"...hauntingly beautiful."

“…Jon Magnussen’s commissioned score was hauntingly beautiful.”

– Karen Anne Webb, Salt Lake Tribune

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"...beautifully textured new music by Jon Magnussen. It sounds like a modern-day mass and matches the grandeur and simplicity and sweep and vital detail of the dance.
Jennifer Dunning, The New York Times.
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Jon Magnussen is a Hawaiʻi-based composer of music for the concert hall, dance, drama and film, commissioned locally and nationally, and used and performed internationally. His musical output reflects a wide range of influences, from West African percussion (he was born in Sierra Leone where he spent early formative years), to jazz, pop, Hawaiian music, early music, informed by classical training from the Paris Conservatory and The Juilliard School.  Magnussen’s compositional output covers a wide range of expressions, from absolute music for the concert hall to music for the dramatic stage; from solo and ensemble instrumental and vocal music as well as computer-aided music, always with an intuitive sense for the listener.


Jon Magnussen’s music can be found on Blue Griffin, CMH, and Albany Records labels.


In 15 songs, TWINGE tells stories of survival of the December 26, 2004 Indonesian tsunami. TWINGE is scored for soprano, piano and clarinet and was written for HAVEN (Kimberly Cole Luevano, Lindsay Kesselman and Midori Koga). The text for TWINGE was adapted with permission from Barry Bearak’s New York Times Magazine November 27, 2005 cover story, “The Day the Sea Came”. TWINGE was commissioned through the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with support from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund. The work is dedicated to the memories of the hundreds of thousands of victims of the December 26, 2004 Indonesian tsunami.

Pākaʻa Lanakila!

Enjoy the exciting moʻolelo (story) of Pākaʻa, a young boy who lives with his mother, Laʻamaomao, and her bird-catching brother Ma‘ilou in the cliffs of Keahiahi, near present-day Keālia, on Kaua‘i. The village fishermen make fun of Pākaʻa’s uncle for never providing the family with fish, only with birds. Pāka‘a is tired of their taunts and frustrated that the fishermen never share their catch with his uncle because of their prejudice toward him and his trade. So Pāka‘a plans a clever way to claim his share of the catch, winning in the process many ka‘au (forty) of his favorite mālolo fish, and also the respect of his elders. Pākaʻa Lanakila! is a classic coming-of-age story based on a tale that first appeared in Hawaiian-language newspapers during the mid-nineteenth century. Now, the Spring Wind Quintet performs this exciting story to music by composer Jon Magnussen, with narration in both Hawaiian language (by B. K. Cabigon) and English (by Jon Magnussen), and art by Caren Loebel-Fried.

Music for Limòn Dances

The music on this disc came to be out of a unique collaboration between three artists spanning three generations: José Limon, Jon Magnussen and Carla Maxwell, the artistic director for the Limón Dance Company. After Limón's death, the ballet "The Winged" was revived in an abbreviated (40') version and there was a need for a new score for which Magnussen was chosen from a pool of graduate students at Juilliard to write the music. Because that collaboration proved so successful, Carla Maxwell asked Magnussen to write a new score for Limón's "Psalm" when she revived the dance in 2002.

Death and Eros

Death and Eros was composed in 2000 for Donald McKayle’s eponymous ballet and is the initial entry in Donald McKayle’s “Story Dance Theatre,” a project immersed in the oral traditions of both indigenous and displaced peoples. (The following quote is from www.donaldmckayle.com/death-and-eros.html) Death and Eros is the initial entry in Donald McKayle’s “Story Dance Theatre,” a project immersed in the oral traditions of both indigenous and displaced peoples. This excursion in narrative work bypasses the literal and calls on the imagination as a guide to legend and lore. The dance is a movement illumination of the legend of the “Skeleton Woman,” an Inuit tale passed down in the oral tradition from generation to generation.

“...the indispensable performances here arguably took place in the pit, where vocalists Eloise Laws and, especially, Kingsley Leggs delivered the full-throated wailing of Jon Magnussen's bold new score with feral intensity... Both [choreographer Donald] McKayle and Magnussen managed to suggest an entire culture and world view with a few essential images: a masklike projection, a recording of waves, the lovers bumping behinds affectionately and even delicately as if inventing a folk dance, a flute scampering above the action like a bird high over the water... this thoughtful and often deeply imaginative collaboration between such major artists and the Washington dancers served everyone splendidly...”
—Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times
“The best part of the night at the San Jose Center for the Performing Arts was the orchestra's playing of “Scenes” by Jon Magnussen, a world premiere. The piece is an accumulation of musical moments, fast-moving melodic fragments and instrumental colors. Relentlessly, they slide into and pile on each other, creating a delicious agitation as the orchestra moves up, up, up through registers -- goose-bump stuff, set off in Magnussen's brain by his reading of W.S. Merwin's The Folding Cliffs.”
—Richard Scheinin, The Mercury News,
“The engrossing excerpts from "Psalm," a recent ballet score by Jon Magnussen... showed that Psalm settings for chorus and orchestra bursting with demonic rhythms and angular melodies can achieve a different kind of reverence.”
—Anthony Tommasini, The New York Times
“[Death and Eros] featured a spine-shaking commissioned score by Jon Magnussen, who conducted a four-person instrumental ensemble in the pit... plus vocalists Eloise Laws and Kingsley Leggs.”
—Laura Bleiberg, The Orange County Register

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