Michael Abels is an American composer of music for film, media and the concert hall, often incorporating elements of folk, classical and bluegrass music.
He is best known for the score for Jordan Peele’s Academy Award-winning film Get Out. He is also known for his orchestral works Global Warming, Delights & Dances and Urban Legend, and choral pieces such as Be the Change and Limitless. With a “keen ear for musical color and a deft ability to adapt structural elements from popular music into the symphonic idiom” (Houston Chronicle), he has gained widespread recognition for his orchestral music. Global Warming and Delights & Dances have both been recorded by the Chicago Sinfonietta for the Cedille label.
Best known for combining classical music with African-American jazz, blues, bluegrass and ethnic genres, he was asked by writer/director Jordan Peele to compose the music for the 2017 film Get Out. “I wanted Michael Abels, who did the score, to create something that felt like it lived in this absence of hope but still had [black roots],” Peele said in an interview for GQ. He also scored Peele’s latest film, Us, which premiered at SXSW, and Spike Lee’s latest sci-fi film, See You Yesterday. Other projects include Bad Education, which recently premiered at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Netflix feature All Day and a Night.
His compositions include the one-act opera Homies and Popz, with a libretto by Bernardo Solano, commissioned by LA Opera and premiered in 2000.
Born in Phoenix, Arizona, Michael Abels attended the University of Southern California where he studied with James Hopkins and Robert Linn. Later on in his collegiate career, he studied West African music with Alfred Ladzekpo at the California Institute for the Arts. He currently serves as Director of Music for New Roads School in Santa Monica.
Michael is a past recipient of grants and commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, LA Opera, and many orchestras throughout the country. In his concert career he has worked with James Earl Jones, Doc Severinsen, and a diverse group of other musical artists. Abels also wrote the score for Fantasea at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium.