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Biography

Zvonimir Stephen Nagy (pronounced /zvônimiːr nadj;/) is a Croatian-born, American composer, music scholar and performer based in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. His creative and scholarly work extends into interdisciplinary contexts and perspectives on music and embodiment, forging connections between music, technology, psychology, and philosophy. His current focus is on the application of insights from cognitive and computer sciences to the formal study and practice of musical creativity.

As a composer with a diverse range of interests, Nagy has had great success having his work premiered in Europe, and North and South America. Performances of his work range from multimedia art pieces, choral groups, and solo performers to new music ensembles and professional symphony orchestras, and include works for concert, church, and installation performances. He is the recipient of composition awards and grants such as The Pittsburgh Foundation and The Heinz Endowments Investing in Professional Artists Grant (2017-18), the Paluse Research Grant (2018-19), the Presidential Scholarship Award from Duquesne University (2013), the Seattle Symphony Composition Prize (2012), the Iron Composer Award (2011), the Swan Prize in Music Composition from the University of Minnesota (2011), the Karlins Award at Northwestern University (2008), and the Croatian Music Institute Award (2002). He has also written for and received commissions from performers and ensembles, such as the Seattle Symphony, musicians from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Beo String Quartet, Chatter Ensemble, the Boston Choral Ensemble, Alia Musica Ensemble, Reed III Ensemble, Trio Jónio, Cleveland Contemporary Chamber Players, and JACK Quartet, among others. Recordings of his compositions are available from PARMA Recordings (Angelus: Works for Organ, 2018), Albany Records (Liquescence: Music for Ensembles, 2017), and MSR Classics (Vestiges: Music for Piano, 2014). A selection of his choral and instrumental music is published by Paraclete Press (Boston, MA), World Library Publications (Chicago, IL), MusikFabrik (France), and Aldebaran Editions (Italy). Classical Music Review has called his music “hauntingly beautiful,” and American Record Guide described his compositions as possessing “glacially slow, light ambience to a simultaneously wild and dense eruption of sound.”

Nagy views the process of composition as an investigation into the structure of musical creativity. His approach to composition is an interdisciplinary one that centers on compositional morphologies which explore the creative dialogue between cognition and perception, conceptualization and contextualization, and tradition and innovation. His compositions are informed by embodied music cognition, and are shaped by ideas from conceptual art and spirituality. His compositions also combine computer-assisted processes for music composition, notation, and analysis, as well as self-referential and dynamic systems, along with more intuitive approaches to compositional techniques and processes. Current projects include a new multimedia work for flute, baritone, and percussion, Dialogues with Silence, to be premiered in Pittsburgh in Spring 2019; and most recently: Anima Animæ, a newly commissioned string quartet for the 2018 Charlotte New Music Festival performed by the Beo String Quartet; Sei Solo for violin at the 2018 Oregon Bach Festival Composers Symposium; and Fall, Leaves, Fall for string quartet at the 2018 Royal Music Association Conference at Bristol University in the United Kingdom.

Nagy’s research field is musical composition, creativity, and technology, and his areas of specialization are embodied music cognition, modern music and computer-assisted creativity. His book monograph, entitled Embodiment of Musical Creativity: The Cognitive and Performative Causality of Musical Composition (Routledge, 2017, An Ashgate Book in the SEMPRE Series on the Psychology of Music) offers an innovative look at the interdisciplinary nature of creativity in music. In this book, he investigates the psychological attributes of creative cognition whose associations become the foundation for an understanding of embodied creativity when composing music. His recent research projects include scholarly presentations and lectures about improvisation at Georgia State University and the University of Oregon, and on the embodiment of musical creativity in composition at Maynooth University in Ireland. He has recently been invited to deliver a conference paper on music encoding of compositions at the University of Vienna in Austria. Informed by the empirical and theoretical work in the cognitive neuroscience of music and embodied music cognition, he is currently working on a theoretical model for the construction of embodied pitch space from the neural coding of pitch relationships.

Nagy is also an award-winning organist, pianist, and church musician with interests in contemporary music and spirituality, and has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States and Europe. He received the second prize in the César Franck/Olivier Messiaen International Organ Competition in Haarlem, the Netherlands. He currently serves as Assistant Organist at St. Anne and St. Winnifred Churches in Pittsburgh.

Nagy earned a Doctor of Music degree from Northwestern University, and he also studied music at Texas Christian University and at the Academy of Music in Zagreb, Croatia. He studied composition with Jay Alan Yim, Augusta Read Thomas, and privately with Tristan Murail, and Marko Ruzdjak; music theory and cognition with Robert Gjerdingen; and organ with H. Joseph Butler. He is an Associate Professor of Music composition at Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in acoustic and electronic composition, music theory and analysis, orchestration, as well as seminars on musical creativity, cognitive music theory, and modern music. He previously provided instruction in composition at Northwestern University, and he has taught music theory, composition, and improvisation at St. Xavier University in Chicago, Illinois. He continues to present his music and research at national and international music conferences and festivals.

Nagy resides in Pittsburgh with his wife, Haley Nagy, and their sons Luka and Niko.

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