A veteran composer of concert music, sonic sculptures, soundscapes, new media works and ambient environments for public spaces and gallery installations. He also composes music for television, film and advertising.


Born in Honolulu in 1954, Van Zandt grew up in California. He became a musician early in life and plays saxes, keyboards and guitar. He has a BA (1976) in Music Composition and Theory from the College of Creative Studies at University of California Santa Barbara, where he studied composition with Peter Racine Fricker and Thea Musgrave and electronic music with Emma Lou Diemer. He completed three years of graduate study at Cambridge University, England, where he studied composition with and was teaching and musical assistant to Professor of Music Alexander Goehr. In 1977 he was awarded a scholarship by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) to attend the Dartington Summer School of Music to work with Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

Van Zandt spent nearly 20 years living, composing and working in England, Ireland and continental Europe. Throughout the 1980s, he worked in music publishing as an arranger and orchestrator, taught music theory and art history in an Irish high school, and was the music director of a regional arts center in Ireland. During the 1990s, he held the position of editor-in-chief of a trade book publishing company, commissioning, assembling, publishing and editing hundreds of books. He also designed dozens of large-format art and photography books. More recently he has designed and written web content; and written and developed educational products in the subjects of music, art, science and history.

Since returning to California in 1999, Van Zandt has composed more than 75 new acoustic, electroacoustic, electronic and experimental computer-controlled musical and pure sound works. He has dedicated a significant portion of his time in the past five years transitioning from a purely aural to a new media artist. To that end, he has developed new media creation concepts, methods and computer programming derived from the tools and techniques of music composition, as well as mathematics and the natural and physical sciences. He utilizes these concepts and applications to create organic environmental experiences and ambient enhancements that are manifested through interconnected displays of a wide variety of forms of sound and light. He has assembled a team of technical specialists and fellow artists to collaborate in producing new media installations for all types of public spaces and gallery exhibitions. He recently moved to the Los Angeles area where he composes music for television, advertising and film productions. Van Zandt joined the American Composers Forum-Los Angeles Board of Directors in 2012, and is currently president of the chapter.

Additional info

Recent Works:

A Thousand Ships (2014-16)
One Act Multimedia Opera
Soprano, speakers, chamber orchestra, computer processed sounds and synthesizers
Libretto by Jill Freeman
Incorporating spoken texts from Homer, Sappho, Euripides, Aeschylus, and others
60 minutes

The Painted Veil (2016)
Three songs from Percy Shelley
soprano, flute, viola, piano, celeste, harp and percussion (3)
20 Minutes

…my way is in the sand flowing…
Requiem in Memory of my Mother
for Chorus and Orchestra (1995-2016)
Text by Samuel Beckett
28 minutes
8-Part Mixed Chorus and orchestra (3333/4431/percussion, 2 harps, piano, celeste/ strings

Sí an Bhrú (2016)
For solo piano and computer processed electronic sounds
Commissioned by and dedicated to Nadia Shpachenko
12 Minutes

Stirrings Still: In Memory of Peter Maxwell Davies (2016)
Alto Flute, Bass Clarinet, Percussion, Vibraphone, Piano, Violin/Viola, Cello
22 minutes

TRANS (2015)
Violin, Cello and Piano
9 Minutes

Time and Space Etudes for Solo Flute (2015)
21 Minutes

Apples and Time Crack in October (2015)
Four songs for soprano and piano
Poems by Jill Freeman
14 minutes

From th' Ethereal Sky (2004, revised 2015)
Revised version for large orchestra
13 minutes

. . . the rest is silence . . . (2014-15)
for retuned electronic piano
Commissioned by Aron Kallay for his Beyond 12 project
8 Minutes

Stoicheia: Five Etudes for Viola Solo (2013-14)
18 Minutes

The Regular Division of the Plane (2012-13)
6 Pieces after Escher for 2 Pianos
26 Minutes

My Galley (2012)
Tenor or Soprano and Lute
Text by Sir Thomas Wyatt
6 1/2 minutes

Three Nocturnes for Piano (2012)
12 Minutes

Chromantic Preludes for Piano (2012)
12 Minutes

The Blue Rider (2010-12)
Computer processed synthesizers, percussion, voices and digital video projections
Texts by Trakl, George, Kandinsky, Schoenberg, Klee.
35 Minutes

Eight Pieces for Solo Harp (2011)
35 minutes

Canonic Studies on Japanese Haiku (1989, revised 2011)
Soprano and Eb, Bb and Bb Bass Clarinets (3 players)
8 minutes

Five Etudes for Solo Alto Saxophone (2010-11)
I. Bird II. Taking a Line for a Walk III. Snowflakes IV. Dhrupad (with drone) V. Trane
20 Minutes

Kosmos Ekpyrosis (2009)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
For gallery installation
66 Minutes

Aurora (2009)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
For gallery installation
180 Minutes

One Small Step (2009)
Commemorating the 40th anniversary of first moonwalk, July 20, 1969
Computer processed speeches, TV broadcasts and Capcom between the Earth and Moon
7 ½ minutes

Somnium (2007-8)
Kepler Series Part 2
Computer Processed Digital Aural Projection
60 Minutes

The Cloud of Unknowing (2006-8)
In Memory of Ligeti
Computer Processed Acoustic and Electronic Instruments
12 Minutes

Harmonice Mundi (2006)
Kepler Series Part 3
Computer Processed Digital Aural Projection
60 Minutes

12-Tone Chaconne (2005)
Flute, Clarinet, Oboe, Bassoon, Horn, Trumpet, Trombone and Double Bass
14 minutes

Dioskouroi (1979, revised 2005)
Versions for 2 Cellos, 2 Violins, 2 Violas,
Viola and Cello, Violin and Viola, Violin and Cello
10 minutes

String Trio (1977, revised 2005)
Violin, Viola, Cello
17 minutes

El Oro de los Tigres (1982, revised 2005)
Six songs for Soprano, Clarinet, Harp and Cello
Text by Jorge Luis Borges
9 minutes

Cinque Canti for Clarinet and Chamber Orchestra (2005)
Solo Clarinet playing Bb, A, Bb Bass and Eb Clarinets
18 minutes

Strange Loops: String Quartet No. 1 (2004-5)
I. Semezen; II. The Hollow Men; III. Chant
28 minutes

Tir Na nOg (2004-5)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
11 minutes

Mysterium Cosmographicum (2004)
Kepler Series Part 1
Computer Processed Digital Aural Projection
60 minutes

The Floating World (2004)
Flute, Harp and Viola
I. Dance; II. Ritual; III. Meditation; IV. Trance
27 minutes

From the Far to the Far Beyond (2004)
Three Poems for Chorus (SATBarB)
I: Mandakini; II. The Secret Journey; III. The Stream of Life
Text by Tagore
24 minutes

On the Shores of Eternity (2003)
Multimedia Dance Opera, Text by Tagore
for Computer Processed Soprano Soloist, Mixed Chorus,
Synthesizers and Digital Sounds,
Computer Processed Digital Projections;
2 Solo Dancers and Corps de Ballet. ca. 2 hours

On the Shores of Eternity (2003)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
13 minutes

A Dance Beyond Death (2003)
Soprano with:
Version A: Computer Processed Digital Sounds
Version B: Woodwind Quintet, Piano, Harp, Celeste, Percussion (4 Players: Xylorimba, 2 Vibraphones, 2 Glockenspiels, Crotales), Strings
Text by Tagore
12 minutes

Living the Infinite (2003)
Soprano and Computer Processed Digital Sounds
Text by Tagore
13 Minutes

First Light (2003)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
17 minutes

Understanding (2003)
Soprano, Electronic Cello and Computer Processed Digital Sounds
Text by Tagore
8 minutes

The Stars Look On (2003)
Aria for Soprano with:
Version A: Computer Processed Sounds. Version B: Chamber Orchestra
Text by Tagore
8 minutes

The Messenger (2003)
Computer Processed Soprano and Digital Sounds
Text by Tagore
13 minutes

Little Prelude and Fugue (2003)
Guitar Duo
3 minutes

La Nuit Etoilee (The Starry Night) (2003)
Nocturne après van Gogh for Piano, Harp and String Orchestra
14 minutes

Time's Ocean (2002-3)
Version A for Wind, Brass and Percussion Orchestra;
Version B for Computer Processed Digital Sounds
Version C for Large Orchestra (4443/4432/6 Perc/Strings)
12 minutes

Ballade for Piano (1982, rev 2002)
8 Minutes

Lessness (2002, revised 2005)
Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Piano,
Live Electronics and Pre-recorded Digital Sounds
35 minutes

Alien Atmospheres (2002)
Computer Processed Digital Sounds
5 minutes

Heliakos Elleipsis (2002)
In Memory of Xenakis
Computer Processed Synthesizer
5 minutes

Short Electronic Works (2001-2)
Computer Processed Synthesizer
I. The Banshee, II. Starfield, III. Event Horizon, IV. Vortices
18 minutes

Jam Session for Jazz Ensemble (2001)
Soprano, Alto, Tenor and Baritone Saxes, Trumpet in Bb, Tuba, Piano, Glockenspiel, Vibraphone, Marimba, Double Bass (Pizz.)
15 minutes

The Lost Ones (2001)
After the prose work by Samuel Beckett
Stereo Multitrack Computer Processed Synthesizer
17 minutes

The Labyrinth of Solitude: A Chaconne for Solo Cello (2000)
19 minutes

Toccata for Piano (2000)
5 minutes

Artist Statement:

My philosophy of composing is simple: I try an keep an open mind and gratefully accept whatever inspiration I get from whatever source and go with it, trusting in my skills, hard work, and joy of the craft to make the best work that I can.