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 Records. Eight 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.
Email me: davekgarner[at]gmail.com
2023 Oct 1. Premiere performance of Mr Baptiste with the Imani Winds
at Duke University
Jul 22. Performance of A Forest Unfolding at the Aspen Music Festival
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
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
Dark Holler in Chicago Reader playlist
Dark Holler review in "I Care if You Listen"