Composer and multi-instrumentalist Dan Cantrell’s recent works include the score for three seasons of the Annie Award nominated cartoon television series Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack on the Cartoon Network, an Emmy Award winning scores forHome Front and Hope on the Streets (a PBS Documentary about gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area), and the Gerbode Grant sponsored commission of the Rootabaga Opera (a Fire Arts infused multimedia shadow play and lyrical ballet based on the children’s stories of Carl Sandberg) presented at The Crucible’s 2009 Fire Arts Festival. Some of Dan’s other recent projects include the Golden Gate Award winning score forDivided Loyalties (a documentary about cultural identity on the divided island of Cyprus) and a commission from Kitka women’s vocal ensemble for the composition and direction of Musical Fortunes (A MAP sponsored collaboration featuring Kitka, Dan, Voice of Roma, and Brave Old World’s Michael Alpert) which was the opening and centerpiece of the 2007 Jewish Music Festival, and explores roots and ties between Romani(Gypsy) and Klezmer music traditions in Eastern Europe.
Dan’s music is influenced by the traditions of Eastern Europe from Bulgarian Roma Wedding Bands to polyphonic vocal laments, Early American Jazz and Film music from Busby Berkeley, and Cab Calloway to Scott Joplin, and modern alternative rock like Radiohead, Bjork, and Soundgarden. His extensive scoring catalogue for film and television is described as “hauntingly beautiful…quirky and energetic” (SF Bay Guardian). His soundtrack artistry spans a wide range of emotion and style, and has supported hundreds of cinematic works with rich with virtuosic performance, lush acoustic orchestrations, sonic textures resonant with sound design, and strikingly innovative melodic themes.
Playing piano, accordion, musical saw, Hammond organ, harpsichord, and pump organ, his unique sound can be heard on the albums of Tom Waits, Joanna Newsom, Beats Antique, and the Toids, as well as in Major Motion Pictures such as Paramount Pictures’ Mean Girls, and Roberto Benigni’s The Tiger and the Snow. Dan performs and tours regularly with several ensembles including Beats Antique, Fishtank Ensemble, Gaucho, the Toids, and in original Balkan inspired ensembles that he directs.
Dan has numerous self-produced albums represented by the independent record label Odd Shaped Case. Odd Shaped Case was co-founded by Dan and musical colleague Ryan Francesconi to represent intriguing and innovative new music using acoustic and often folk instrumentation infused and along side modern electronic and popular independent music styles. Dan also is a founding member of Xenology, a licensing library featuring a unique blend of genre bending composers fluent in the vernacular of world music shaped by modern modalities and electronics.
Dan has also collaborated extensively within the medium of dance. He has composed and collaborated with Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet, San Francisco based ODC dance, Ballet Afzaneh, UltraGypsy, as well as international touring shows such as Bellydance Superstars, and Bellydance Evolution. He has created innovative dance shows such asWaxing Cinematic (A two act musical dance drama integrating shadow puppetry and projections), and The Cabbage Sellers of Haities (a dance based theatrical musical based on Diaspora culture in 1920’s Greece in the emergence of Rembetico music). Dan’s music can also be heard accompanying individual choreographers and performers such as Elizabeth Strong, Rachel Brice, Mira Betz, and Samantha Emanual on stage and in film.
Dan has recently performed as a featured soloist with the San Francisco Symphony playing accordion on Thomas Larcher’s premier of Red and Green. He also performs with the Oakland Symphony, Mike Marshall, members of the Klezmatics, Brave Old World, and Fishbone.
Born in 1976 and raised in the sunny beach town of Encinitas, California, Dan had access to a wealth of musical education and inspiration. Dan studied piano at an early age, dabbling in guitar, bass, tabla, and keyboard instruments. He began composing at age 11, mostly to avoid practicing classical written music, but soon began winning composing competitions, writing for small ensembles, in bands, and for solo piano, encouraged by his parents and his piano teacher Elenore Giacoletti.
In high school, at the Idyllwild school of music and the arts (ISOMATA), he was exposed to the piano music of Bach, Satie, Debussy, and Bartok by his teacher Nelms Macelvein, sparking his interest in the tonalities and rhythms of eastern Europe and the middle east while helping him with valuable fundamental musical skills. He also studied with Marshal Hawkins, who inspired Dan, teaching him about jazz and improvised music.
Dan began teaching himself accordion at age 17, playing the music of Debussy and Satie, along with translating popular songs to the instrument. In 1993, he was introduced to Eastern European folk and Romani music.
In college, at CalArts, Dan persued a double major degree in Composition and Piano, graduating in 1998. His many influential teachers included Brian Pezonni, who taught him piano, improvisation, and kindly let him tag along to major motion picture scoring sessions. Paul Novros, Charlie Haden, John Bergamo, Leo Smith, Nick England, Susan Allen and Vinnie Golia taught him jazz, improvisation, and music fundamentals. He studied composition with Mel Powell, and Alan Chapman. He also studied Balinese Gamelan and Kechak with I naomen Wenten.
Collaborating with Filmmakers, animators and dancers at CalArts, Dan took a great interest in composing for film and dance, working with many talented artists and collaborators. Dan also met long time friend, band mate, and colleague Ryan Francesconi. Ryan and Dan formed The Toids (a high energy original music ensemble drawing influence from Eastern European traditions) and Odd Shaped Case (A record label for world-inspired music, avant-garde classical, and ambient electronica).
After college, inspired by his experience in the Mendocino Woodlands at Balkan Camp, Dan moved to The San Francisco Bay Area. There he worked as a composer and musician while continuing to collaborate with Ryan Francesconi in the Toids and with Odd Shaped Case. Dan was honored to work with artists including Tom Waits, Danny Elfman, Joanna Newsom, Angelo Moore of Fishbone, Beats Antique, Mike Marshal, Kitka, Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir, and The San Francisco and Oakland Symphonies. Dan started composing for film and television professionally in 1999, working for Wild Brain (San Francisco based animation company) PBS, KQED, Cartoon Network, MSNBC, and with many other independent companies and artists in Los Angeles, and San Francisco. He received an Emmy Award for his score to Home Front (a PBS Documentary about gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area), and the Golden Gate award for his work on the documentary film Divided Loyalties (a film about cultural identity on the divided island of Cyprus). During that time, he also released several albums with the Toids, other bands, and a solo album, on the Odd Shaped Case label.
In 2005, Dan began working on the Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack, a cartoon series directed by Thurop VanOrman, and produced by the Cartoon Network. After three seasons of the show, an Annie Nomination and an Emmy award, Flapjack wrapped up, and Dan turned his attention to his own work.
Dan became a founding member of Xenology, a licensing library featuring a unique blend of genre bending composers all fluent in the vernacular of world music shaped by modern modalities and electronics. He is currently working on releasing an extensive body of work spanning several albums of his original material for accordion, piano and saw in ensembles as well as solo. Dan also performs and tours regularly with several ensembles including Beats Antique, Fishtank Ensemble, Gaucho, the Toids, and in original Balkan inspired ensembles that he directs. He lives now in the San Francisco Bay Area and continues to work on film scoring, and performing.