Charles Nichols

Charles Nichols

Associate Professor - Composition, Creative Technologies

Composer, violinist, and computer music researcher, Charles Nichols is an Assistant Professor of Composition and Creative Technologies and a Faculty Affiliate at the Institute for Creativity, Arts, and Technology (ICAT).

As a composer, he explores the expressive potential of instrumental ensembles, computer music systems, and combinations of the two, for the concert stage, and collaborations with dance, video, and installation art.

In the band Modality he performs processed electric violin, bass guitar, and computer.

His research includes spatial audio, data sonification, motion capture for musical performance, telematic performance, and haptic musical instrument design. 

His recent premieres include Or Be Forever Fallen, three movements for heavily processed amplified string quartet accompanying animated sci-fi video, that he performed on computer with the Beo String Quartet and video artist Zach Duer in the Fife Theatre in Blacksburg, VA, Beyond the Dark, ambient synthesized sound and sonified space weather data accompanying kinetic installation art and 3D lighting, presented with architect Paola Zellner Bassett at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, Upstream, for electric violin and jazz band, that he performed on electric violin with the Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble and director Jason Crafton in the Lyric Theatre in Blacksburg, VA , Underlying Space, recorded processed electric violin accompanying a video installation of the history and work of thirty woman architects, presented with architect Paola Zellner Bassett, at the American Institute of Architects National Headquarters in Washington, DC, Flutter, Pulse, and Flight, three movements for amplified flute, clarinet, violin, cello, and computer, that he performed on computer with Earplay in the Meyer Constellation sound system at the Taube Atrium Theater in San Francisco, CA, and Shakespeare's Garden, an immersive theatrical installation for processed environmental sounds played in 134.2-channel spatial audio, performed poetry played through directional spotlight speakers, graphic design projected on multiple scrims, and dramatic lighting, presented with directors Amanda Nelson and Natasha Staley, graphic designer Meaghan Dee, lighting designer John Ambrosone, and media engineer Tanner Upthegrove, presented in the Cube in Blacksburg, VA.

Contact Me

(540) 231-8502
242-N Squires (0138)
290 College Avenue
Blacksburg, VA 24061

Areas of Expertise

  • Composition, Creative Technologies
  • Production/Research Areas: Acoustic and Electroacoustic Composition and Performance, Computer Music Research
  • Teaching Areas: Composition, Computer Music & Multimedia

Education & Training

  • Ph.D., Stanford University
  • M.M., Yale University School of Music
  • B.M., Eastman School of Music

What is the most satisfying or rewarding moment of your artistic process?

As a composer, the most satisfying moment of my artistic process is when the music starts to assert itself, leading the organization of the piece.

What gives you the most satisfaction as a teacher?

That moment during a lecture, when a student lights up with understanding, gives me the most satisfaction as a teacher.

What is the most important quality for any student in the performing arts to cultivate?

Persistence or perseverance is the most important quality for any artist, especially for students and young artists.

Memberships & Affiliations

  • Worked as a Research Associate at the Center for Studies in Music Technology (CSMT) and as a Research Assistant at Haskins Laboratories at Yale University 
  • Served as the Interim and Associate Technical Director of the Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA) at Stanford University
  • Conducted research as a visiting scholar at the Sonic Arts Research Centre at Queen's University, Belfast
  • Taught computer music workshops at the Banff Centre, Charlotte New Music Festival, and the University of Rome
  • Composed as a resident at the Ucross and Brush Creek artist retreats

Honors & Awards

  • Funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Science Foundation, New Music USA, and PROP Foundation
  • Commissioned by the Missoula Symphony Orchestra, Earplay, Third Angle Ensemble, Headwaters Dance Company, Charlotte New Music Festival, Iowa Music Teachers Association, Montana State Music Teachers Association, Myrna Loy Center for the Performing and Media Arts, Missoula Art Museum,  Montana Public Radio, Butte America Foundation,  Association for American Medical Colleges, Montana Institute on Ecosystems, Virginia Tech University, Drake University, University of Oregon, University of Montana, and Temple University
  • Performed by the Missoula Symphony Orchestra, University of Montana Symphony Orchestra, University of Montana Wind Ensemble, Washington and Jefferson Jazz Ensemble, Winthrop University Jazz Ensemble, Virginia Tech Jazz Ensemble, Beo String Quartet, Cascade String Quartet, Earplay, FLUX Quartet, Hypercube, Kandinsky Trio, Klang String Quartet, loadbang, Namaste Ensemble, PEN Trio, Sapphire Trio, Temple New Music Ensemble, Third Angle Ensemble, Transient Canvas, Virginia Tech Brass Ensemble, Charlotte New Music Festival Laptop Ensemble, Linux Laptop Orchestra, Mountain Electroacoustic Laptop Ensemble, University of Rome Laptop Ensemble, Charles Castleman, Brett Deubner, William Lang, Richard Masters, Darragh Morgan, Sarah Plum, Richard Steinbach, Steve Vacchi, and Alan Weinstein

Sample Work

To make a gift to the School of Performing Arts visit the link below. Designate your gift to the College of Liberal Arts and Human Sciences. Once you select the College a secondary field will open and you may then designate the School of Performing Arts.

Make a Gift
load indicator