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Michael Golden, DMA - Soka University. Aliso Viejo, CA, US

Michael Golden, DMA

Professor of Music Composition and Theory, and Director, Creative Arts Program | Soka University


Michael Golden’s teaching and creative interests include composition and jazz improvisation, music and ecology, and music and peacebuilding


Born in 1952 in New York City, USA, Dr. Golden began learning jazz piano with Kenny Barron and Billy Gault at the Jazzmobile School. He later studied music composition with Tomas Svoboda, William Bergsma, William O. Smith, and Diane Thome, music theory with Jonathan Bernard, and music history and ethnomusicology with Robert Trotter and Christopher Waterman. His compositions have been performed on six of the seven continents, including throughout the US, and include regional and national commissions and scores for film and theatre productions, along with numerous jazz works.

Professor Golden’s current research interests stem from his focus on musicking as a universal human behavior. They include work in ethnomusicology, music psychology, music and ecology, creativity, and music in peacebuilding activities. In addition to his responsibilities at SUA, Dr. Golden serves as a Research Fellow with the Min-On Music Research Institute.

Areas of Expertise (6)

Composition (including computer music)

Jazz and Improvisation

World Music

Music Theory

Music and Ecology

Music Psychology

Accomplishments (3)

Meet the Composer/Commissioning Music USA Award (professional)


1st Prize, Guitar Foundation of America Intl. Composition Comp. (professional)



“From” (from Last Words) (2007). Easter in Italy/Africa in America. Colby College Chorale (Cat. 80067-29) “Bidder to Better” (2004). American Music for Violin and Piano. The Nevelson Duo. Albany Records, TROY652 “FramésetuDe” (1997). Bouquet. Patrick Kearney, guitar. Les Disques La Flame, LF 9701 “The Sea Change, and Other Stories” (1996). Contemporary American Eclectic Music for the Piano, Vol. 4. Jeffrey Jacob, piano. New Ariel Recording

Education (3)

University of Washington: D. M. A.

University of Oregon: M. M.

University of Oregon: B. M.

Sample and Representative Talks (2)

The Music In and Of Ecology

Presented at the 2015 Balance/UnBalance Conference, March 2015, Arizona State University

The Ecology of Musicking: Emergent Behavior and Connectivity

Presented at the 20th Congress of the International Musicological Society, March 2017, Tokyo

Articles (3)

Music Emergent: Autopoiesis and Connected Worlds

Univ. of California Press Escholarship, Body of Knowledge: Embodied Cognition and the Arts Conference Proceedings

Michael Golden

2018 A survey of ethnomusicological studies of traditional cultures from around the world shows that, although the specific functions attributed to music are diverse, a common thread is that they involve connecting us to our environments: social, physical, and/or metaphysical. After proposing this as a definition of musicking, I consider this phenomenon in the context of the work of Maturana and Varela (the Santiago theory of cognition) and their successors. Human musicking can be understood as continuing the development of processes essential to all living things in their interactions with their environments, in other words, as an emergent property of life itself.

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Musicking as education for social and ecological peace: a new synthesis

Journal of Peace Education

Michael Golden

2016 The aim of this article is twofold: first, to confirm the multi-level linkage between the ecological and social realms in terms of violence, peace, and education, and second, to explore what light ecological thinking can shed on musicking as a potentially effective tool in peace education. The effects of violence in the ecological and social realms are clearly linked, but so are the causes (patterns of thought and behaviors) that lead to violence in each realm; these common causes (which Galtung refers to as ‘fault-lines’) are what need to be addressed, holistically, in peace education. The second aim requires two steps. First, based on meta-analysis of work by ethnomusicologists in diverse cultures, I propose a way of conceiving of human musicking as essentially an ecological behavior, one that has emerged to support the essential process of connecting us to our environment, connecting our inner and outer worlds. Beginning from this conception, I apply recent work in various ecology-related disciplines to show that this characteristic function of musicking makes it well-suited for addressing the root causes of violence in both social and ecological realms. Finally, looking at the challenges and goals of peace education through the lens of ecological thinking, I propose some practical applications, supporting ideas, and suggested models for implementing musicking activities in this endeavor.

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On Music, Interconnection and Consciousness

Music and Solidarity: Questions of Universality, Consciousness, and Connection