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School of Music

Faculty and Staff

David Kirkland Garner

Title: Associate Professor / Composition and Theory
School of Music
Phone: 803-777-8365

School of Music Room 218

David Garner photo

Encompassing chamber, large ensemble, electronic, electroacoustic, vocal works and film music, David Kirkland Garner's music reconfigures past sounds — from Bach and Schumann to minimalism to blues and bluegrass — into new sonic shapes and directions. He seeks to make time and history audible, particularly through an exploration of archival recordings documenting the musical traditions of the U.S. South.

Garner's first album Dark Holler was released in 2017 by New Focus Recordings. Reviewer Kevin Baldwin writes that "Garner’s voice as a composer is unmistakable; with a true passion and inspiration of the music of the South, Garner creates an engaging and lively listening experience." Garner's second album is the first release on Sourwood Records. Eight Songs for Steffen Thomas was written for a documentary film about the Georgia artist which premiered on Georgia PBS in February 2023. 

He has worked with world-renowned ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, which commissioned a work based on the music of the Scottish diaspora. Awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, an ASCAP Young Composer Award, and first prizes in the OSSIA, Red Note and NACUSA competitions. His music has been performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Contemporaneous, Imani Winds, Invoke string quartet, Ciompi Quartet, Vega Quartet, San Deigo Symphony, Locrian Chamber Ensemble, the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Boston New Music Initiative, Mallarmé Chamber Players and the yMusic ensemble.

Garner is an Associate Professor of Composition and Theory, having previously taught at Duke, Kennesaw State, North Carolina State and Elon Universities. He holds degrees from Duke University (PhD, 2014), University of Michigan (MM, 2007) and Rice University (BM 2005).

Garner has published and presented scholarship on topics surrounding the banjo, Cape Breton fiddling and minimalism. He has worked with scholars Laurent Dubois and Mary Caton Lingold on two different digital humanities projects. The first is a project called Musical Passage, featured in The Digital Black Atlantic, around the earliest transcription/composition of early Afro-diasporic music from 1688 Jamaica, and the other project is a site about the banjo called banjology. 

At USC, Garner serves as the assistant director of the Southern Exposure New Music Series and teaches a wide variety of composition and theory courses at the University of South Carolina including special topics courses including 18th Century counterpoint, Performance Analysis, Transcription and Analysis, World Music Analysis, Post-Minimalism, The music of Philip Glass, Pulitzer Prize in Composition 2010-2020, Black Composers from J. Bologne to K. Lamar and a Contemporary Music Practicum.

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.