Bettison’s music lives, thrillingly, on a razor’s edge between unpredictability and a groove wrought of full-bodied play. Born on the United Kingdom’s Channel Islands to Spanish and British parents, Bettison was fascinated from an early age by the interplay between the “weird, hazy, tenuous aural image” in his imagination and the wild effort to wrestle it onto the page. After studying in Amsterdam with Louis Andriessen and Martijn Padding, he learned to embrace this creative discomfort, crashing through challenges with fantastic, imaginative twists. As Bettison has said: “It’s not that refinement is a bad thing. But there are times when it can get in the way.”
Watershed ensemble works like O Death and B&E (with aggravated assault) drew attention from press and audiences for their free-spirited play and integration of popular musical styles. Bettison was recognized with a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2017.
Bettison continues to find inspiration in experimenting with different forms of music, composing more for orchestra in recent years: Remaking a Forest for Oregon Symphony premiered in 2019; Pale Icons of Night—his first violin concerto—for Courtney Orlando and Alarm Will Sound debuted in 2018; and Lights in Ashes (an orchestral reimagination of a movement from O Death) was premiered by the New World Symphony in 2017. Bettison’s first opera, The Light of Lesser Days, premiered in September 2021 in the Netherlands with the Asko|Schönberg ensemble.
Bettison currently lives in New Jersey and is chair of the Composition Department of John Hopkins University’s Peabody Institute.