Adu has performed and composed for dance, theatre, film, gamelan, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington, the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Brentano String Quartet and So Percussion. She completed post-graduate studies in 2003 at Victoria University of Wellington, majoring in composition and specialising in Electro-acoustic Music, Ethnomusicology and Orchestration. Adu is currently a PhD Doctoral Fellow at Princeton University.
On June 20, 2015, Leila Adu, sang her orchestral piece, Rain as Blessings Fall, written as Orchestra Wellington’s Emerging-Composer-In-Residence-2014, to a packed house of sixteen hundred people at Wellington’s historic Michael Fowler Center.
After a little while, the shape of the piece emerged: limited amount of melodic material, mostly consisting of descending scales in a rhythm that might be described as part-time jazzy, related more to the idiom of the mid-century American musical than to jazz itself. The words sometimes sounded as if being forced into existing musical patterns… That it’s not meant to be judged as we might judge a sonata or an opera, but perhaps rather, a madrigal or a protest song, where the message or the spirit is more important than the artistic clothing in which it’s dressed. Read more: Review by Lindis Taylor in ‘Middle C’
The thread, always, is her voice… It was mesmerising as the voice became a mantra when singing of mantras, as the strings and horns moved around in a constantly modulating piece, tempo shifting, keys changing, it had busyness but never bluster.
Read more: Review by Simon Sweetman in ‘Off the Tracks’
“Leila Adu’s Two Songs for Voice and Orchestra, with the composer herself as a piquant soloist in music whose expressive beauties were contrived with considerable subtlety.”
— Sounz News
“Centred on her percussive piano playing and an astonishing voice there’s little I can compare it to. Lyrically too, there’s something refreshingly unpredictable about Leila Adu… she seems to be writing from inside a range of personas and inhabiting a variety of voices as well.” — National Radio
• “Two Voices,” for bitKlavier + voice, written for K.A.T.E.S. Katelyn Halpern (choreography) and Kate Campbell (piano/synth). Spoken word and music piece, with lyrics by Katleyn Halpern
• “Blessings as Rain Fall,” for orchestra + voice. Listen to ‘Rain as Blessings Fall,’ Orchestra Wellington with Leila Adu from the live broadcast on Radio New Zealand. Listen to the studio re-mastered live broadcast, kindly provided by Radio New Zealand here:
• “Freedom Suite: Different States, Ghost Lullaby and Negative Space” 2014, for large chamber ensemble + voice, performed by De Coda ensemble.
• “Freedom Suite II: Negative Space” 2014, for large chamber ensemble + voice, performed by Useful Chamber (Recorded Useful Chamber’s ‘Dream within a Dream’ CD, 2015).
• “Alyssum,” 2014 for string quartet and harp, performed by Mivos String Quartet and Sivan Magen
• “if the stars align…” for string quartet, performed by the Brentano String Quartet
• “Te Wairua O Ma Wai Kainga,” 2012, for orchestra, performed by the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra
• “When Reality Breaks the Heart Remains,” 2012, for shakuhachi, voice and electronics, performed by Leila Adu and Riley Lee
• “Colour Wheel” 2013, set of piano studies, performed by Kate Campbell
• “Smash Division,” 2011, for percussion quartet and voice, performed by Leila Adu and So Percussion
• Created and performed music for voice, clarinet, jew’s harp, harmonica and found objects in collaboration with French Butoh dancer, Camille Mutel, as part of the SOMA Series, Teatro Furillo Camillo, Rome, 2008.
• Performed, with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, the vocal part of Leila’s own composition, Chaitou Feng/Pour Mon Tortionaire based on poems by female poets in Chinese and French as a prize from the SOUNZ Contemporary Awards, 2005
• Devised and performed site-specific, live music and dance piece Emporium, with dancers, Julia Milsom and Julie van Renen, with performances in the shop windows of Buana Satu, on Aucklands KRd and Wellingtons Rex Royale on Cuba St, 2006/2005.
• Forty Degrees Something, music composed and edited by Leila Adu, screened at The Film Archive, and as part of a dance film compilation at The International Film Festival, 2005.
• Created electro-acoustic with live vocals, piano and percussion soundtrack (1hr duration) for Plunge, an aerial and dance piece in collaboration with director Tom Beauchamp (director MTA at Toi Whakari) and the NZ School of Dance, 2005.
• Performs live at Civic Square as part of improvising synthesizer trio, Delete! to accompany a retrospective of short films by artist, Joanna Margaret Paul a joint production with The City Gallery, Wellington, 2004.
• ‘Veil’ for voice and tape, 2002.
HONORS AND AWARDS
• Orchestra Wellington’s Emerging Composer-In-Residence-2014.
• Princeton Institute of International and Regional Studies, PIIRS Summer Funding Grant for research on music in producers in Accra, Ghana, 2014.
• Princeton University Music Composition Fellow, Presidential Scholarship, Princeton, 2011-2015.
• MTV Iggy’s, Artist of the Week, 2011;
• SOUNZ Contemporary Award, for readings with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, 2005.
• Wellington Fringe Festival, Best Musical Act Award for “Leila’s Space Cabaret”, voice and chamber ensemble, 2002.
• Received Highly Commended Award for the instrumental ensemble piece Night Ports, Detachment in the Victoria University Composers Competition, 2003.
• Sung and composed Sari performed with Gamelan Padhang Moncar, Yogyakarta Music Festival, Java, 2002.
• Where Will I Fly Us? Site-specific pre-recorded electro-acoustic and live vocal piece, performed at The Adam Art Gallery, Wellington, 2002.
• Composed and performed ‘Cecilia’s Gift’ and ‘Great Spirit’ for organ, harp and voice at St. Cecilia’s Concert Series, Sacred Heart Cathedral, 2001.
• Received the Most Promising Female Musician Award at the Regional Smokefree Rockquest, 1996.