Paul Novak

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. His recent projects engage with dreams and memory, queer identity, climate change and the natural world, and psychosomatic illness.

Novak has received commissions from American Composers Orchestra, Balourdet Quartet, ASCAP and Society of Composers, Inc., Music from Copland House, Lynx, Quatuor Lontano, the Boston New Music Initiative, Blackbox Ensemble, and Kinetic Ensemble, among others. His recent collaborators include the Austin Symphony, Orlando Philharmonic, Reno Philharmonic, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, DanceWorks Chicago, Sandbox Percussion, Ekmeles, Quince Ensemble, Decoda, InfraSound Ensemble, Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, Dmitri Atapine, Quatuor Diotima, LIGAMENT Duo, and Tribeca New Music.

Novak was selected for a Barlow Commission in 2023, and other recent honors include awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, ASCAP Foundation, Red Note Competition, League of Composers/ISCM, Lake George Music Festival, and National Association of Composers of the USA. He has received fellowships from Aspen, Norfolk, Copland House, Millay, and I-Park, and 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.”

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.