Marilyn Nonken

Associate Professor of Music and Music Education

Phone: 212.998.5612

Marilyn Nonken is one of the most celebrated champions of the modern repertoire of her generation, known for performances that explore transcendent virtuosity and extremes of musical expression. Upon her 1993 New York debut, she was heralded as "a determined protector of important music" (New York Times). Recognized a "one of the greatest interpreters of new music" (American Record Guide), she has been named “Best of the Year” by some of the nation's leading critics.

Marilyn Nonken's performances have been presented at such venues as Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Miller Theatre, the Guggenheim Museum, (Le) Poisson Rouge, IRCAM and the Théâtre Bouffe du Nord (Paris), the ABC (Melbourne), Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano (Santiago), the Music Gallery (Toronto), the Phillips Collection, and the Menil Collection, as well as conservatories and universities around the world. Festival appearances include Résonances and the Festival d'Automne (both Paris), When Morty Met John, Making Music, Works and Process, and NYX II: New York Prog and Experimental Music Festival (all New York), American Sublime (Philadelphia), The Festival of New American Music (Sacramento),Environs Messiaen (Cornell University), Grisey, le moment spectral et son heritage (Montreal), Musica Nova (Helsinki), Aspects des Musiques d'Aujourd-hui (Caen), Messiaen 2008 (Birmingham, UK), ATEMPO (Caracas), New Music Days (Ostrava), Musikhøst (Odense), Music on the Edge (Pittsburgh), Piano Festival Northwest (Portland), Unruly Music (Milwaukee), and the William Kapell International Piano Festival and Competition. Highlights of recent seasons have included performances of Hugues Dufourt's Erlkönig, Morton Feldman's Triadic Memories, and Tristan Murail's complete piano music, as well perfomances of Olivier Messiaen's "Visions de l'Amen" with Peter Hill.  Composers who have written for her include Milton Babbitt, Drew Baker, Pascal Dusapin, Jason Eckardt, Michael Finnissy, Joshua Fineberg, Liza Lim, Elizabeth Hoffman, and Tristan Murail.

She has recorded for New World Records, Mode, Lovely Music, Albany, Metier, Divine Art, Innova, CRI, BMOP Sound, New Focus, Cairos, Tzadik, and Bridge. Solo discs include "American Spiritual," a CD of works written for her, “Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories,” “Tristan Murail: The Complete Piano Music,” “Stress Position: The Complete Piano Music of Drew Baker," and "Voix Voilees: Spectral Music for Piano." She appears as concerto soloist in David Rakowski's Piano Concerto (Gil Rose and the Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Roger Reynolds's “The Angel of Death (Magnus Martensson and the Slee Sinfonietta), and Jason Eckardt's "Trespass" (Timothy Weiss and the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble).

A student of David Burge at the Eastman School, Marilyn Nonken received a Ph.D. degree in musicology from Columbia University. Her writings on music have been published in Tempo, Perspectives of New Music, Contemporary Music Review, Agni, Current Musicology, Ecological Psychology, the Journal of the Institute for Studies in American Music, Music and Medicine, and the Journal of Hand Therapy. She has contributed chapters to “Perspectives on the Performance of French Piano Music” and “Messiaen Perspectives 2: Techniques, Influence, and Reception” (both Ashgate). Her monograph, "The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age" was published in 2014 by Cambridge University Press. Director of Piano Studies at New York University's Steinhardt School, Marilyn Nonken is a Steinway Artist.


  • Piano Concerto: Freely; Vivace
    Composer: David Rakowski
    Album: Album: Winged Contraption
    Performed by Marilyn Nonken, Boston Modern Orchestra Project.

Degrees Held

  • Bachelor of Music Eastman School of Music 1992
  • Master of Arts Columbia University 1995
  • Master of Philosophy Columbia University 1995
  • Ph.D Columbia University 1999
    Musicology (Theory)

Selected Publications

  • "Review of Music Theory in Concept and Practice, ed. James M. Baker, David W. Beach, and Jonathan Bernard," Current Musicology, Vol. 62, Columbia University Press, 1998.
  • "The Pianist's Space," Newsletter of the Institute for American Music, 2000.
  • "Performers on Performance," (guest editor), Contemporary Music Review, Routledge, 2002.
  • "La notation ne peut rendre compte du fait:" Performing Murail's 'Territoires de l'Oubli," Tempo, 244/62, Cambridge University Press, 2008, 2-10.
  • "What Do Musical Chairs Afford? On Clarke's 'Ways of Listening' and Sacks's 'Musicophilia." Ecological Psychology 20/4 (2008): 283-295.
  • “Messiaen and the Spectralists.” In Messiaen Perspectives 2: Technique, Influence and Reception. Eds. Christopher Dingle and Robert Fallon. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2013.
  • The Spectral Piano: From Liszt, Scriabin, and Debussy to the Digital Age. Cambridge University Press. 2014.
  • “Messiaen to Murail, or, What Sounds Become.” In Perspectives on the Performance of French Piano Music. Ed. Scott McCarrey and Leslie A. Wright. Aldershot: Ashgate. 2014.


  • MPAPE-GE 2187 20th and 21st Century Piano Literature
  • MPAPE-GE Colloquy for Pianists (Graduate)
  • MPAPE-GE 2185 - Piano Literature: Aesthetics, Reception, and Performance Practice
  • MPAPE-UE 1056/MPAPE-GE 2356 - Private Piano (Undergraduate/Graduate) 
  • MPAPE-UE 1080/MPAPE-GE 2034 - Chamber Music (Undergraduate/Graduate)
  • MPAPE-UE 92 - Program Meeting for Pianists (Undergraduate) 


"Jason Eckardt: Trespass." Marilyn Nonken with the Oberlin Contemporary Music Ensemble. Tzadik (forthcoming 2014).

"Miguel Chuaqui: Blues en el Corazon." Centaur (forthcoming 2014). 

" Voix Voilees: Spectral Music for Piano." Metier msv28524, 2013.

"Drew Baker: Stress Position (Complete Piano Works)." New Focus FCR 116, 2011.

"David Laganella: The Calls of Gravity." New Focus FCR114, 2010.

"Chris Bailey: Immolation Ritual." Innova 695, 2010.

"Brian Ferneyhough: La Chute d'Icare, Les Froissements d'Ailes de Gabriel." Marilyn Nonken with Elision. Kairos 2010.

"Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen." Marilyn Nonken with Sarah Rothenberg. Bridge 9324, 2010.

"Roger Reynolds: Epigram and Evolution/The Complete Piano Works ." Marilyn Nonken with the Slee Sinfonietta. Mode, MDE 212, 2009.

"David Rakowski: Winged Contraption." Marilyn Nonken with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project. BMOP Sound 1009. 2009.

"Chris Dench: Beyond Status Geometry." Tzadik CD tz 8044, 2008.

"William Albright: Music for Saxophones." Marilyn Nonken with the PRISM Quartet. Innova CD 687, 2007.

"Charles Wuorinen: Adapting to the Times." Albany, Troy 871, 2006.

"Louis Karchin: Matrix," Albany, Troy 895, 2006.

"Tristan Murail: The Complete Piano Music," Metier MSV-CD 92097, 2005.

"Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories," Mode CD 136, 2004.

"Jason Eckardt: Out of Chaos" (with Ensemble 21), Mode CD137, 2004.

"David Rakowski: Martian Counterpoint," Albany, Troy 187, 2004.

"American Spiritual: Works by Babbitt, Nichols, Eckardt, Finnissy," CRI 877, 2001.

"Alvin Lucier: Still Lives," Lovely Music LCD 5012, 2001.

"David Rakowski: Hyperblue," (with Ensemble 21), CRI 831, 2000. 

"Salvatore Martirano: Cocktail Music," New World Records 80535-2, 1998.

Research Interests

  • Spectral Music for Piano
  • 20th- and 21st-Century Piano Music: Literature, Reception, and Performance Practice
  • Ecological Psychology and Music Perception
  • Post-Cagean American Composition

Selected Presentations

  • "Spectres Transatlantiques"
    Festival D'Automne, Paris, France, 9/9/06
  • "Contemporary French Composers: Durand, Dusapin, Murail"
    French Embassy, Maison Francaise Washington, D.C. 10/28/06
  • "Virtuosity and Politics"
    Rice University, Houston, TX 3/1/07
  • "Music and Philosophy: Ives, Cage, and Finnissy"
    Amherst College, MA 2/28/07
  • "Collaboration and Confrontation: Working with Composers"
    William Kapell International Piano Competition and Festival University of Maryland at College Park, 7/18/07
  • "La notation ne peut rendre compte du fait:" Performance Practice and Notation in Murail's Territoires de l'Oubli "
    "French Music: Performance Practice and Aesthetics." Brigham Young University of Hawaii, 11/17/07
  • "New Piano Music: Aesthetics and Performance Practice"
    Brandeis University, 11/1/07
  • "Messiaen & Murail: Catalogue d'Oiseaux/Les Travaux et les Jours"
    Festival Aspects des Musiques d'Aujourd-hui, Conservatoire National de Region, Caen, France, 3/16/08
  • "Treasures from the Archives: Morton Feldman & Erich Itor Kahn"
    Walter Reade Theatre, Lincoln Center, New York, NY, 11/1/08.
  • "Messiaen to Murail, or, What Sounds Become"
    Messiaen 2008 Centennial Conference. Birmingham Conservatoire, England, 6/23/08.
  • "The Music of Tristan Murail"
    Co-presentation with Tristan Murail, Maison Francaise, NYU, 10/16/08
  • "Composer Portrait: Jason Eckardt, Undersong"
    Miller Theatre, New York, NY, 11/16/08.
  • "Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen"
    Rothko Chapel, Houston, TX, 12/9/08.
  • "Sounds of New York: Music of Babbitt, Baker, Eckardt, Feldman, Finnissy, & Lim"
    Musica Nova, Helsinki, Finland, 2/9-11/09. Panel discussion with Paul Miller, aka DJ Spooky (2/9), recital (2/10) and lecture-presentation at the Sibelius-Academy 2/11).
  • New Commissions: Festinger's 'La pianiste' and Lim's 'The Four Seasons (After Cy Twombly)'"
    McGill University, Montreal, 3/19/09.
  • New Commissions; Festinger's 'La pianiste," Lim's 'The Four Seasons (After Cy Twombly),' and Baker's 'Stress Position'"
    The Music Gallery, Toronto, 3/21/09.
  • "Exploring the Unknown: Teaching and Learning New Music"
    World Piano Pedagogy Conference, Dallas, TX, 10/24/08.
  • "Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen"
    Baryshnikov Arts Center, New York, NY 6/23/09
  • "Perception of live and recorded musical performances"
    15th Annual International Conference on Action and Perception. Minneapolis, University of Minnesota. 7/16/09.
  • "New Music and Challenges to the Performer"
    New England Conservatory, Boston. 9/25/09.
  • "New American Music: Hoffman, Baker, Beaudoin, Rakowski, and Festinger"
    Festival of New American Music, Sacramento. 11/9/09.
  • "Modern Virtuosos: Liza Lim - The Four Seasons (After Cy Twombly)"
    Menil Collection, Houston. 11/17/09.
  • "Tristan Murail: Territoires de L'Oubli"
    Zipper Concert Hall, Los Angeles. 12/7/09.
  • "Morton Feldman: Triadic Memories"
    Players Theatre, New York. 3/3/10.
  • "Olivier Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen"
    (Le) Poisson Rouge, New York. 8/2/10.
  • "The Chilean Bicentennial: Music of Rzewski and Chuaqui"
    Instituto Chileno-Norteamericano, Santiago, Chile. 11/3/10.
  • "Frederick Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated!"
    (Le) Poisson Rouge, New York. 11/9/10.
  • "Interpretations: Joseph Kubera and Marilyn Nonken"
    Roulette, New York. 3/17/11.
  • "Tristan Murail: La Mandragore, Comme un oeil suspendu ..., Territoires de l'Oubli"
    University of British Columbia School of Music, Vancouver. 3/23/11.
  • "Gyorgy Kurtag: A Composed Program"
    The Menil Collection, Houston, TX. 1/31/12.
  • "Marilyn Nonken and Joseph Kubera"
    University of California at Santa Cruz. 4/5/12.
  • "The Grand Gesture: Messiaen and Stravinsky"
    Peak Performances at Montclair, Kasser Theatre. 4/13/13.
  • "Voix Voilees: Spectral Music for Piano"
    ATEMPO Festival, Caracas, Venezuela. 6/29/13.
  • "Voix Voilees: Spectral Music for Piano"
    Spectrum, New York. 9/8/13
  • "Spectral Music for Piano: Fineberg and Murail"
    Boston University Center for New Music. 9/20/13.
  • "Piano Seminar: Spectral Music for Piano"
    New England Conservatory, Boston. 9/20/13.
  • "Unruly Music: Fineberg, Dufourt, Murail"
    Peck School of Music, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 10/3/13.
  • "Spectral Convocation: Troncin, Trapani, Murail"
    Western Connecticut State University. 3/10/14.
  • "Voluptuous Virtosity: Troncin, Trapani, Murail"
    Spectrum, New York. 4/4/14.
  • "Marilyn Nonken and Augustus Arnone Play Lou Bunk and Edmund Campion"
    Faust Harrison Pianos, New York. 5/3/14.
  • "Marilyn Nonken with Collide-O-Scope: Campion, Troncin, Harvey, Wolpe"
    Roulette, New York. 6/25/14.
  • "Frequency Series: Marilyn Nonken Plays Baker, Troncin, Clift, Fineberg, Vivier"
    Constellation, Chicago. 9/6/14.
  • "Messiaen: Visions de l'Amen/Marilyn Nonken & Peter Hill"
    (le) Poisson Rouge, New York. 10/12/14.
  • CIRRMT Distinguished Lecture-Recital: The Spectral Piano - An Ecological Inquiry"
    Tanna Schulich Hall, McGill University, Monteal. 10/16/14.
  • "Grisey and the Spectral Piano"
    Grisey, the Spectral Moment, and Its Legacy, McGill University, Montreal. 10/21/14.
  • Voluptuous Virtuosity: Drew Baker Portrait"
    Spectrum, New York. 12/14, 2014.
  • "Composers Now Festival" Opening Event
    The Cell, New York. 1/30/15.
  • "Environs Messiaen"
    Cornell University, Ithaca. 3/5-6/2015.