Brien Henderson is a composer of acoustic music. His recent compositional work has been strongly guided by the aesthetic claim of the architect Antoni Gaudí that “originality means returning to our origins.” Henderson’s work examines the introspective power of medieval plainsong and the textured melodicism of Renaissance polyphony, then reimagines these in a system of pitch organization of his own invention that embraces the full chromatic spectrum while maintaining a decidedly modal character. In counterpoint to this inquiry, Henderson’s work also examines modernity by working with noise elements, timbre, and musical fragments as essential material. These interests culminated in his piece Fragments of Lost Words, premiered by Ensemble SIGNAL at June in Buffalo 2013, where Henderson was a participating composer.
The principles of seeking originality by returning to origins have now been augmented by the influence of The Confessions of St. Augustine on Henderson’s artistic concept and current projects. These projects have included Confessions: I for viola, the first in a series of unaccompanied works, and Noli esse vana, a setting of a text from Augustine’s Confessions, for Ut Re Mi a choir specializing in music of the Renaissance in which Brien sang from 2013-2015.
Brien received his compositional training at San Francisco State University, where he earned both a Bachelor of Music and Master of Arts degree in composition, studying with Richard Festinger, Christopher Jones, and Ben Sabey. He has also worked with Robert Beaser and taken master classes from Brian Ferneyhough, Yehudi Wyner, Augusta Read Thomas, and Raphaël Cendo.