Paul Dice - Composer

Main Content

Paul Dice

Paul Dice studied composition at the Boston Conservatory of Music with Joel Kabakov, privately in Boston with John Adams, and with his most influential teacher, Lou Harrison, at the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida and in California. His commissions include those from the American Composers Forum, Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing, Carleton Chinese Music Ensemble, the experimental vocal ensemble Listen, the Edina Concert Orchestra, the Chinese Heritage Foundation, and Fedogan and Bremer Publishing among others. Dice has also received funding from the Minnesota State Arts Board, including 2019 and 2013 Artist Initiative Grants, and was the recipient of 2012 and 2017 McKnight Established Artist Awards from the Southeast Minnesota Arts Council. Finding enjoyment in composing for foreign or unusual instruments, Dice has composed for harmonic singers, traditional Chinese instruments, Indonesian gamelan, Philippine kulintang, metal sculpture, in addition to Western instruments. His music is primarily inspired by movement and sounds found in nature, and techniques and practices used in other art forms or cultural traditions that he adapts for use in his own special brand of music. Since 2018 he has also been composing music for short films produced in the United Kingdom.

Dice’s first success as a composer came in 1981 when his piano piece "Portrait" was premiered at Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. The same year he was featured on a broadcast of “Music in Minnesota” on Minnesota Public Radio. Performances and broadcasts of his works throughout the US soon followed. In 1986 he was commissioned by the experimental vocal ensemble Listen to write a piece that utilized vocal harmonics, a practice he studied during a residency with David Hykes and the Harmonic Choir and has used in several of his pieces. In 1990 Dice was featured in an article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune written by classical music critic Michael Anthony. Dice’s first piece for string quartet, Gulls Circling a Bay, was premiered by the Filharmonica Quartet of Novosibirsk in Novosibirsk, Russia; and was chosen for a reading session by the esteemed Arditti String Quartet from England. It received its US premiere at Walker Art Center in 1994, and in 2017 was performed at the Carolina Chamber Music Festival in New Bern, North Carolina. A version of the piece with Chinese pipa was performed at the Minnesota Orchestra Donor Party in 2017 by members of the Minnesota Orchestra with Gao Hong on pipa. The most recent version for string quintet was premiered at the 2020 TUTTI Festival by Sybarite5 (Sami Merdinian and Sarah Whitney, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass).

In 2009 Dice became the only foreigner to be commissioned by a new program at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing designed to encourage composers to combine Western and traditional Chinese instruments in their works. The Leven String Quartet and pipa master Gao Hong premiered his Birds in Flight in the conservatory’s concert hall on July 4, 2011. In 2016, Dice’s Back to the Bass Licks for guqin (7-string ancient Chinese zither) and bass was performed at a nationwide guqin conference in Nanchang, China. It was also performed at the 2017 Beijing Modern Music Festival’s “Lights and Shade - Concert of Modern Music for Guqin” and was published in China by the Central Conservatory. His most recent composition, Between the Stars for violin and cello, was scheduled for three spring performances by Duo-B (violinist Hirono Sugimoto Borter and cellist Philip Borter) before the COVID-19 pandemic forced cancellation of all public events. An earlier version of the piece for Chinese erhu and yangqin was premiered in 2019 at Carleton College by Cao Dewei, erhu; and Chen Xiangyang, yangqin.

In 1992 Dice travelled to China and Kazakhstan as part of a People to People Citizen Ambassador Program Music of the Minorities Delegation. He returned to China in 1993 to present his paper on the famous Chinese composer A Bing at an international conference in Wuxi. He returned again in 1995 to serve as an Artist-in-Residence at the Xian Conservatory of Music. Dice served as Music Advisor for the six-episode Twin City Public Television series “Made in China” and as an English editor for the Hal Leonard Pipa Method Book written by Gao Hong. He is the president of International Friendship Through the Performing Arts, a non-profit organization that promotes intercultural friendship, understanding and interaction through activities in the performing arts.

Paul Dice and Lou Harrison

About "Gulls Circling a Bay"

This video is a live recording performed by Sybarite5. They premiered this string quintet version in the closing concert of the TUTTI Festival on March 7, 2020 at Denison University in Ohio.

Paul Dice’s music and interview on 88.5 Jazz Radio Station Minneapolis

Covid-19 Gives Paul Dice the Opportunity to Compose but not Perform Musical Compositions