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 and Music Theory. Other teaching posts have included positions at the Philadelphia College of the Performing Arts, the Governor's School for the Arts held at Bucknell University, the University of Pittsburgh Computer Music Workshop, and the Birkshire Music Center at Tanglewood.
Morris is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the A. Whitney Griswald Foundation, the American Music Center and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 1975 he was a MacDowell Colony fellow. 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; Tokyo, 1993); Composer's Symposium (Albuquerque, 1991); Contemporary Music Festival, (Santa Barbara, 1992); "Composer to Composer" (Telluride, 1990). He has received numerous awards and commissions including those from the Pittsburgh Symphony, Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Yale University, Speculum Musicae, Alienor Harpsichord Society, Hartt College Festival of Contemporary Organ Music, National Flute Association. His many compositions have been performed in North America, Europe, Australia, and Japan. Recently, Morris's music has been performed at the 1993 Kobe International Modern Music Festival, and by the Ensemble 21 and New Millennium Ensembles of New York. His music is recorded on CRI, New World, Music Gallery Editions, and Attacca.
Morris has written music for a wide diversity of musical forms and media. He has composed over 100 works including computer and improvisational music. Much of his 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 between his musical aesthetics, his experiences in hiking--especially in the Southwestern United States, and his reading of ancient Indian and Chinese Buddhist texts.
In addition to his music, Morris has written many articles and reviews which have appeared in the Journal of Music Theory, Asterisk*, In Theory Only, Music Theory Spectrum, Journal of the American Musicology Society, and Perspectives of New Music contributing to theories of compositional design, electronic music and their computer implementation. Morris was the recipient of the "Outstanding Publication Award" of the Society for Music Theory in 1988 for his book, Composition with Pitch-Classes: A Theory of Compositional Design, published by Yale University Press.