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Phone: 858-822-6724
Office: CPMC 354



"Hyperkinetic music, built out of crisp high-pitched notes...  Tangy intervals and microtones act like a microscope focusing the listener’s attention onto a world teeming with ...determined life." – Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times

“A colorful world of sound” – Klaus Trapp, Darmstädter Echo

“Completely radical” – Cora Uitting, Erlanger Nachrichten

“A musical monument is made.” – Michael Sikora, Nürnberger Nachrichten

“High intensity …dream-like tableaus of sound” – Frieder Reininghaus, Deutschlandradio Kultur

“Music and language are connected here in a way that gets under your skin.” – Hanna Styrie, Kölner Rundschau

Karola Obermüller composes in search of the unknown, with layers upon layers of obscured material buried deep beneath a surface that is sometimes sumptuous, sometimes bristling with rhythmic energy. Her unique voice began forming in collages of sound made with tape recorders as a child and evolved later with composition degrees from the Meistersinger-Konservatorium Nürnberg, the Hochschule für Musik Saar, and the University Mozarteum Salzburg. Her sense of rhythm and form was forever changed by studying Carnatic and Hindustani classical music in Chennai and Delhi, India.

A Ph.D. at Harvard University brought her to the US where she taught at Wellesley College and at the University of New Mexico, co-directing the composition area and the annual John Donald Robb Composers’ Symposium music festival, before joining the Department of Music at UC San Diego. She often spends time in Europe and has been a visiting artist at ZKM, Deutsche Akademie Rom, Centro Tedesco di studi Veneziani, Akademie Schloss Solitude, Leipzig Gewandhaus & Hanns Eisler House, and IRCAM as well as serving as a resident composer for new music festivals at Hochschule für Musik Nürnberg, Conservatorio Piccinni di Bari (Italy), University Mozarteum Salzburg, Festival Virtuosi Century XXI, Recife (Brazil), Samobor Music Festival Croatia, and others. Obermüller frequently serves as an adjudicator for competitions such as the Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy Hochschulwettbewerb, the Femfestival, and the Kranichsteiner Musikpreis of the Darmstadt Ferienkurse.

Her music, often political, always dramatic, includes operas for Staatstheater Nürnberg, Theater Bielefeld, Theater Bonn, Theater Heidelberg, and Stuttgart’s Musik der Jahrhunderte. The emotional juxtapositions of story suspended in a tableau architecture that one finds in her operas can be heard in her concert works as well, which include commissions from the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fromm Music Foundation, New Music USA, Bayerischer Rundfunk, Saarländischer Rundfunk, and numerous renowned soloists and ensembles.

Obermüller works with lauded contemporary music ensembles such as Ensemble Modern, ICE (International Contemporary Ensemble), Arditti Quartet, Neue Vocalsolisten, Ekmeles, MusikFabrik, Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, E-MEX Ensemble, Iridium Quartet, New Thread Quartet, Soli fan tutti, Pegnitzschäfer Klangkonzepte, Ensemble Adapter, New Mexico Contemporary Ensemble, ensemble phorminx, saxophone quartet, Splinter Reeds, Gewandhaus-Ensemble Avantgarde, and AsianArt Ensemble. She has received numerous awards including the Heidelberger Künstlerinnenpreis, Darmstädter Musikpreis, the New York Musicians Club Prize, the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Award, the Bavarian Youth Prize for Composition (awarded by Zubin Mehta), the John Green Prize for Excellence in Music Composition, and the 1st Prize of the “New Note” International Composers Competition Croatia. 

Recordings of several of Obermüller’s works have been released on CD including Jacqueline Leclair’s solo CD (New Focus Recordings, Music for English Horn Alone, FCR272), a record by harpsichordist Luca Quintavalle (Brilliant Classics 96476: Mousikē—the art of the muses), a CD with the Voices of the Pearl project (Volume 3), and a disk by Duo Harmonium d’art et Pianoforte (forthcoming on dreyer-gaido). Having been selected by the German Music Council to be a part of the Contemporary Music Edition, the first portrait CD of her music was released by WERGO in 2018 and a second CD is forthcoming on New Focus Recordings.