CV and About
Hello! My name is Kristian de Leon, and I am very excited to apply to Princeton's
PhD Program this year!
Please feel free to explore my full website through the navigation bar at the top of this page.
If you'd like to see a list of my current and past work, education, and music background history, click here for my CV.
My academic statement of purpose can be found below:
My music is an amalgam of creative and personal experiences; from facets of performance and visual art to slices of heart and home, my work combines my passion for collaborative creation and multidisciplinary interests. Through learning from the histories of new friends and musicians, I have been able to hone my own craft while planting seeds for meaningful, lifelong connections. I am seeking a doctoral program that will both fortify this growth and foster greater development.
Princeton’s renowned doctoral composition program owns a legacy of innovation through promoting creativity without regard to genre definition. I am deeply drawn to their encouraging community of faculty and students and would thrive in the space that champions experimentation with polystylistic expression while offering the same support to my peers in return. Princeton’s work with renowned ensembles like So Percussion and the Laptop Orchestra as well as concerts through the Princeton Sound Kitchen and Freelance concert series would grant opportunities to solidify my core musical identity by allowing a place to simply play with sound. Collaborations with performers and ensembles would allow me to focus on writing music based on my own ideas while granting space for the expression of performance identity. Further, meeting creators from other Princeton University departments such as dance, theatre, and visual arts would encourage skill integration through inter-arts collaborations. My greatest goal is to create art inspired by human experience without limitation by medium and genre, and at Princeton, I would be able to gain the tools to make this possible.
My first (and favorite) question is, “What is your favorite thing about your work?”. As a collaborator, I focus on supporting individual voices through honoring their personal experiences. By highlighting passions about the craft, I create space to express individuality while emboldening a spirit of experimentation. My piano solo with optional electronics, adrift, comes from extended conversations with my collaborator, Mason Margut, about methods of piano-based improvisation steeped in inspiration from our favorite musicians. Including granular delay, reverb, and tape looping invites the performer to listen deeper to the work’s gestures and qualities of the acoustic piano, seen through my own interest in electronic synthesis.
I focus on theatrical performance and visual art to redefine the traditional concert experience. With my history of creating collaborative theatrical percussion performances complete with staging, costuming, and music design from my time as an indoor marching percussion instructor and deconstructions of sound as it navigates sonic space from Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening, I highlight the indulgent multi-sensory nature of music through the creation of impactful multimedia concert works that push boundaries beyond the threshold of the stage. My upcoming graduate recital, “Tone:Color”, is an evening-length combination of tape media, electronic string quartet, dance, and synchronized light display that illustrates my chromosthetic experience through the extrapolation and abstraction of colored light and sound in physical space. Following NYU, my dream project is a completely immersive gallery installation featuring interactive sound, motion graphics, and kinetic sculpture design that reacts to visitors’ movement within the gallery, based on fully illustrating my experiences with synesthesia.
Through a combination of groove, tone color, and harmony, I work to create patchworks that weave between abstractions of settings and spaces that reconfigure into illustrations of universal experience. My first large ensemble work, State of Alarm, recreates my own visceral reactions to heated political battles, lockdown doldrums, and Black Lives Matter movements for minority equality that shook the public throughout 2020. I wrote this piece to raise my voice in support of historically marginalized communities who suffer from unequal rights and representations. All proceeds from this piece have and will continue to be donated to local organizations that work against this systematic oppression in hopes that systems designed to uphold socio-economic inequality against minorities like my own personal communities may one day be dismantled.
I paint scenes of harmony and texture through blends of popular music inspiration and classical technique, focused on exploring essences of emotion through portraits of sound paired with extramusical stimuli. I want to involve listeners; let them pieces of themselves in the music and be moved with their own honest expressions. Under the guidance of Princeton faculty like Steve Mackey and Donnacha Dennehey, who create rich, intricate works through structure and orchestration, Juri Seo and Dmitri Tymoczko, who find ways to expand material through technical form and structure, and Dan Truman, who sparks joy through innovation and experimentation with technology, I would be able to solidify my practice through the immersion of a great variety of expertise. I want to expand the limits of my artistic expression, and the doctoral program’s flexibility and the community of peers would be able to push me to new heights.
Princeton’s support of interdisciplinary humanities, availability of community, and opportunity for collaboration with a very wide range of mentors and ensembles are the biggest reasons why I am applying to the doctoral composition program. I am driven by my mantra, “teach, write, play”. Following my doctoral education, I aim to continue sharing my love of music through training new generations of contemporary musicians by teaching composition courses and private lessons and directing my own contemporary ensemble much like Contemporaneous and Grand Valley New Music Ensemble. I am deeply inspired by my previous mentors’ tenacity for creating new music; and, the educational and institutional resources are instrumental in my development toward becoming someone who will inspire future generations to come, as my mentors have before me. Between the wealth of knowledge and experience, the support of social and professional connections, and freedom of exploration and personal expression, Princeton’s doctoral program is my perfect match for a space where I can help others become greater while learning to become a stronger musician, artist, collaborator, and human.