DAVID A. JAFFE, born in 1955 in northern New Jersey, began studying violin, mandolin and composition at an early age. In high school, he played with improvising bands of various genres. He attended Ithaca College School of Music, Bennington College and Stanford University, where he received Master of Arts and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees in composition (1983) and continued as a post-doctoral Research Associate from 1984 to 1986. He has lectured extensively in Europe, Japan, and the Americas and has served as Visiting Lecturer at Princeton University (1991), the University of California at San Diego (1993) and Stanford University (various quarters, 1983-1991). He is currently a free-lance composer and music software engineer living in Berkeley, California.
Jaffe has written an extensive body of orchestral, choral, chamber, solo and computer music. His Silicon Valley Breakdown (1982) has been performed in over twenty countries and hailed as a landmark of the electronic music medium by Le Monde and Newsweek. Recently, he has been pioneering the musical use of the Mathews/Boie Radio Drum, an electronic performance sensor designed at Bell Labs. His latest work for this instrument is The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, a seventy-minute concerto for Radio Drum-driven acoustic "robot piano" (Yamaha Disklavier) and an ensemble of eight instruments.
Jaffe's music has been recognized four times by the National Endowment for the Arts, with two Composer Fellowships, an N.E.A. Composer-In-Residency with Chanticleer, and an N.E.A. Collaborative Composer Fellowship. Other awards include a Presser Foundation Scholar award, a prize in the First Annual Newcomp Contest, First Prize in the Hamilton College Chorus Commission Competition, a grant from the USIA Fund for Musicians at International Festivals and several Meet-the-Composer grants. In 1991, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, Jaffe traveled to Buenos Aires and presented workshops and concerts at the Recoleta Cultural Center, featuring the String Quartet of Buenos Aires and the String Quartet of Argentina. In 1992 and 1993, he served as Resident Artist at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada. In 1995, he was MacGeorge Fellow in Music Composition at Melbourne University in Australia.
Ensembles and individuals who have commissioned works include the Wooley Foundation, David Starobin, Edward Gans, the Mostly Modern Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, William Wallach, Chanticleer, the Skidmore College Chorus, the Redwood Symphony, the Modern Mandolin Quartet, Lynn Kirby, the American Guild of Organists and the University of Victoria.
As conductor, mandolinist and violinist, Jaffe has performed his music at such international festivals as the Berlin, Bergen, Cabrillo, NEMO and Warsaw Autumn Festivals, the American Festival in London and at the International Computer Music Conferences in the U.S., Scotland, Canada and Italy. His music has been performed by ensembles such as the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Modern Mandolin Quartet. CD recordings of his work have been released on Elektra/Asylum, Wergo, CDCM/Centaur, Vienna Modern Masters and Well-Tempered. His music is published by Schott and Plucked String Editions.
Jaffe is also well-known for his technical research in the field of computer music. In the early 1980's he developed a revolutionary technique for synthesizing plucked strings. During the period 1986-91, in collaboration with signal processing engineer Julius Smith, he created the innovative NeXT Music Kit software. He has published extensively on topics ranging from ensemble interaction to music software design in periodicals such as Computer Music Journal, Interface Journal for New Music Research, Leonardo and Lulu; and in books including The Music Machine and The Well-Tempered Object.