Noah Becker is an alto saxophonist, clarinetist, composer and copyist based in New York. His recent musical activities include extensive ethnomusicological studies in Israel, in preparation for a long-term project that will use Jewish musics to combat antisemitism in the United States; TRUMP: An Unspoken Truth, a solo project that explores and reimagines the evil words of Donald Trump to present a greater truth; and Castle Garden, a research commission from the New York Public Library, for which he composed music about the modern-day relevance of the Jewish immigrant experience in New York, recently premiered at Lincoln Center.
Raised in Philadelphia, Noah studied in his teen years with Anthony Tidd (of Steve Coleman’s Five Elements) via the Kimmel Center’s Creative Music Program. The program fosters some of the best young musicians in the city, and he experienced tremendous growth from this critical exposure at a young age. After a year-long stint at Northwestern University in Chicago, during which he studied engineering, then jazz with saxophonist Victor Goines, Noah transferred to The New School (Class of ‘18½) in New York to more aggressively pursue his formal and informal creative education. He has since performed at a number of venues in the city, recorded with working bands in New York and Philadelphia, and studied with top-level musicians such as Michaël Attias, Darius Jones, Henry Threadgill, Andrew Cyrille, Steve Coleman, Will Vinson, Ralph Alessi, and Andy Milne.
Noah’s main project as a leader is his quartet Underthought, a laboratory of sorts for original music and various modes of improvisation, featuring Alex Levine on guitar, Stephen Boegehold on drums, and Tyrone Allen on bass. Noah's musical conception and compositions incorporate stark melodies and harmonies, strong rhythmic independence of voices, sinewy orchestrations, and a discerning awareness of music's ability to shape and alter our experience of the passage of time. He often employs extended and unconventional forms, and thoughtfully integrates composed material with improvisation. He is attuned to the interplay of the vibrations of sound, and how we relate to them physiologically—through our bodies as resonant listeners, and our minds as co-creators of music and art.
Noah also co-leads other projects, including Retumbra, a chamber trio based in New York with Noah on clarinet, Jonah Udall on resonator guitar, and Steve Williams on upright bass. The group combines the subtleties of drummer-less trios that have existed through recent decades with a grounding in new music and improvisation, culminating into a warm, ruminant, resonant sound. The sonic possibilities of clarinet, guitar, and bass allow the group to weave through various modes of composition, always seeking to explore new sounds and settings. Sensitive and strong-willed musicians, Noah, Jonah, and Steve constantly try to reach beyond the norm and create new textures through spontaneous creation and thoughtful reimaginings of their material.
Along with Lesley Mok on drums and Nick Dunston on bass, Noah also co-leads Feral Children. Playing exclusively original music by all members of the trio, Feral Children explores playful counterpoint and role-obscuring orchestration, always diving further into its roots of jazz and freely improvised music. Gestures originate from both body and mind as they navigate the music by a logic of their own collective design, breathing as one three-headed beast, balancing and re-balancing from within to project a wild sense of outward unity.
Noah is involved with a number of other ongoing projects, including Jonah Udall's ECHOensemble, Nick Dunston's Truffle Pig, and Steve Williams’s Tiny Tree. He is also a member of the NYC Composer Collective.
As a copyist, Noah has worked extensively with Henry Threadgill, immersing himself in Henry’s idiosyncratic musical systems and translating them to computerized notation. Their relationship has included copyist and production assistant work for “Dirt, And More Dirt”, a large-ensemble work released in 2018 on Pi Records; “Plain as Plain, In Plain Sight”, a chamber piece + video installation premiered at the Tilton and Luhring Augustine galleries in Manhattan; "2.6 Pentadactyl", for Imani Winds; “Sixfivetwo”, for the Kronos Quartet; and “Pathways”, performed at the Cleveland Museum of Art in January 2019; “With or Without Card”, a chamber piece commissioned by Bang on a Can; various pieces for Henry’s main band Zooid; and “6 to 5, 5 to 6”, premiered at the Whitney Museum of American Art in September 2019. Noah is currently assisting Henry with future projects. He has also performed various other copyist and arrangement jobs for everyone from small-work composers to marching bands of 70+ members. He has also done administrative work for Blue Note Jazz Club and Gail Boyd Artist Management, and is currently helping educator Rory Stuart to prepare and proof a six-volume series of books on rhythm. Noah also works as a research assistant for Incarcerated Mind, a budding organization that programs and curates artistic and cultural events in New York to raise public awareness of the injustice and cruelty of the American prison system.
In addition to performing, composing, and working as a copyist, Noah works at John Zorn’s avant-garde listening space The Stone. He lives in Brooklyn, NY.