Mike Olson is a Minneapolis based composer with a richly eclectic musical history. He started out as a self-taught composer, but went on to a formal musical education, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree in music composition and theory from the University of Minnesota, where he studied composition with Dominic Argento, Eric Stokes, Lloyd Ultan and Paul Fetler. After college, Mike when on to receive various grants and fellowships, including two McKnight fellowships, a residency at the Headlands Center for the Arts, and grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, New Music USA, the Jerome Foundation and the American Composer's Forum among others.
Mike's work spans an unusually broad range of compositional styles and instrumental combinations. That being said, there are two aspects of his work that can be viewed as being relatively present through most of his career, and which are clearly evident in his current work. These are a highly linear through-composed compositional style and a love of electronic music. There have been of course, numerous exceptions along the way where Mike had done purely acoustic pieces and nonlinear conceptual or strictly formalistic works, but he has always gravitated back to the electronic palette and the highly linear through-composed compositional form.
In more recent years, Mike has developed his own fragment-based compositional process, wherein a large number of musical gestures and textures are recorded, edited and then recombined into a finished piece. Constructing music in the computer from discrete gestures has only served to refine his through-composition approach, and his more recent works have a more organically evolving linearity than anything that has gone before.
Mike is currently deeply immersed in an exploration of the new generation of analogue modular synthesizers. There is a rather remarkable renaissance going on in this field that he finds exceptionally stimulating and it has actually changed the course of his work. Mike speaks at length about this in the History section of this website.
Mike Olson is both a self taught and classically trained composer with an unusually diverse musical background. He has moved through a wide variety of compositional styles and methods in his restless search for a means of artistic expression that is truly authentic and personal. In more recent years, this search has brought him back around full circle to his earliest musical roots, where he has abandoned any notion of self-conscious formalism in favor of a far more intuitive approach to music making.
A significant change in Mike's work in recent years has been his development of a fragment-based compositional process, wherein compositions are created from many discrete musical gestures. This process merges the manipulation of musical material, musical performance and audio recording into one tightly integrated compositional processes.