Dr Hollis Taylor is a unique figure in music. Once the youngest member of the Oregon Symphony (in the violin section at age 18) and concertmaster/soloist at Wolf Trap Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC., she went on to win the Oregon State Fiddle Championship. Since then, she has continued to defy categorization.
Her playing is featured in two Gus Van Sant films, My Own Private Idaho and Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, as well as Penny Allen’s Paydirt. Her CD Twisted Fiddle received international acclaim and airplay for its jazz-influenced arrangements of country classics and a "Folk Album of the Year" nomination by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors. She toured regularly as soloist with Grammy/Emmy award-winner Mason Williams for nearly two decades.
The American Center in Paris awarded her a two-year residency at the Cité Internationale des Arts for 1993-94. While based in Paris, Taylor performed and recorded jazz and folk music throughout Europe and completed her fourth book of fiddle arrangements, Tricks From the Devil's Box. She regularly contributes in-depth articles, interviews, and music criticism to magazines such as Strings, Fiddler, AudioWings, and Stringendo. Her 2007 book/DVD Post Impressions: A Travel Book for Tragic Intellectuals is a non-fiction volume of essays, interviews, cultural analysis, and commentary on creativity and music-making in Australia; most particularly, it presents the project “Great Fences of Australia” undertaken with Jon Rose.
As a composer, Taylor also blurs the lines of classical, jazz, and folk. Her works for strings focus on issues of rhythm and bowing, from dance forms and compound meter to how classical players can appropriate extended techniques from non-traditional styles of music in order to enhance their rhythmic vitality, swing, and musicality. Works based on pied butcherbird song include Pied Butcherbird Suite and Bird-Esk for string quartet; Riffingbirds and Song Maps: Alice Springs for solo violin and field recordings (premiered in Berlin at Violinale 2009); Black and White Miniatures for toy piano and video; Cumberdeen Dam V & T for solo bassoon; Lamington Plateau for flute; and Banana Paper, Gowrie Creek, The Bass of Broken Hill, and Ormiston Gorge: A Canonic Manipulation for bass (2006-2008; the portfolio received the 2008 APRA award at the University of Western Sydney).
European folk music in compound meter inspired Unsquare Dances, composed in Budapest, Hungary in 1995. Two works make up the CD Frames and Boxes: Trail Mix for Five Scordatura Violins (2000 First Prize winner, National League of American PEN Women) and Box Set for Solo Violin, a re-take of the J. S. Bach Solo Violin Partita in B minor reflecting Afro-Cuban, bebop, blues, and funk sensibilities, the product of a 1997 artist's residency at Altos de Chavon in the Dominican Republic awarded by Parsons School of Design in New York City.
In 2000, she received grants from the American Composers Forum, Meet the Composer, and the Portland Baroque Orchestra to compose Groove Theory, a violin concerto for British Baroque violinist Monica Huggett.
Commissions came from the Elements Quartet of New York City for two string quartets (the second featuring baritone Jubilant Sykes) and from ABC Radio/Sydney for Shocking Pink, a prize-winning radiophonic piece for string quartet, vocalist, actress, and distressed piano on the life of anthropologist Olive Pink. In 2010, she composed and performed an original score based on pied butcherbird song for ABC Radio National’s “Airplay.” In addition to her appearances at international festivals and jazz clubs as a violinist, the "Great Fences of Australia" sound and video installation/performances in collaboration with Jon Rose saw performances at the Melbourne Festival, the Asia/Pacific Festival in Madrid and Barcelona, Spain, the Serralves Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, Portugal, the Sydney Festival, the Darwin Festival, the Melbourne Festival, the Art Gallery of New South Wales, the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum, and MaerzMuzik in Berlin. The Kronos Quartet has also taken up the fence project: Music from 4 Fences has seen performances at the Sydney Opera House, the Melbourne Recital Hall, and various venues in the United States.
In 2004, she was violin soloist in the world premiere of Charlie's Whiskers by Jon Rose, a tribute to Charles Ives, commissioned by Tone Roads Festival for the Bratislava Chamber Soloists, Slovakia. Her Scordatura Project debuted at the Brussels Musical Instrument Museum, Belgium, in May 2005 and was featured at the Melbourne Festival in October 2005.
Her 2008 dissertation, Towards a Species Songbook: Illuminating the Song of the Australian Pied Butcherbird (Cracticus nigrogularis), straddles the fields of zoömusicology, ornithology, and composition. She developed a template that combines readings in biology, ethological zoosemiotics, and avian neuroscience and current state-of-the-art sonographic analysis with a wide range of both historic and novel musicological techniques. The work confronts and revises the study of birdsong, adding the novel reference point of a musician’s essential tool for critical judgment: a trained ear.
Taylor is in demand as a clinician, teacher, and lecturer as well. She was a featured composer/performer/lecturer at Scripps College's 1995 Inaugural Symposium on Women in Music and was 2009 keynote speaker at University of Technology/Sydney’s Symposium on Terpsichorean Architecture: Writing About Music. Her popular lecture The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music presents audio-visual documentation of animal aesthetics.
She was a 2010/2011 Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Laboratoire d'Eco-anthropologie & Ethnobiologie of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle in Paris, and a 2011/2012 Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin Institute for Advanced Study. She is currently a Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the University of Technology, Sydney.