Cindy Cox, Biography

Transparent yet complex, both radical and traditional, Cindy Cox’s compositions synthesize old and new musical designs through linked strands of association, timbral fluctuation, and cyclic temporal processes.

As Robert Carl notes in Fanfare, “Cox writes music that demonstrates an extremely refined and imaginative sense of instrumental color and texture…This is well-wrought, imaginative, and not easily classifiable music.” Many of the special harmonies and textural colorations are inspired by the natural world, ecological processes, and the concept of emergence, as in her piano trio la mar amarga, the octet Cañon, and the string quartet Patagón. Her pieces also frequently make use of technology in collaboration with UC Berkeley’s Center for New Music and Audio Technologies (CNMAT), such as Pianos, written for keyboard sampler/piano, large ensemble and live electronics recently premiered by Gloria Cheng and the Eco Ensemble.

Cox is also very active as a pianist; she has performed and recorded her Sylvan pieces, her Hierosgamos: Seven Studies in Harmony and Resonance, and The Blackbird whistling/Or just after. The newer texted works, such as Singing the lines, The Other Side of the World, and Hysteria evolved through collaboration with her husband, poet John Campion.

She has received awards and commissions from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Fromm Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Mellon Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Composers Forum, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, and the Gemeinschaft der Kunstlerinnen und Kunstfreunde International Competition for Women Composers. She has been a Fellow at the Tanglewood and Aspen Festivals, the MacDowell Colony, and the Civitella Ranieri and William Walton Foundations in Italy.  In fall 2017, she will be appointed to a Fulbright Senior Professorship in American Culture in The Netherlands, hosted by the Amsterdam Conservatory and the Utrecht School for the Arts.

Recent performances have taken place at the Venice Biennale, the Leo Brouwer Festival of Music in Havana, Cuba, the Center for New Music in San Francisco, the American Academy in Rome, Carnegie and Merkin Halls in New York City, the National Gallery in Washington, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, the Biblioteca National in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and on the Los Angeles Philharmonic series. Her music has been performed by notable ensembles such as the Kronos Quartet, the American Composers Orchestra, the National Symphony, the California Symphony, the Alexander Quartet, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the Eco Ensemble and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. Notable interpreters include David Milnes, Gloria Cheng, Lucy Shelton, Oni Buchanan, Ann Yi, Laura Carmichael, and Jenny Q. Chai.

There are five monograph recordings of Cox’s music, and her scores are published by World a Tuning Fork Press ( A recording of Cox’s complete string quartets by the Alexander Quartet was released in October 2015 on the Naxos label to critical acclaim, and her most recent recording of piano music, Hierosgamos, was released in January 2017 by ArpaViva recordings and features performances by Oni Buchanan, Jenny Q. Chai, and Piotr Tomasz. Her music may also be accessed on

Cox studied composition with Harvey Sollberger, Donald Erb, Eugene O’Brien, and John Eaton at Indiana University, with additional studies at Tanglewood with John Harbison, and at Aspen with Bernard Rands and Jacob Druckman. As a pianist she studied with the famed Mozart and Schubert specialist Lili Kraus. Cindy Cox is presently a Professor and Chair of the Music Department at the University of California at Berkeley.