Ingram Marshall’s earliest encounters with electronic music were in the mid-sixties while a graduate student at Columbia University. In 1970 he became a graduate assistant to Morton Subotnick at Cal Arts and stayed on to teach there for several years after receiving an MFA in 1971.
It was at Cal Arts that he became seduced by the dark colors and endless forms of Indonesian music. A summer study trip in 1971 to Indonesia furthered his knowledge and interest. The quality of slowed-down sense of time and dreamy evocativeness in much of Marshall’s music clearly derives from what he heard and played in Indonesia. The gamelan gong forms have also influenced the way some of his works are structured.
He developed, in the mid 70s, a series of live-electronic performance pieces which employed the Balinese flute (gambuh), and analogue synthesizers with elaborate tape delay systems. His most significant live-electronic performance work from this period is The Fragility Cycles, which combines music from the gambuh series with experiments in the text-sound genre. His fascination with tape delay systems led him to try similar ideas with instrumental combinations. He has since developed a series of instrumental works which require real time electronic manipulation through tape delay or digital processing. Examples are Fog Tropes for brass sextet and tape (1982) and Voces Resonae for string quartet written for the Kronos Quartet in 1984. Fog Tropes has been widely performed and is perhaps Marshall’s best-known piece.
In the early eighties, Marshall collaborated with photographer Jim Bengston on two works, Alcatraz and Eberbach, which combined moving still photography with live electronically processed music. Marshall’s main focus since 1985 has been ensemble music, both with and without electronics. His Sinfonia “Dolce far Niente,” com-missioned by Leonard Slatkin and the St. Louis Symphony, juxtaposes gamelan-inspired textures and rhythms with music which unabashedly derives its inspiration from composers such as Bruckner and Sibelius. Hidden Voices, commissioned by Nonesuch Records, had its premiere at New Music America at The Brooklyn Academy of Music in 1989. It features digitally sampled voices from old recordings of Eastern European lament singers along with a “live” soprano. A Peaceable Kingdom, commissioned for the Los Angeles Philharmonic New Music Group by Betty Freeman, uses a chamber ensemble in concert with a tape part. Bearing some relationship to Hidden Voices, it combines multi-layered textures of church bells and a Yugoslavian village band with the peaceable utterances and commentary of woodwinds and strings.
In the early nineties, Marshall worked with the Kronos Quartet (Fog Tropes II) and the singer Paul Hillier for whom Sierran Songs was written in 1994. In 1996 he composed Kingdom Come on commission from the American Composers Orchestra. It was subsequently recorded and released on Nonesuch along with the Kronos version of Fog Tropes II and the Paul Hillier Theater of Voices rendition of Hymnodic Delays.
Dark Waters and Holy Ghosts were both written for oboist Libby Van Cleve and are good examples of Marshall’s use of live digital delays to create rich tapestries of sound with haunting resonances of other times and cultures. They were released on New Albion in 2000.
Marshall’s recent works for large ensembles include Bright Kingdoms for orchestra and tape (2003—a Magnum Opus commission), Dark Florescence, a concerto for two guitars and orchestra written for Andy Summers and Benjamin Verdery (premiered by the American Composers Orchestra at Carnegie Hall in 2005), and Orphic Memories for chamber orchestra, a work based on the Orpheus myth commissioned by the New York-based ensemble Orpheus, who premiered it in April 2007 at Carnegie Hall. Among his awards have been a Fulbright Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Literature.