A drummer, composer and improviser whose music enthusiastically defies category, Sean Noonan prefers the title “Rhythmic Storyteller” – an apt description for a modern-day sonic griot who spins imaginative yarns in the ancient tradition of wandering minstrels while weaving captivating narrative tapestries via his unique polyrhythmic language. His music is informed by an eclectic variety of influences, rock opera, avant-garde chamber music, harmolodic jazz-rock, and aleatoric comprovisation.
My projects and albums have featured Marc Ribot, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Malcolm Mooney (CAN), Matthew Bourne and Abdoulaye Diabaté. I have published over 120 works which have been reviewed, broadcasted and heard by thousands of listeners in over 15 countries, with hundreds of performances in diverse venues and international festivals like: Bimhuis, A38, EFG London Jazz Festival, Haldern Pop Festival, Jazz Liege, Jazz Od Nowa, Sons D'Hiver MS Stubnitz Nottingham Jazzsteps Vilnius Jazz Festival Jazzclub Unterfahrt The Roulette, NY Kraakpand, Ghent.
Conlon Nancarrow declared: “Time is the last frontier of music”. Stealing and Stretching is my current PhD research project which examines how polytemporal techniques can meaningfully inflect perception of time in musical compositions. I am interested in investigating existing polytemporal practices within the context of my field, experimental classical music, as well as applications in jazz, rock, popular music, and non-Western traditions. My interest in this topic is a culmination of over 20 years of performing, composing and research into disparate musical traditions and interests.
In 1999 I received a Bachelor in Music Education at Berklee College of Music. During my studies I worked at the Old School House Theater on Sanibel Island, Florida, backing legendary Hollywood songstress Marni Nixon. After I settled in New York forming THE HUB which John Fordham (The Guardian) described as "Maniacally exhilarating, gripping in its precision and energy, a real breath of fresh air." While on tour in Italy in 2003 I was in a near-fatal car wreck and during my long period of recovery and rehabilitation I discovered the polytemporal music of Conlon Nancarrow.
A 2006 commission from the American Composers Forum led to formulating the "wandering folk" theory where I span the globe collecting and adapting folklore of diverse cultural traditions. During this period of travel and research between 2006 and 2011 I created 5 albums as the Afro-Celtic world music project Brewed by Noon.
In 2011 I earned a Masters Degree in Composition from the Aaron Copland Music School which resulted in the release of A Gambler’s Hand, a suite of pieces for amplified string quartet and drums, largely composed but with improvisational sections (third stream uniting jazz and classical forms and approaches), inspired equally by the great string quartet tradition (Beethoven and Bartok in particular).
In 2016 I was commissioned by the Sant'anna Arresi Jazz Festival to write the 90 minute Zappantion Rock Opera, where the artistic director asked me to dedicate a work to Frank Zappa and Edgar Varese. My discography includes 25 diverse albums such as the 2019 Rarenoise Records release Tan Man's Hat which fuses free funk pre-rap beat poetry by Malcolm Mooney of CAN and Jamaaladeen Tacuma from Ornette Coleman's Primetime.
My latest two projects are Drumavox which bridges past and future through melding ancient traditions and folk tales with experimental techniques and irreverent songwriting in a whirlwind of folk and avant-jazz, offbeat rock and vocal harmonies. Drumavox features a virtuosic and fearless Sardinian vocal quartet from the Zappanation Rock Opera and pairs contrasts as startlingly and harmoniously as it pairs percussion and voice.
Anatomical Planes, is a new music series with the London based Ligeti Quartet which continues to explore concepts from A Gambler’s Hand (2012) and In the Ring (2014). The five comprovisations are part of a future album release Knott Tones, which employ polytemporal concepts from Conlon Nancarrow's Studies for Player Piano: Study No. 5 (two repeating ostinatos at tempos of 5-against-7) Study No. 11 (an isorhythmic blues on a repeating sequence of 120 chords) and Study No. 20, (a pointillist duration canon of repeating notes within small ranges).
"Imagine a head on collision between Swell Maps, Gong, the Residents, the Magic Band and the Modern Lovers. Freeform jazzy struts, too many notes; outrageous, dayglo sonic curlicues." Richard Foster - Louder Than War
"The commitment to overall ambience, and mystery, and dark intensity is unwavering. Has there been an album (Memorable Sticks) so nonchalantly creepy released this year? That would be hard to imagine." New York Music Daily
"The drummer and composer Sean Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the same angle of self-discovery ....he manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice." The New York Times
"Drummer Noonan's notion of conflating 'bardic and griot traditions' has juice. The Celtic tunes and African grooves retain their singularity, even when surrounded by flashes of fusion." The Village Voice
"You think this might be boring? C’mon man, relax, this is Sean Noonan…it’s like nothing else out there." Something Else! S. Victor Aaron
"Menacingly surreal, often assaultive, a feast for fans of dark, challenging music…it’s a category unto itself – and one of the best in any style of music. Scary Stuff from Sean Noonan." Lucid Culture
"Stories to Tell," album by drummer Sean Noon's group Brewed by Noon, is a funky feast of music .....bursting with talented musicians and interesting sounds ...." All About Jazz New York
"Noonan strikes again conducting a string quartet with his drumsticks…like Bela Bartok french kissing with John Zorn. I wonder when the man finally will get some serious recognition in Culture loving Flanders?" Rifraf (BE)-Bootsie
"The drummer is a musical terrorist at heart…well-conceived and expertly arranged and performed pieces that reveal not merely an inner logic, but an external one as well. " Thom Jurek-allmusic
"This is not the typical release but an experience. A dynamic and virtually flawless execution of art at an apex of creativity few can match." Brent Black @CriticalJazz
"Sean Noonan's A Gambler's Hand is a further step forward in his evolving blend of music and narrative." - All About Jazz
" ....he succeeds at bridging the gap during the preponderance of these fascinating arrangements, constructed upon a multicultural array of cadences. Here, jazz vernaculars and birthrights are fused into a bold and beautiful chain of musical events, often enamored with vigor and finesse." www.ejazznews.com