karl ronneburg headshot.jpg

Karl Ronneburg


be that empty

be that empty is inspired by Rumi's "The Song of the Reed", as translated by Coleman Barks:

Listen to the story told by the reed,
of being separated.

"Since I was cut from the reedbed,
I have made this crying sound.

Anyone apart from someone he loves
understands what I say.

Anyone pulled from a source
longs to go back.

At any gathering I am there,
mingling in the laughing and grieving,

a friend to each, but few
will hear the secrets hidden

within the notes. No ears for that.
Body flowing out of spirit,

spirit up from body: no concealing
that mixing. But it's not given us

to see the soul." The reed flute
is fire, not wind. Be that empty.

Hear the love fire tangled
in the reed notes, as bewilderment

melts into wine. The reed is a friend
to all who want the fabric torn

and drawn away. The reed is hurt
and salve combining. Intimacy

and longing for intimacy, one
song. A disastrous surrender

and a fine love, together.  

Video Coming Soon!

About Karl

Karl Ronneburg is a composer, percussionist, and multimedia/performance artist from the Seattle area. In addition to frequently performing his own music, his work has also been played by bell towers, rock bands, wind ensembles, arcade machines, and people dressed in squirrel costume, among others. In 2017, he won the Brehm Prize for Instrumental Music with his composition “blue-green”, which was performed by the University of Michigan Symphony Band. He was also the recipient of the 2016 “Hack the Bells” grant, for which he created a half-hour musical experience for carillon with live electronics, car horns, brass quintet, and field recordings of a train. Karl is a composer-in-residence for the upcoming 2018-19 season with the Michigan-based Red Shoe Company, which will be playing brand-new arrangements of previous work and a world premiere commission.

Karl is also an active performer in a variety of interdisciplinary settings, including the role of the Dictator in Meredith Monk’s “Quarry” at the University of Michigan and a complete adaptation of Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson’s “Einstein on the Beach” for his living room, which Nico Muhly called "bonkers insane brilliant". The Threads All Arts Festival in Southeast Michigan twice featured Karl’s work: in 2018 with his multimedia video installation about a washing machine slowly exploding over the course of an hour, and a live improvised set in 2016 with the Weak Staff performance art group, which he co-founded.

As a percussionist, he has played with rock, punk, folk, and indie bands, jazz combos, classical orchestras, opera and musical theater pits, Brazilian samba baterías, dance companies, contemporary chamber groups, and more. In the summer of 2015, Karl had the honor to be chosen as one of four percussionists from the University of Michigan to be part of a featured guest percussion quartet at the Stellenbosch International Chamber Music Festival in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In addition, he was selected in 2013 to be one of five percussionists from across the country to participate in the first-ever National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, with which he performed at the Lincoln Center, the Moscow Conservatory, the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg, and at BBC Proms in London under the baton of Valery Gergiev and with soloist Joshua Bell. He has participated twice in the National Orchestral Institute: in 2016 as a percussionist and in 2017 as one of the four inaugural Innovation+Music Fellows, for which he worked in a design team with University of Maryland’s Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship to “re-imagine the future of classical music”. There he also co-created, curated, designed projections for, and performed in the evening-length NOI[SE] music festival at the MilkBoy ArtHouse, featuring four stages and about 35 musicians.

Karl received his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and now lives with his twin brother in New York City, studying with Missy Mazzoli and pursuing a Master’s Degree in Composition from the Mannes College of Music at the New School.