North Carolina Opera in Raleigh. Both fully staged operas premiered to sold-out audiences for the entirety of each run, as well as to glowing critical responses. Currently, his new work “Three-Winged Wisdom” is featured on a national tour with ModernMedieval, culminating in performances at the Metropolitan Museum in 2019. A third new opera, The Impossible She, which is now in development with Rhymes with Opera, will premiere in New York next year.
Dan has received fellowships from the British Government (Marshall Scholar), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation and the Yaddo Colony, and has been honored by awards from BMI and ASCAP. A committed collaborator with writers, filmmakers and choreographers, Daniel recently scored the awarding-winning feature film An Encounter with Simone Weil, as well as the evening-length dance work Breath Catalogue with Megan Nicely/Dance+Kate Elswit. In addition to writing music, Dan is also active as a collaborative pianist and conductor, and periodically performs with a handful of ensembles and vocalists.
Immersed in shaped-note singing since his childhood in the rural South, he has longstanding interests in American popular and traditional musics – especially old-time country, blues and congregational singing. Fascinated by the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the human voice, he has also studied ethnomusicology and several East African vocal/string traditions, primarily with master artists in Ethiopia and Eritrea. A music professor at Binghamton University (State University of New York), Dan has previously held appointments at Duke University and the California College of the Arts. He holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Royal Academy of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies, Peabody Conservatory of Music and Johns Hopkins University.