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headshot of Daniel Thomas Davis

Daniel Thomas Davis

Associate Professor of Music



Composer and sound artist Daniel Thomas Davis’ wide range of musical activities has taken him from the stages of Carnegie Hall and the Royal Opera House to monasteries in the Horn of Africa to playing electric hurdy-gurdy alongside life-size puppets. Praised as “fun and unpretentious” by The New Yorker, he creates music singled out for its “soul-wrenching” connection to the human voice and its “deft and beautiful, rich harmonic and textural language.” (Classical Voice North America).

Davis’ music has been performed, commissioned and/or recorded by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, cellist Lynn Harrell, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, the London Sinfonietta, Lontano and Odaline de la Martinez, American Opera Projects, ModernMedieval at the Metropolitan Museum, the Momenta Quartet, the Lexington Philharmonic, Hub New Music, Ensemble X, Yarn|Wire, the 21st-Century Consort, the Charlotte Symphony, the Ossian Ensemble, the BBC Singers, the Locrian Ensemble, Boston’s Back Bay Chorale and eighth blackbird. Other performers of his music have included members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Anonymous 4 and Roomful of Teeth, as well as performers from the Chicago Symphony, Berlin Philharmonic, Philadelphia Orchestra, London Philharmonic, London Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, English Chamber Orchestra and BBC Symphony Orchestra.

In recent years, Davis has enjoyed the premieres of three new operas: SIX. TWENTY. OUTRAGEOUS. in an American Opera Projects/Symphony Space co-production directed and designed by polymath artist Doug Fitch; Family Secrets (or Kith & Kin) with North Carolina Opera in Raleigh; and The Impossible She with Rhymes with Opera at the New York Opera Fest. Each opera premiered to sold-out audiences and to glowing critical responses — as evidenced by Parterre’s assessment of The Impossible She as “a towering musical achievement, a hugely complex work packing a whopping political and intellectual punch,” which positions “contemporary opera as an important tool for political and historical commentary, for magnifying marginalized voices, for sharing long-lost stories, and for finding solutions to a tumultuous present in a distant past.” 

A committed collaborator with writers, filmmakers and choreographers, he also scored, developed and performed the genre-bending theater work Stuffed Happens (with Doug Fitch and Tommy Nguyen), commissioned by the Moody Center for the Arts in Houston in Spring 2023. Other recent collaborations include the award-winning feature films Pushed Up the Mountain and An Encounter with Simone Weil, as well as the evening-length dance work Breath Catalogue with Megan Nicely/Dance+Kate Elswit.

A recipient of the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Research and Creative Activities, Davis has received fellowships from the British Government (Marshall Scholar), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Bogliasco Foundation and the Yaddo Colony, and has been honored by awards from BMI and ASCAP. Fascinated by the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the human voice, he has longstanding interests in American popular and traditional music and has also studied ethnomusicology and several East African vocal/string traditions, primarily with master artists in Ethiopia and Eritrea. Davis is also active as a collaborative pianist, hurdy-gurdy player and conductor.

For sounds and more information on Daniel Davis 


  • DMA, Composition, University of Michigan
  • MM, Composition, Royal Academy of Music
  • MM, Ethnomusicology, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • BA/MA, History, Johns Hopkins University
  • BM, Composition, Peabody Conservatory of Music

Research Interests

  • Music composition
  • Transdisciplinary collaboration
  • Music, theater, film and dance

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