• BM, DePaul University
  • MM, DePaul University
  • DMA, University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music

David McDonnell is a composer, computer music programmer and saxophonist. A Chicago native, McDonnell spent 15 years there playing rock and jazz as a performer/composer, and working as a studio musician and engineer. He received his doctorate from The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music, studying composition and computer music programming with Joel Hoffman and Mara Helmuth. Although mainly a spectralist in compositional practice, McDonnell attempts to fuse spectral composition techniques with the rhythms and melodic approaches gleaned from his years in the Chicago independent music scene.

Prior to his appointment at Temple, McDonnell taught music theory, arranging, composition, electronic music, recording arts and saxophone at The University of Dayton, electronic music at Miami University and general music and programming in the software Max at The University of Cincinnati-College Conservatory of Music. In his general music courses he examines the history of 20th century music and the current state of popular and art music from a technological and cultural perspective. McDonnell has appeared as a guest speaker at Carroll University, delivering his presentation Signal Processing and Blending African Polyrhythm with Computer Music. A lecture recital presented at DePaul’s School of Cinema and Interactive Media entitled Elements and Strategies in Computer Generated Music has received more than 35,000 views online. His multi-media work Trapped by Polygons appeared at the 2015 SEAMUS conference at Virginia Tech.

McDonnell’s compositions and saxophone playing with the Chicago group, Herculaneum, have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered. Their performance at the 2012 New York Winter Jazz Fest was reviewed in the New York Times. He has released more than 15 albums under his own name and as a sideman. These range in style from mainstream indie-rock to avant-jazz. His jazz-fusion project, Dave McDonnell Group, has a number of commercial releases available on labels such as Chicago’s Delmark and Whistler Records and the experimental label New Atlantis. These releases feature his electro-acoustic works as well as his more jazz based compositions. His current work blends ambient sounds and sequences coded on computer software with poly-rhythms and non-western rhythms played on live percussion and drum set. One of the goals with this project is to place algorithm-based computer music into the broader cultural and stylistic contexts of electronic dance and world music. 


Selected Discography 

Dave McDonnell Group: Eidetic
-Whistler Records
“…the tunes have a fleetness and muscularity that tops their studio counterparts…McDonnell navigates intricate runs with alacrity and delivers the melodies with unprecedented brightness.”
Dusted Magazine

Dave McDonnell Group: the time inside a year
-Delmark Records
“McDonnell has become immersed in electronic music…the three movements of his piece, Æpse - on which computer sounds mesh beautifully with meditative then turbulent arco lines from cellist Tomeka Reid…”
The Chicago Reader

Dave McDonnell Group: the dragon and the griffin
-New Atlantis Records
“…[McDonnell’s] snaking postbop tunes streamline ideas from African Funk and postrock. His writing combines corkscrewing lines and rhythmic ferocity…”
The Chicago Reader

Diving Bell: Diving Bell                         
-HAZE label.  Belarus
“…an excellent album of improvisations of saxophone and laptop that uses their inherent dichotomy to work together rather than display their opposition…”
Acts of

Herculaneum: UCHU
“…all-for-one sextet from Chicago scrambling aspects of postbop jazz, minimalism, rock dissonance and West African rhythms.”
The New York Times

Herculaneum: Olives and Orchids
"... think of Charles Mingus, if he lived in the 21st Century."
NPR's All Things Considered