Ellis Ludwig-Leone

Ellis Ludwig-Leone (b. 1989) is a composer whose music combines lush, naturalistic textures with moments of thorny complexity. Influenced by a lifelong love of storytelling and myth, his music is distinguished by its narrative sweep and attention to subtle changes in emotional valence. Moments of clarity quickly swirl into murk; lyrical melodies twist into gnarled roots. Lauded by The New Yorker’s Jia Tolentino for his “knack for simultaneously expressing beauty and crisis,” Ludwig-Leone’s music exists in the fine margins between euphoria and dread.

Having come to international attention as the songwriter behind the celebrated indie band San Fermin, Ludwig-Leone has spent the greater part of the last decade balancing his work as a songwriter with a robust career as a composer of concert works written for many of today’s contemporary classical luminaries.

False We Hope, his first album of recorded concert works (out on Ludwig-Leone’s Better Company Records, February 2023), is an inaugural view for many into the composer’s singular imagination and the elements that shape his musical world: thickets of bristly strings that coalesce into glowing triads; ghostly voices that curl in and out of shifting harmonies; wispy melodies drifting over haunted fugues. Performed by frequent collaborators Eliza Bagg (Roomful of Teeth) and the Grammy-winning Attacca Quartet, and featuring original lyrics from author Karen Russell (Swamplandia!) and poet Carey McHugh (American Gramophone), False We Hope is a meditation on faith and family, the ghostly origins of language, and the lonely vigils people keep, together and alone. The piece premiered in spring 2022 at the acclaimed Big Ears Festival, to be followed by a worldwide release and subsequent tour in 2023.

Also in the 2022-23 season, The Night Falls, with music by Ludwig-Leone, lyrics by Ludwig-Leone and Karen Russell, and direction and choreography from Troy Schumacher (New York City Ballet), will premiere at PEAK Performances @ Montclair State University. Combining elements of opera, dance, and theater, The Night Falls is Ludwig-Leone’s first dramatic work for the stage. This season also sees the premiere of Daphne, a musical drama for the Brooklyn Youth Chorus with a libretto by Russell; the premiere and subsequent European tour of Past Life for Dutch harpist Lavinia Meijer and American violist Nadia Sirota; and the premiere of a new work for choreographer Danielle Rowe and the Grand Rapids Ballet.

Together with his bandmate Allen Tate, Ludwig-Leone is a founding partner of Better Company Records, a Brooklyn-based label with an emphasis on collaboration. Recently, the label released San Fermin’s In This House, a collaborative album that featured contributions from Attacca Quartet, Lisel, Nico Muhly, Sorcha Richardson, Thao, The Districts, Wild Pink, and Wye Oak.

Born in Rhode Island and raised in rural Massachusetts, he lives in Brooklyn.