Concert organist and research scholar Randall Harlow has long dodged conventional expectations. As a performer, he has eschewed the competition circuit, choosing instead to explore the outer reaches of the organ repertoire, from avant-garde contemporary and electro-acoustic compositions and forgotten works of the past to chamber music, concertos, and transcriptions. Performances have taken him across the US, to Russia, Germany, Greenland, and cathedrals in England. He can be heard on American Public Media's nationally syndicated radio show Pipedreams.
A specialist in contemporary music, Randall Harlow was the first organist to be awarded a New Music USA Project, in support of his upcoming debut recording. The most comprehensive recording ever made of contemporary American organ music, the 3-disc album will feature more than twenty world premiere recordings of works by major American composers, from Samuel Adler, William Bolcom, and David Lang, to Shulamit Ran, Christian Wolff and John Zorn. He performed many of these works in a series of concerts at Indiana University, the University of Chicago, Harvard and Stanford Universities. His numerous premieres include the North American premiere of Karlheinz Stockhausen's Himmelfahrt, the First Hour of KLANG, and works for organ with live-electronics by Steve Everett and Rene Uijlenhoet. Also an avid performer with orchestra, he performs the organ concertos of Lou Harrison and Chen Yi, and gave the North American premieres of concertos by Petr Eben, Tilo Medek, and Giles Swayne. In Fall 2014 he premiered the first and only Barlow Prize commission for organ, Exodus by Aaron Travers. In 2012 he premiered new works by faculty and students in concerts at the Eastman School of Music and Cornell University and performed in improvisation on mechanical Baroque organs with the Cornell Avant Garde Ensemble (CAGE). He is also the first organist to transcribe and record on the organ Franz Liszt's legendary Transcendental Etudes, to be released on the Pro Organo label in December 2016.
As a scholar Randall Harlow's interests range from empirical performance-cognition research, with a focus on gesture and ecological theories, to hyper-acoustic instruments and performance technology. In 2015 he was awarded a Diesterweg Fellowship and served as a guest professor at the University of Siegen, Germany, researching hyperorgan technology in theory and practice. He was a keynote speaker at the 2015 Orgelpark symposium in Amsterdam, and has presented at conferences at Cornell, Harvard, and Oxford Universities, the International Conference on Music Perception and Cognition (ICMPC), Performance Studies Network (PSN), Porto International Conference on Musical Gesture in Portugal, Göteborg International Organ Academy in Sweden (GOArt), the Westfield Center, and Eastman Rochester Organ Initiative Festival (EROI). He holds a Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Eastman School of Music, following previous degrees at Emory and Indiana Universities, and served for a year on faculty at Cornell University. His organ teachers have included Hans Davidsson, Timothy Albrecht and Christopher Young, and William Porter in improvisation. Randall Harlow is currently Assistant Professor of Organ and Music Theory at the University of Northern Iowa.