Douglas J. Cuomo
Douglas J. Cuomo has composed highly acclaimed and original music for concert and theatrical stages, television, and film. His music, with influences from jazz, world music, classical, and popular sources, is as personal, distinctive, and recognizable as it is wide-ranging. His compositions range from well-known television themes — for Sex and the City and Now with Bill Moyers, among others — to evening-length works for theater, including Arjuna’s Dilemma, an opera-oratorio based on the story of the Bhagavad Gita.
Cuomo’s expressive musical language, with its arresting juxtapositions of sound and style, is a natural outgrowth of his eclectic background and training. Born in Tucson, Arizona, raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and Amherst, Massachusetts, Cuomo began playing the trumpet in grade school and switched to guitar at the age of 12. While still in high school he studied with jazz greats Max Roach and Archie Shepp at the University of Massachusetts.
Cuomo began his professional musical career at the age of 18, touring the country with a Las Vegas show band. He alternated years of college with years on the road as a guitarist, studying jazz, world music and ethnomusicology at Wesleyan University in Connecticut. He completed his undergraduate studies at the University of Miami (Coral Gables) with a degree in jazz performance. Upon graduating, he immediately moved to New York and began to tour with jazz singer Arthur Prysock and his brother Red, and to record with pop and jazz acts. After two years on the road as a jazz guitarist, Cuomo decided to focus on composition, and returned to New York City.
Cuomo’s first work to garner significant public notice was Atomic Opera, which was performed at the Ohio Theatre in downtown New York City. The New York Times wrote that Cuomo's "elegiac and eerie" score "blends electronically treated classical fragments and vintage kitsch, suggests the breaking down and reconstitution of matter into something ominous and uncontrollable." That breakthrough led to steady work composing music for Broadway productions at the Roundabout Theatre. He scored fifteen productions for the Roundabout, including The Women, Design For Living, Hamlet, The Visit, and the Tony-Award winning Anna Christie.
In television, his first major success came with the Peabody Award-winning NBC drama Homicide: Life On The Street, for which he scored 120 episodes over the course of seven seasons. His credits include numerous series, movies, and documentaries for CBS, NBC, ABC, HBO and VH1, among others. He has also scored a number of independent films, including Revolution #9, The Terrorist, and most recently, Crazy Love.
Cuomo is known for creating some of the most distinctive theme music on television today. Examples include the theme to Sex & The City (HBO), praised by The New Yorker magazine for its "unusual, edgy salsa flavor;" the saxophone quartet music that opens and closes Now with Bill Moyers (PBS), and the keening Middle Eastern vocals and frenetic Turkish drumming combined with a churning synthesizer bed for Wide Angle (PBS).
Cuomo’s most ambitious work to date is Arjuna’s Dilemma, a 70-minute opera-oratorio incorporating an Indian vocalist, a classically-trained tenor, a four-member female chorus, a tabla player, an improvising tenor saxophonist, and a ten-piece chamber ensemble. A work of both sweeping grandeur and piercing intimacy, Arjuna’s Dilemma seamlessly melds classical, jazz and traditional Indian musical idioms as it explores ancient themes that remain startlingly topical: the claims of conscience and duty in a time of war; the search for self-knowledge in a changing world. Arjuna’s Dilemma has been produced by the Music-Theatre Group, and following previews at the Pepsico Theater (SUNY Purchase) in August 2008, was performed at BAM's Next Wave festival on November 5, 7, and 8, 2008. The New York Times described Arjuna's Dilemma as "an opera with an appealing and unabashedly eclectic score." A recording of Arjuna’s Dilemma, performed by an array of distinguished artists including Indian singer Amit Chatterjee, members of Anonymous 4 and the Philip Glass Ensemble, tenor Tony Boutté, Badal Roy, Ethel, pianist Kathleen Supove, and bassist Robert Black of the Bang on a Can All Stars, was released on July 1, 2008.
Other compositions include a Kyrie for And on Earth, Peace, a Mass setting commissioned by the vocal ensemble Chanticleer and premiered by the group at the Metropolitan Museum in April 2007; and A Winter’s Journey, a work-in-progress for mezzo-soprano, trumpet, cello, and electronic keyboard, based on Wilhelm Müller’s texts for Schubert’s Winterreise song cycle. Upcoming projects include a solo cello work for Maya Beiser, to be premiered as part of an evening-length program titled "Provenance" at Arts & Ideas in New Haven, with subsequent performances at the Ravinia Festival, Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, and other venues to be announced.
Douglas J. Cuomo has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mabou Mines, Meet the Composer, and the Blue Mountain Center, and has received three BMI Television Music Awards. His theme for Sex & The City was chosen by TV Guide as one of the top 50 television themes of all time. He has lectured at several universities on the topic of music for film and television.
In addition to Arjuna’s Dilemma, his concert works include a Kyrie for And on Earth, Peace (2007) commissioned by the vocal ensemble Chanticleer, premiered by the group at the Temple of Dendur at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and recorded on Warner Music; and Fortune for The Young People's Chorus under the direction of Francisco Nunez, to be premiered in the spring of 2008. Next in view is Only Breath for cello and electronics, commissioned by Maya Beiser for an evening-length program titled Provenance, performed at Arts & Ideas in New Haven (June 24, 2008), the Ravinia Festival (July 22), and Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall (October 30). Future projects include A Winter's Journey, a setting of Wilhelm Müller's text for Schubert's Winterreise song cycle, scored for mezzo-soprano, trumpet, cello, and electronics, and a work for rock guitarist and string quartet.
Cuomo has received fellowships and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, Mabou Mines, Meet the Composer, the Blue Mountain Center, and the Hermitage Artist Retreat, and has received three BMI Television Music Awards. He has lectured at several universities on the topic of music for film and televison. His theme for Sex and The City was chosen by TV Guide as one of the top 50 television themes of all time.
Douglas J. Cuomo’s compositions are published by Schott Music.