© Emma Foster

The "spellbinding" (Washington Post) music of Chicago-based composer Paul Novak immerses listeners in shimmering and subtly crafted musical worlds full of color, motion, light, and magic. Rejecting grandiose narratives, his work is driven by a love of small things - miniature forms, delicate soundscapes, and condensed ideas - and guided by a sense of empathy for theperformers playing his music.

Novak was selected for a 2022 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has received other recent honors from the ASCAP Foundation, Red Note Competition, League of Composers/ISCM, Lake George Music Festival, and National Association of Composers of the USA, among others. In 2020, he was the recipient of the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood Commission for a new orchestral work that the ACO will premiere in Carnegie Hall; he has also received commissions from ASCAP and Society of Composers, Inc., Music from Copland House, the Boston New Music Initiative, Blackbox Ensemble, and Kinetic Ensemble. He was featured in the Washington Post's "23 for '23 :

Composers and Performers to Watch this Year," where he was praised for his "impressive range and restless energy" in a catalog spanning "lithe, elastic vocal pieces...vibrant orchestral works...and evocative etudes for string quartet." Other recent collaborators include the Austin Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic, Sandbox Percussion, Ekmeles, Quince Ensemble, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Quatuor Diotima, LIGAMENT Duo, and Tribeca New Music. Upcoming projects include new works for InfraSound Ensemble, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, DanceWorks Chicago, and Lynx.

Collaboration and interdisciplinarity are at the center of Novak's creative practice, and his recent work has been driven by a passion for working with text, an attunement to the embodied experiences of musicians, and a fascination with collective, social aspects of performance. His work draws inspiration from literature, visual art, dance, and poetry, from biological and astronomical phenomena, and from history and myth. His recent projects have included collaborations with poets, visual artists, dancers, choreographers, and a spoken word artist. Originally from Reno, NV, he completed his undergraduate studies at Rice University, and is currently a PhD student at the University of Chicago, where he studies with Augusta Read Thomas.


" Prisms and Mirrors "

For sextet



I’m fascinated by prismatic musical forms: structures that continuously refract and reflect, kaleidoscopically shifting and evolving but at the same time static and unchanging. I imagine a light shined through a series of crystals and mirrors, shimmering into colorful spectra and bouncing in unexpected directions. Similarly, prisms and mirrors maps a single idea through a series of musical refractions and reflections, a set of continuous variations which is by turns textural, rhythmic, and melodic. To me, this concept of musical form resonates with the beautifully collaborative nature of writing music, in which all ideas are continually refracted throughout the course of notation, interpretation, and performance. prisms and mirrors musically enacts this refraction, with all the fragility, intricacy, and color of a prism refracting light.