The music of composer, oboist, and installation artist Sky Macklay is conceptual yet expressive, exploring extreme contrasts, surreal tonality, audible processes, humor, and the physicality of sound. Some of her pieces incorporate intermedia and extramusical narratives, addressing topics ranging from commuting times to the side effects of contraceptive and assisted reproductive technology. As a 2021 Guggenheim Fellow, her next project is a chamber music album that will synthesize her work as a composer and her raucous, multiphonic-rich oboe performance practice.
Macklay has been commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Chamber Music America (with Splinter Reeds and Left Coast Chamber Ensemble), the Fromm Foundation at Harvard University (with Ensemble Dal Niente), the Barlow Endowment (with andPlay), the Jerome Fund for New Music (with ICE saxophonist Ryan Muncy), and Kronos Quartet’s 50 for the Future project. Upcoming commissions include new works for the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and Klangforum Wien. As a Fellow at the Columbia Institute for Ideas and Imagination in Paris, she is also collaborating with French ensemble 2e2m.
Macklay’s music has been recognized with awards and fellowships from The American Academy of Arts and Letters, Civitella Ranieri, and ASCAP, and has been featured at international festivals such as Gaudeamus Muziekweek, The BBC Scottish Symphony’s Tectonics Festival, and the ISCM World New Music Days. Since being recorded on Spektral Quartet’s GRAMMY-nominated album in 2017, her iconic string quartet Many Many Cadences has been performed around the world by ten different quartets and is studied in dozens of university composition and theory classes.
As an installation artist, Macklay has created and built a unique series of interactive harmonica-playing inflatable sculpture environments, which were supported by a New Music USA Project Grant and won the Ruth Anderson Prize from the International Alliance for Women in Music. Harmonibots at the Waseca (MN) Art Center, MEGA-ORGAN at Judson Memorial Church in NYC, and Harmonitrees at Stetson University all use various flexible plastic shapes to channel air through deconstructed harmonicas, resulting in immersive microtonally-chorused triadic drones.
As an oboist, Macklay has performed at Roulette, MATA, SPLICE Festival, the University of Louisville New Music Festival, and the Line Upon Line Winter Composer Festival. She is a founding member of the New York-based Ghost Ensemble, a group focused on collaborations with living composers and expanding perceptual horizons through shared immersive experiences. In their review of Ghost Ensemble’s 2019 album We Who Walk Again, Sequenza21 said, “her command of multiphonics and microtones on the oboe is prodigious.”
Macklay completed her DMA in composition at Columbia University where she studied with George Lewis, Georg Friedrich Haas, and Fred Lerdahl. She also holds degrees from The University of Memphis (MM) and Luther College (BA). An enthusiastic practitioner of creative music education, Macklay taught for nine summers at The Walden School Young Musicians Program in Dublin, New Hampshire, an acclaimed summer school and festival for pre-college composers. Before joining the Peabody faculty, she was Assistant Professor of Music at Valparaiso University. Her music published by Edition Peters.