Emeritus Professor of Music and Ethnomusicology
School of Arts & Communication: Music
Oregon State University
Corvallis, OR 97331-2221
Michael Coolen is a Professor of Ethnomusicology and Music. He has been the recipient of five Fulbright Fellowships, four NEH Summer Seminar Fellowships, CLA Teacher of the Year, and many other awards and honors. He has lived, worked, and taught in Africa, Europe, and New Zealand. In addition to coordinating theory and composition studies at OSU, he is also Director of the Sound Design Studio and Recording Studio. His interest in world musics and cultures is reflected in the courses he teaches, as well as many of his compositions. Among them are numerous arrangements of traditional African and Latin-American music he has written for marimba and steel drum ensembles. One example is Caderas, a marimba composition which has gained great popularity wherever it is played, and it is currently used as a theme in three of the Disney Theme Parks. The example here is taken from the 1999 CD, Live at the Summit, by the Corvallis based group, the Maharimbas, which received its initial instruction in playing African marimbas from Dr. Coolen. From time to time, you'll hear traditional African applause (ululation) from the audience. If you'd like to learn how to ululate, press here.
Professor Coolen composes in a variety of styles, including songs for solo voice and piano, such as the Song of St. Francis, sung here by Thom Burt with Becky Jeffers on piano. There is also an example of solo piano (Prelude #2), played here at a live recital in Feb. 1999 as an encore by internationally reknowned pianist Craig Sheppard.
In June 1999 the OSU student flute sextet, Flute Salad, performed all four movements of Coolen's Suite for Flute Sextet. The movements are Fanfare, Minanzi, Boogie Fugie, and Rhumba, the latter of which has been published by ARLY, Inc. To learn more about the Suite, and to listen to the movements, click on the link to the left.
In the spring of 2002, the OSU Music Department, in cooperation with the Theater Department, mounted the world premiere of the original musical Blue Willow, with music and lyrics by Michael Coolen, and book and lyrics by New York playwrite Michael Russell. "A Maiden Lady's Love" is a song from the show, and you can listen to it by clicking on the link to the left.
In the fall of 2003, Professor Coolen was featured in a one-man performance piece titled "Looking For." He is currently working on his next performance piece, titled "String Theory," to be premiered in the Fall of 2010.
Dr. Coolen is also an experienced story-teller. The story "If you can talk you can sing" was told at a noon recital on November 20th, 2001. If you'd like to hear the story, click on link below.
In January 2004 Bella Voce, the OSU Women's choir, premiered Dr. Coolen's newest piece for choir and percussion. Titled Pura Vida, the composition is a lively Latin piece that has been recently published by Hal Leonard, Inc. both in SSAA and SATB arrangements. Bella Voce performed the piece in July in Estonia. To hear a performance, click on the link to the left.
On March 9, 2004, Emily Thielen premiered his composition Five Very Short Songs on African Proverbs. The titles of the movements are A Bitter Heart, The First Step, Infinite Boiling, Weakness, and Soon Enough. Her accompanist was Nichola Nine-Zielke. To hear the performance, click on the link below.
On October 29, 2004, the OSU Chamber Choir was featured in the world premiere of "In the Beginning," a multi-media work for choir, piano, percussion, and sampled sounds. The performance also features spoken equations such as the following.
On February 8, Angela Carlson and Rebecca Jeffers premiered Demasiado, Coolen's composition for one piano four hands. To learn more about it and to hear it, click on the link below.
On June 1, 2008 Dr. Coolen had a world premiere at Carnegie Hall of Gusto El Sabor, his composition for Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Another world premiere took place on May 19, 2009 of his Tritonic Rhapsody for Piano and Orchestra, performed by Rachelle McCabe and the Corvallis-OSU Symphony Orchestra, under the baton of Marlan Carlson. You can hear an excerpt of the middle section here.
He is currently working on a variety of compositions, including an oratorio titled Lucifer, which is a re-telling of Paradise Lost from Lucifer's point of view.
Suite for Flute Sextet
It was composed in the spring of 1999 and dedicated to Flute Salad, the resident student flute sextet. Here are its four movements:
- Fanfare - A multi-metric movement.
- Minanzi - An African-based movement, based primarily on interlocking parts. "Minanzi" means "beautiful sound" in the African language Shona.
- Boogie Fugie - A jazzy movement combining a 12-tone fugue subject with the blues.
- Rhumba - A dance-like movement featuring spoken text and dance by the performers. The Rhumba was published as a separate piece, and it is available from ARLY publications.
The world premiere of Demasiado for 1 piano four hands took place at Oregon State University on February 8, 2005 with Angela Carlson and Rebecca Jeffers at the piano. Demasiado (which means "too much") is composed of three movements, all with Latin themes and rhythms. The first is "Sabor" which means "savor." The second movement is titled "Inclinado En Las Tardes," meaning "Leaning Into the Evening." The third movement is titled "Joropo," which is a dance form from Venezuela.