Robert E. Cucinotta (born April 13, 1949 in Brooklyn, NY) is an American composer best known for his experimental percussion and electronic music. During what the composer calls his “long love-hate relationship with music technology”, he has often blurred the line between electronic and acoustic music by writing “electronically” for acoustic instruments and using samples and software to generate “acoustic” music. His compositions often mix classical and popular styles, ambient sounds, computer generated and natural voices, tonality and atonality. He cites Edgard Varèse, Charles Ives, Elliott Carter, Luciano Berio, early music and rock including Frank Zappa and early Grateful Dead among his influences.
Cucinotta gained early recognition for his percussion works after NY Philharmonic percussionist Morris “Arnie” Lang published Beasts and Triangulation (1974), for timpani and electronic tape in 1975. Performances of Triangulation resulting from its publication include those by Jonathan Haas, Thomas “Tony” McCutchen, Thomas Jones, David M. Booth, and Brian Willson. Spanish percussionist Roberto Oliveira performed it at the Royal Irish Academy of Music in Dublin in 2008.
His early work, The sky is waiting... (1976), dedicated to Varèse, was the first concert work composed for solo drum set. Percussionist Ray Marchica commissioned Cucinotta for the work and premiered it in May of 1976 and with a repeat performance at a Joel Sachs Pillow and Chair concert in December. Published by Lang Percussion in 1977, both the Idaho and Maryland Music Educators Associations have included this difficult work on their graded lists of music recommended for competitions and auditions. Kevin Arthur Nichols in his 2012 dissertation Important works for drum set as a multiple percussion instrument describes the work:
A performer new to the work will notice a very expanded instrumentation and complex notation. It would appear that a performer should approach this work with a brash, aggressive attitude. That reaction is soon altered after focusing on the very delicate application of these instruments and how the work is a musical poem.
Performances of his concert works also include those by the 21st Century Consort, Dorian Wind Quintet, American Brass Quintet, Brooklyn Philharmonic Chamber Ensemble, the Staten Island Symphony, guitarists David Starobin and Patrick O'Brien; pianist Justin Kolb, violinist Stefan Muhmenthaler, flutists Andrew Bolotowsky and Claudia Tulip; clarinetists Ronald Krentzman and James Cucinotta, percussionists Morris Lang, Larry Spivack, Ray Marchica, Matthew Posnick, Jonathan Haas, Jason Cirker, Roberto Oliveira, Keren Minto and Gary France, baritone Elliot Levine, sopranos Sharon Israel (Cucinotta), and Constance Cooper.
His contributions to theater include incidental and electronic music for productions of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1997), Romeo and Juliet (2000), As You Like It (2008) and The Tempest (2010). His recent theater work includes the music and sound design for Jules Feiffer's play, Little Murders (2010) and Dracula by Steven Deitz (2013).
Currently living in Roxbury, NY in the western Catskill Mountains, Robert Cucinotta and his wife poet Sharon Israel have recently been collaborating and performing their works combining poetry and electronic soundscapes in Woodstock, Kingston, the Catskill Interpretive Center, the Orphic Gallery, on WIOX-FM radio and at other local venues throughout the upstate watershed.
A concert version of Little Murders for vibraphone, piano and FX was performed by the Macaulay Chamber Players in 2011 at the CUNY Grad Center and at Lehman College. His MASQUE: the Tempest was premiered at the 2015 Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice by mezzo-soprano Maria Todaro, bass-baritone Bradley Smoak and pianist Doug Martin.
Recent recordings include DIVERTIMENTO FOR MR. BROOKS (2013), KOOOL KITCHEN (2013), DRACULA: HARKER'S JOURNAL (2014), an adaptation of the first four chapters of Bram Stoker's classic gothic novel, LIFE ON THE SCREEN (2016) and SICILIA (2018).
Cucinotta has been published by Lang Percussion Company (ASCAP) and Kirkside Music (ASCAP) and has been a recipient of numerous grants from ASCAP and Meet-the-Composer.