Ben Cosgrove is a traveling composer, pianist, and multi-instrumentalist from New England. He performs regularly all over the country, writes scores for films, plays, radio, and television, and has produced several well-received albums of original instrumental work that straddles a line between folk and classical music. His “electric and exhilarating” live performances are at once dazzling and intimate: music that has been described as “stunning” and as “compelling and powerful,” all presented with warmth, honesty, and “the easy familiarity of a troubadour.” From 2012 to 2014 Ben served as the Signet Artist-in-Residence Fellow at Harvard University, and he is a recipient of a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. He has also held residencies and fellowships at Acadia National Park, Isle Royale National Park, Middlebury College, the Vermont Studio Center, the Schmidt Ocean Institute, and the Sitka Center for Art and Ecology, and he spent a year as the artist in residence at White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and Maine. In 2017-18 he wrote new music in collaboration with the New England National Scenic Trail, a long-distance hiking trail linking New Hampshire to Long Island Sound.
The strongest forces guiding Ben’s composition and performances are his deep interests in landscape, place, and ecology. For years, Ben has been fascinated and inspired by the different ways people interact with their built and natural environments, and through songs with names like “Prairie Fire,” “Champlain,” “Little Rain,” “Nashua,” “Sigurd F. Olson,” “Kennebec,” and others, he seeks to explore those relationships and reflect them in sound. “I don’t think of my pieces as rendering places in music,” he notes in an interview in Harvard Magazine, “but more just as a way of responding to places musically. Writing music just turns out to be a great way for me to process the world.”
In 2014, Ben released Field Studies, his first full-length studio offering since 2011′s Yankee Division, which had focused specifically on the environment of north-central New England. The music on Field Studies looked through a broader lens, considering the human experience of many dramatically varied physical landscapes across North America. Different sections of the album utilize field recordings, innovative arrangements, and elegantly interwoven melodies to evoke deserts, wilderness lakes, prairies, mountain ranges, coastlines, and sprawling suburbs all in turn. In one piece, swirling arpeggios capture the disorientation of a fast drive across the plains; in another, murmuring dissonances suggest the swell of the tide. At the end of 2014, Sound of Boston named Field Studies one of the best local albums released that year. The following year, he recorded and released Solo Piano, a collection of live performances gathered from an unusual array of performance spaces — clubs, forests, a theater, a ferry, a living room, a bar, a national park, and more — all around the country.
For his latest release, 2017′s Salt, he pulled back from the expansiveness of his previous work, exploring feelings of ambiguity and ungroundedness by writing quiet, shifting, and intense music for piano and guitar inspired by estuaries, fault lines, tidal rivers, and other landscapes in flux. Seven Days called the album a “majestic entry into the composer’s catalog… replete with near-imperceptible embellishments and forward-thinking concepts,” and Junction called it “a poetry of tones and turns and motion and play that transcends everyday language.”
In addition to his solo work, Ben has performed and recorded with a wide variety of other artists from across the spectrums of folk, classical, jazz, and rock music. He has composed string and horn arrangements for other artists' projects and recorded original scores for clients including Grand Teton National Park, Katmai National Park & Preserve, WHRB, Bristlecone Media, the Conservation Media Group, and the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In 2016, his piece “Carrying Capacity,” a string work inspired by ecological data collected at Isle Royale National Park, was premiered by Wild Shore New Music at their annual festival in Homer, Alaska and then performed at Park Service sites in New York City and Washington, DC. He has collaborated and performed with a diverse array of artists that includes Max García Conover, Steph Jenkins, Jamie Kallestad, David Berkeley, The Social Animals, Joel Thetford, Palaver Strings, the Maine Youth Rock Orchestra, and Ghost of Paul Revere, for whom he is working as a touring keyboardist/accordionist in 2018-19.
Ben also writes short nonfiction, and his essays about sound, art, landscape, and place have been published by Orion, Appalachia, Northern Woodlands, Taproot, The Harvard Advocate, The Island Review, and land that i live, where he is a regular contributor. He is the assistant editor of The Ecomusicology Review, a publication focused on the intersection of music and ecology, an associate editor of the Ethnomusicology Review, and a former Middlebury Fellow in Environmental Journalism, in which capacity he researched and wrote about the relationship between sense of place and the conservation of natural soundscapes in national parks. Ben has spoken about art, environment, ecology, and place at primary schools, colleges, and universities, at the annual meeting of the Association of Environmental Studies and Sciences, and at the Princeton Graduate Student Conference on Water and the Making of Place in North America. He also developed and teaches the workshop "Reflecting Place in Music" at the Sitka Center for Art & Ecology in Oregon.
For bookings, commissions, and other inquiries, please contact us here.
Within New England, fee support for Ben Cosgrove may be available to nonprofit organizations through the New England States Touring (NEST) program of the New England Foundation for the Arts.
Boston Voyager interview (2018)
Redefine Rock interview (2018)
Red Line Roots interview (2017)
WGDR interview (2015)
Sound of Boston interview (2014)
"Don’t be fooled by the serene scene of Salt’s cover. This is a sharp inhale on a cold winter day: tense & beautiful & alive at once. Ben Cosgrove's music conveys its feeling as urgently as if he were screaming—except his language of choice is soft piano keys & guitar strings." - Sound of Boston
"Cosgrove is a mesmerizing piano player and his compositions in response to landscape make you look at the world more attentively." - Red Line Roots
“[Cosgrove's] melodies drift across haunting northern expanses amid polished arrangements, often gradually decomposing as chaos creeps in underneath. The music stirs intimate feelings of loneliness and homesickness, as well as taking on bigger places, distance, and a greater sense of history… these musical journeys evoke the melancholy and the frantic disorientation of departure, transit, and return.” – Harvard Magazine
“[Cosgrove] seemingly has the ability to play, and play well, any instrument he touches.” – Duluth News-Tribune
“An accomplished artist who has found a unique niche in music… Cosgrove combines an interest in the natural world with a remarkable musical ability to create albums and concerts that blend the two experiences..”– Huntington Herald-Dispatch
“Stupidly talented.” – Red Line Roots
"A moody exercise in restraint and excess; the composer's attention to space and atmosphere conveys as much emotional information as do the actual notes he plunks out... [w]hile it's easy to get lost in innovative chord progressions and dazzling finger work, Cosgrove's use of negative space and subtle, perhaps insignificant, details are just as striking. Replete with near-imperceptible embellishments and forward-thinking concepts, Salt is a majestic entry into the composer's catalog."
– Seven Days
“Even more impressive is his technical proficiency as a multi-instrumentalist — in his recorded music, his fingers glide across the piano keys, climbing arpeggio stairs; a guitar or trumpet will come in with a well-placed solo and just as effortlessly fade away.” – Sound of Boston
“His profound interest in place, landscape and geography has resulted in an album of lush compositions that paint an impressionistic musical portrait… From the avant-garde “Little Rain” to the solo piano work on “Abilene,” [Field Studies] offers up musical colors that reflect both Cosgrove’s own emotions and the grandeur of the landscapes encountered on his journeys.”– Merrimack Valley Magazine
“Compelling and powerful” -The Harvard Crimson
“The production and instrumentation by Ben Cosgrove is electric, tautly spare, and multilayered… recall[s] the feeling of a wide open dome of sky, of driving in the American West.” – Portland Phoenix
“[Field Studies] is a staggering work of resplendent beauty.” -ResidentMediaPundit.com
“The composer/performer displays an astonishing versatility in crafting his instrumental tracks: he builds them from piano, guitar, mandolin, banjo, trumpet, trombone, upright bass, and dynamic percussion, all of which Cosgrove plays, records, and mixes himself.” – Harvard Magazine
“That Yankee Division sounds so flawless is certainly no surprise… The truth is, Cosgrove’s talents know no bounds.” -ResidentMediaPundit.com
“Cosgrove’s performance was captivating: we were amazed by how well his stunning original compositions and charming stage presence played to an audience accustomed to folk and bluegrass music.” -Tamworth Lyceum (NH)