The Music of C. P. First
Whilst still in his early teens, C. P. First began composing works of an experimental nature. After completing his primary education, he pursued composition studies in Chicago, Illinois where he studied at the American Conservatory, then at the University of Chicago where he studied with the Pulitzer prize-winning composer Shulamit Ran. He earned his Doctoral degree (1990) from Northwestern University. During his years as a graduate student, First became deeply entrenched in the electronic and computer media that often reside at the core of his compositional output. Whilst an undergraduate student, First was commissioned by Charles Moore and the ACM Chamber Opera of Chicago to write the one-act opera, The Soul of Rose Dede. His work caught the attention of influential cultural figures in Chicago, including impressario Dalia Kuceanas who introduced the young composer to important European musicians. These introductions led to the commission of several works, including Two by One (solo violin) for the pre-eminent Russian violinist, Raimundas Katillus, who performed the composer's music at Carnegie Hall. Immediately following First's Carnegie Hall debut, performances of his works appeared throughout Europe and the major performance centers in the U. S. Among the important European musicians with whom First came in contact was the brilliant Greek virtuoso, Dimitris Marinos. Perhaps First's most well-known work, Tantrum, was written for Marinos who performed the work widely in Europe and the U.S. including the World Music Days in England, the World Music Days in Luxembourg, and Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall. The two musicians, Marinos and First, collaborated on two other works Epiphany and Contrapuntal Variations I commissioned by Commissioning Music/USA.
The composer persistently emerges with new works that invariably receive critical acclaim. Most recently, his collaboration with New York filmmaker Matt Marello on the eccentric multi-media collaboration, The Eternal Return (2002), received worldwide attention, including performances on the America in Berlin exhibit at the Berlin Academy of Art.
In addition to his work as a composer, C. P. First has contributed to the introduction of new works in his service as Artistic Director with the Chicago 21st Century Music Ensemble. Founded in 1992 by First and conductor Gui Bordo, the Chicago 21st Century Music Ensemble remains an important contemporary music group in Chicago. From 1990 until 1995, First served as a Lecturer in Theory and Composition at Northwestern University and DePaul University. In 1995, First accepted a post at the University of Alabama where he is Professor and Chair of Composition and Theory.