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David Kirkland Garner writes music, plays banjo, studies fiddle, listens to jazz, hears everything, but suspects he knows nothing. Encompassing chamber, large ensemble, electronic, electroacoustic, vocal works, and film music, his music reconfigures past sounds—from Bach and Schumann to minimalism to blues and bluegrass—into new sonic shapes and directions. He seeks to make time and history audible, particularly through an exploration of archival recordings documenting the musical traditions of the U.S. South.
Garner's first album Dark Holler was released in 2017 by New Focus Recordings. Reviewer Kevin Baldwin writes that "Garner’s voice as a composer is unmistakable; with a true passion and inspiration of the music of the South, Garner creates an engaging and lively listening experience." Garner's second album is the first release on Sourwood RecordsEight Songs for Steffen Thomas was written for a documentary film about the Georgia artist which premiered on Georgia PBS in February 2023. 

He has worked with world-renowned ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, which commissioned a work based on the music of the Scottish diaspora. Awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, an ASCAP Young Composer Award, and first prizes in the OSSIA, Red Note, and NACUSA competitions. His music has been performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Contemporaneous, Imani Winds, Invoke string quartet, Ciompi Quartet, Vega Quartet, San Deigo Symphony, Locrian Chamber Ensemble, the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Boston New Music Initiative, Mallarmé Chamber Players, and the yMusic ensemble.


Garner is an Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at the University of South Carolina, having previously taught at Duke, Kennesaw State, North Carolina State, and Elon Universities. He holds degrees from Duke University (PhD, 2014), University of Michigan (MM, 2007), and Rice University (BM 2005).

Garner has published and presented scholarship on topics surrounding the banjo, Cape Breton fiddling, and minimalism. He has worked with scholars Laurent Dubois and Mary Caton Lingold on two different digital humanities projects. The first is a project called Musical Passage, featured in The Digital Black Atlantic, around the earliest transcription/composition of early Afro-diasporic music from 1688 Jamaica, and the other project is a site about the banjo called banjology

At UofSC, Garner serves as the assistant director of the Southern Exposure New Music Series and teaches a wide variety of composition and theory courses at the University of South Carolina including special topics courses including 18th Century counterpoint, Performance Analysis, Transcription and Analysis, World Music Analysis, Post-Minimalism, The music of Philip Glass, Pulitzer Prize in Composition 2010-2020, Black Composers from J. Bologne to K. Lamar, and a Contemporary Music Practicum.

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Email me: davekgarner[at]

Events/press/links >

2023           Oct 1. Premiere performance of Mr Baptiste by the Imani Winds and 

                            poet Ishion Hutchinson at Duke University

                    Jul 24. Aspen Times review of A Forest Unfolding at the Aspen Music


                    Jul 22. Performance of A Forest Unfolding at the Aspen Music Festival

                    May 20. Melt featured on Performance Today

                    Apr 23. Performance of A Forest Unfolding at The National Gallery of Art 

                            in Washington DC

                    Apr 16. Performance of A Forest Unfolding in Southern Pines, NC

                    Apr 14. Performance of Butte and A Forest Unfolding at USC in 

                            Columbia, SC

                     Apr 7. Performance of A Forest Unfolding at Duke University

                     Mar 1. Album release date for Eight Songs for Steffen Thomas

                     Feb 22. Performance of A Forest Unfolding by the Oberlin 

                           Contemporary Music ensemble 

                     Feb 19. Performance of movement VII from The Great Plains by

                           Molly Morkoski at Chestnut Hill College in PA

                     Feb 16. Premiere performance of Short Stories with Greg Stuart

                           at USC in Columbia, SC

                     Feb 13. Premiere of documentary film Steffen Thomas: Rock & Chisel

2022            Jul 6. Premiere performance of Butte with Electric Earth Concerts in NH

                     Concert review of Black, black, black is the colour

                     Melt featured on Performance Today (3-24-22)

                     Apr 23. Premiered by the SC Philharmonic with Morihiko Nakahara on

                            at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia, SC

2021            Melt featured on Performance Today (10-26-21)

                     Crow Featured on Performance Today (8-28-21)

                     Crow featured on Performance Today (6-4-21)

2020            Podcast interview on The Composers Studio

2019            Op-Ed in The State

                     Dark Holler featured on Extra Eclectic (11-13-19)               

2018            Review of “Unraveling Beethoven”

                     Alan Koznin’s concert review of A Forest Unfolding

                     Article by David Weininger on A Forest Unfolding in the Boston Globe

                     Review of Contemporaneous’ MATA show including DwnByThRckyMtns

                          in “I Care if You Listen”


2017            Review of Skye & Glass

                     Radio interview on WCPE

                     Review of Glasz

                     Textura review of Dark Holler

                     Dark Holler in Chicago Reader playlist

                     Album review of Dark Holler

                     Columbia Free Times feature

                     Dark Holler review in "I Care if You Listen"

                     Review of All that there was

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