Mary Ellen Childs is a composer for whom the creation of music involves more than the notation of symbols on a page. She is involved in the creative process from conception through composition through staging, often working much like a stage director or choreographer as well as a composer to create musical pieces that incorporate visual media. Her output includes multi-monitor video pieces A Chording To and the award winning Still Life, which captured first place awards at the 1988 International Multi-Image Festival and at the 1988 American Film and Video Festival, and her electronic Standpoints, a collaboration with lighting designer Jeff Bartlett. She has created numerous "visual percussion" pieces for her company CRASH, a vibrant and energizing ensemble that embodies the concept of music in motion. CRASH's bold, kinetic style integrates music and dance and theater in fresh and unexpected ways. The group's repertoire includes Click, a fast-paced, game-like work for three stick-wielding performers and Crash, a full-evening work for 6 crash cymbal players on rollerstools and various other rolling means of transportation.
Childs' work has received wide critical acclaim--The Village Voice called her Click "a newly born classic," Elle Magazine says "Childs creates...a truly universal world that's primordial in its understanding of humanity," and MS Magazine describes her music as "a beautifully cut crystal glass that refracts the world around it."
Childs also composes purely musical concert works and has received commissions from the Kronos Quartet, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Dale Warland Singers, and has twice been granted prestigious Lila Wallace/Meet the Composer commissions. One of her favorite instruments to write for is the accordion, and as a result of her close working association with world-renown accordionist Guy Klucevsek, she has created nearly a dozen works for the instrument.
Full evenings of her work have been presented at the Walker Art Center and The Southern Theater in Minneapolis and Experimental Intermedia Foundation in New York and at SECCA in North Carolina. She has also received performances at the Bang On A Can Festival, Lincoln Center, New Music America - Miami; and elsewhere around the U.S. and in Europe and Japan. A compact disc of her work, Kilter, is available on the XI label.
In recent years she has received support from the NEA's Composer-in-Residence program, Meet the Composer/Reader's Digest, the Bush Foundation, the McKnight Foundation, Intermedia Arts, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and the Minnesota Composers Forum. She is based in the Twin Cities, where she leads her company of percussionist/performers, CRASH, and where she established WildFire, a touring roster of women performing artists. She is also the Program Director of the McKnight Theater Artists Fellowship Program at the Southern Theater in Minneapolis.