Michael Douglas Mauldin (b. 14 June 1947, Port Arthur, Texas) first discovered the landscapes of New Mexico while still a boy, and has never ceased to marvel at the timeless interplay of space and light that imbues them with a sense of place unique in all the world. The son of a Presbyterian minister, during his school vacations in the 1950s Michael traveled with his family to church conferences held at Ghost Ranch, where he composed short pieces on an old piano he discovered in the convocation hall. In 1971, after earning a bachelor's degree in piano and music education at Washburn University and having begun graduate study in piano pedagogy at the University of Colorado, Michael returned to New Mexico. This time he had come to make his home among those "magical places, where the spirit of nature and the spirit of man interact with mutual reverence."
By 1974, Michael had completed a master's degree in music at the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, where he became fascinated with the use of synthetic tetrachords that "seemed to suggest almost all of the colors of the seven old 'church modes' at once, giving a sound that seemed both old and new, tonal yet dissonant, full of rich colors." Through these means, Michael discovered sonorities whose qualities, like the forces of nature, seemed ideally suited to evoking through music the New Mexico whose landscapes and peoples had for so long held for him such a powerful attraction. Michael's "Chaco Period," marked by an intense engagement with Anasazi culture, lasted until around 1984, and includes such important orchestral tableaux as Three Dances from Chaco Canyon (1981); High Places (1981); and Fajada Butte (1983).
Michael observes that around 1984 he entered a different phase in his creative life, informed by the perception "that the past, present and future are one." This heightened sense of timelessness pervades Dreams of the Child of Light, 2002, based on the life of the Dalai Lama, with whom Michael actually conversed during an unexpected encounter that happily confirmed the spiritual leader was "just as delightful and full of fun in his adulthood" as the boy chosen in 1940 to bear the most exalted title in Tibetan Buddhism.
Childhood holds a special significance for Michael, who, as a father having successfully raised two fine sons, Kendall and Kevin, has become a passionate advocate of the right of children to make important decisions affecting their own minds, bodies, and spirits. Inseparable from this advocacy is an attractive and accessible body of keyboard music Michael composed expressly for young people and his legacy as the highly respected director of the Alburquerque Boy Choir, which, during his long tenure, performed widely and to great acclaim for audiences in both the US and the UK.
In addition to his scores for orchestra and keyboard, Michael has produced choral and chamber music of exceptional quality. His works have been performed in cities across North America, Europe, and Australia by professional ensembles as diverse as the National Polish Radio Symphony Orchestra, the Kiev Phiharmonic, the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and the National Repertory Orchestra at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Much of his output has been recorded and is available on the ERM, Opus One, and other labels.
In the course of his career, Michael has served as President of both the New Mexico Music Teachers Association and the New Mexico Composers Guild and as National Chair of the Music Teachers National Association Student Composition Contest. He has been accorded numerous awards, honors, and commissions, and was designated "Composer of the Year" by the Music Teachers National Association in 1980. Today he teaches piano, voice, composition, orchestration, and pedagogy in Albuquerque and at his composing and teaching retreat near Cuba, New Mexico.
His appreciation of the continuing relevance of tonal composition stems from a keen awareness of the cyclical transcendence of linear time evident in the natural world:
As long as spring continues to return, rain falls, and birds sing, we will create tonal music. We do so not because we are bound by tradition, but simply because we believe each generation, regardless of collective previous experience, feels the human imperative to be "centered" before venturing forth and feels the human need to believe that there will be recurring resolution of tension and repeated reference to the grounding love of beauty and peace in the midst of conflict. The music that we create to satisfy that need can be used to "sell" things or to separate people, but it can also be a wordless universal language of "human-ness" that can help us cherish each other for our similarities and our differences.