Robert Morris, born in Cheltenham, England in 1943, received his musical education at the Eastman School of Music (B.M. in composition with distinction) and the University of Michigan (M.M. and D.M.A. in composition and ethnomusicology), where he studied composition with John La Montaigne, Leslie Bassett, Ross Lee Finney, and Eugene Kurtz. At Tanglewood, as a Margret Lee Crofts Fellow, he worked with Gunther Schuller. Morris has taught composition, electronic music, and music theory at the University of Hawaii and at Yale University, where he was Chairman of the Composition Department and Director of the Yale Electronic Music Studio. He was also Director of the Computer and Electronic Studio, Director of Graduate (music) Studies, and Associate Professor of Music at the University of Pittsburgh. In 1980 Morris joined the faculty of the Eastman School of Music where he presently teaches as Professor of Composition with additional affiliation within the theory and musicology departments. (He was chair of the Composition Department from 2008-2011 and 1999-2005.
Morris is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the A. Whitney Griswald Foundation, the American Music Center, the Hanson Institute of American Music, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 1975 he was a MacDowell Colony fellow, and in 2008, a Djerassi artist. He has been guest composer at many festivals and series of new music including: the ISCM Festival of Contemporary Music (Paris, 1975; Boston, 1991); the International Conferences of Computer Music (Rochester, 1984; Urbana, 1987); “Composer to Composer” (Telluride, 1990); Composer’s Symposium (Albuquerque, 1991 and 2009); etc. Much of Morris’s output from the 1970s is influenced by non-Western music and uses structural principles from Arabic, Indian, Indonesian, Japanese, and early Western musics. While such influences are less noticeable in his more recent works, the temporal and ornamental qualities of Eastern music have permanently affected Morris’s style. Moreover, Morris has found much resonance among his musical aesthetics, his experiences in hiking (especially in the Southwestern United States), his study and appreciation of Carnatic Music of South India, and his reading of ancient Indian, Chinese, and Japanese Buddhist texts.