David Kirkland Garner writes music, plays banjo, studies fiddle, listens to jazz, hears everything, but suspects he knows nothing. Encompassing chamber, large ensemble, electroacoustic, and vocal works, his music reconfigures past sounds—from Bach to minimalism to 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."
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 Assistant 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, fiddling traditions of North America, and minimalism. He has worked with scholars Laurent Dubois and Mary Caton Lingold on two different digital humanities projects: a project called Musical Passage around the earliest transcription of early Afro-disporic music from 1688 Jamaica and a site about the banjo called banjology.
Garner teaches a wide variety of composition and theory courses at the University of South Carolina including special topics courses on: Transcription and Analysis, World Music Analysis, Post-Minimalism, and most recently an analysis course on the music of Philip Glass.