Michelle Lou

Michelle Lou composes mainly in the realm of electro-acoustic music, both in hardware and in computer based forms. She has also created large scale sound installations which are often performative and collaborative. She performs and improvises on acoustic and electric bass, electric guitar, and on laptop and various electronics.

Her work has been presented at Wien Modern, Donaueschinger Musiktage, Darmstadt Ferienkurse, Bludenzer Tage zeitgemäßer Musik, The Festival of New American Music (Sacramento), the MATA Festival (New York City), The 66th American Music Festival at the National Gallery in Washington D.C., The Rainy Days Festival (Luxembourg), Ultima Festival (Oslo), Chance and Circumstance (Brooklyn), Klub Katarakt (Hamburg), Klangwerkstatt and MaerzMusik (both in Berlin), amongst others.

She received degrees in double bass performance and music composition from UC San Diego with additional studies at The Conservatorio G. Nicolini in Piacenza, Italy (double bass) and The UDK in Graz, Austria (composition), the latter on a Fulbright Fellowship. Graduate studies culminated in a doctorate in composition from Stanford University. Michelle was a Radcliffe Fellow at Harvard University and an Elliott Carter Rome Prize Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. She has been granted commissions from institutions like the Fromm Music Foundation, the Ernst von Siemens Music Foundation, and the Norwegian Arts Council.

Michelle has taught at short term courses such as the WasteLAnd Summer Composition Course, Line Upon Line Festival Academy, Composer’s Conference, and the Yarn/Wire Institute at Stony Brook. She has also taught as visiting faculty at Dartmouth College, the Akademie für Neue Musik in Boswil, Switzerland, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently on faculty at UC San Diego.


1. The unicorn is the national animal of Scotland.

2. A single cloud can weigh over a million pounds.

3. The average color of the universe is beige.

1. What is the biggest inspiration for your music?

I think what drives me is trying to create and experience a momentary kind of animalness – of being so much in your body, thoughts grasping – this is when newer spaces emerge, their sensual forms just taking shape.

2. How and when did you get into making music?

I was an MTV generation kid. So I wanted to be like Eddie Van Halen at first, but then I really got into what they call “New Wave” and “Alternative Rock” and wished I had a British accent since all the bands I listened to were from the UK. By the time I got to high school, after several years of crappy guitar lessons since the age of 12, I was trying to form bands and live the dream of being a rock star, touring and playing giant stadiums. That didn’t happen unfortunately. I managed to play some dive bars and my band was once heckled off the stage at this metal bar called Dream Street.

3. What are 5 of your favourite albums of all time?

(I’m just throwing out ones off the top of my head that I’ve listened to a ton…obviously there’s more…it’s terrible to ask me to choose only 5…)

Aphex Twin – I care because you do
Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
Echo and the Bunnymen – Ocean Rain
Mark Fell – multistability
Miles Davis – Get Up With It

4. What do you associate with Berlin?

Techno, long walks, bad Mexican food, depressing winters, where almost everyone I know goes to try to make their dreams come true. Many of my favorite people live there. I used to live there…

5. What’s your favourite place in your town?

There’s this hike that I really love about 45 minutes east of San Diego in the mountains. You park at the Penny Pines trailhead, but the trail I take is actually across the road. One trail/side you get a view of the desert, and on the other trail/side, the woods. It’s about a 6 mile loop, mostly flat with views of wild flowers, pine trees, chaparral, meadows, and a lake. Sometimes there’s snow on the ground, sometimes there are cows wandering around.

6. If there was no music in the world, what would you do instead?

A zig zag wanderer.

7. What was the last record/music you bought or listen?

Lately, I’ve tended to only buy music made by my friends. Two of my very dear former students, now friends and collaborators, started an amazing label called Party Perfect, which focuses on electronic music. Their recent release was by another dear friend of mine, Stefan Maier, whose album is called “Nervous Systems.” Check it out!

8. Who would you most like to collaborate with?

My friends.

9. What was your best gig (as performer or spectator)?

When I was a kid, my dad drove my older sister, her friends and I to the Rose Bowl in Pasadena to see Depeche Mode. Since this was going to be made into a concert movie, they put on a incredibly spectacular show – David Gahan dancing and spinning around on stage, throwing his shadow against the audience in the giant outdoor arena…Martin Gore in his BDSM style outfit, singing his ballads that I knew all the words to. When “A Question of Lust” began, it unexpectedly started to rain and little me was just in total love…I was completely in the moment. It was like the music brought the rain. It’s really hard to feel that way nowadays. Something about being so young and full of hope and knowing that the world was just opening up around me…

10. How important is technology to your creative process?

Very!! I have a hard time imagining making work without it. It’s how I frame my work, it’s what makes things interesting.

11. Do you have siblings and how do they feel about your music?

I have a twin brother and an older sister who never ask me anything about what I do.