Biography

Mike Khoury is an Arab-American composer, improviser, and curator focused on composition, performance, and documentation. Khoury's focus has been on the establishment of the Arab-American avant-garde and document the movement's intellectual heritage through presenting his own work, publishing on the topic, and presenting other artists work. As a curator, Khoury has engaged in community building through his curation of the Entropy Studios space in Hamtramck
(1998-2001) and Redford (2014-present), and the Entropy Stereo record label publishing artists such as Faruq Z. Bey and Wendell Harrison.

Raised in Mt. Pleasant, MI, Khoury studied violin and choir in the local school system. During his formative years, Khoury also played electric bass in several rock groups. Exposure to the visual arts, especially abstract expressionism, played a large role in Khoury's early years.


An interest in alternative tunings and the desire to create sonically intense music reflective of his Arab background and interest in psychedelia led Khoury to form the Urban Farmers. With multiple shows under their belt, the all instrumental trio issued one full length CD and had several of their pieces issued on various compilations. Khoury was one part of the proprietorship that was Uprising Records with childhood friend and musician Greg Marten. Uprising Records issued records by many notable groups of the era.


Upon migrating to the metro Detroit area, Khoury resumed his violin performance and private studies on the instrument with a focus on free improvisation. Studies with violinist/composer David Litven helped to shape his technique and approach. Performance and recording credits include those with Faruq Z. Bey, Luc Houtkamp, Le Quan Ninh, Maury Coles, Dennis Gonzalez, John Voigt, Gunda Gottschalk, John Butcher, Paul Lytton, Ben Miller and John Sinclair. In 1997, Khoury formed the Entropy Stereo Recordings music label where he documented new and archival works by improvisors. The label is still active today.


Khoury is a firm believer in learning the rules in order to break them, although the learning and breaking sometime happen simultaneously. His studies in improvisation parallel his work in studying traditional violin technique and music theory.
He cites Halim El-Dabh, Lata Mangeshkar, Bill Dixon, Lucia Dlugoszewski, and Charlie Patton as influences. As a trained economist, Khoury's approach to improvisation and music theory is informed by his knowledge of statistics, mathematics and the behavioral sciences. Khoury has also curated a long standing Detroit creative music series and has composed or contributed to music for film, television and radio.

Today, Khoury conducts both ethnographical, sonic and historical research from his laboratory and studios in Redford, MI. He has authored a chapter on the composer Halim El-Dabh published in an anthology on the Arab Avant Garde by Wesleyan University Press. Khoury also divides his time between his improvisational work and the Redford Civic Symphony Orchestra of which he is a member of the first violin section. Current active projects include Inscribe (with members of Northwoods Improvisers and Wisaal), a duet with percussionist Ben Hall, a duet with dancer/choreographer Leyya Tawil, a duo with guitarist Mark Morgan, a member of Porcelain Hammer and his work as a studio musician on violin, viola and electric bass.

Artist Statement

I am an experimental composer, violinist/violist, and improviser deeply influenced by the Detroit and Arab-diasporic musical traditions. Inspired by my culture as an Arab-American, I center my work as an experimental composer with that of the Arab-American community. Trained as an Economist, I apply quantitative approaches from Econometrics to my work as a musician, using strategies to analyze outcomes in compositional and performance settings. My process involves a series of etudes I’ve developed to help one solve
problems encountered in improvisation. The solutions include those of endurance, theme development and the degree of correlation between performers. These techniques have been derived from quantitative methods in Econometrics. I invoke them as a means of building compositions or refining improvisatory strategies. For example, I’ve applied the concept of Orthogonality, the statistical degree of correlation between activities, to my approach to composition and improvisation. I’ve found a confluence between this mathematical approach and my Arab Heritage. I’ve incorporated tape loops into my work drawing modern sonic analogs to ancient Islamic concepts
in art where patterns have neither a beginning nor end, but imply movement and motion. The Arab experience is vital to me as an first generation Arab-American living in one of the most concentrated Arab populations outside of the Arab world. In working with
Palestinian-American choreographer/organizer Leyya Tawil, I’ve presented work locally and internationally in conversation with traditional folk concerns, political identity, and the Arab avant-garde.

Detroit serves as a key inspiration for me as a composer. As a Detroit organizer/curator, I've been fortunate enough to present the live
or recorded music of Griot Galaxy, Black Merda, Jamie Easter, Wendell Harrison, Ben Miller and Cary Loren of Destroy All Monsters. My curation functions through the Entropy Stereo record label and the Entropy Studios performance space and utilizes my work as a punk rock promoter in my teens which then became labor organizing while working on my PhD in Economics.

Between 2016-18, I presented new work in New York City, Berlin, San Francisco and Beirut, helping to create new conditions under which an Arab-American avant garde is produced and exists as an artistic and intellectual heritage. In 2018, I received a grant from
the Knight Foundation to present a new work to tell the story of the Palestinian diaspora.


Festival Performances:

1999 Audio Obstacle Course (Livonia, MI)
2000 Ford Detroit Montreux Jazz Festival (Detroit, MI)
2000 Spirits Rejoice Festival of Improvised Music (Dearborn, MI)
2003 Big Sur Experimental Music Festival (Big Sur, CA)
2004 Spirits Rejoice Festival of Improvised Music (Dearborn, MI)
2006 EdgeFest (Ann Arbor, MI)
2007 Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI)
2008 Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI)

2011 Art on the Fly Festival (Seattle, WA)
2011 River Raisin Festival (Blissfield, MI)
2013 DIWAN (Dearborn, MI)
2015 DIWAN 6 (Dearborn, MI)
2015 Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI)
2016 Sol of the Lost Tamarack Festival (Wolverine, MI)
2016 After the Last Sky Festival (Berlin, Germany)
2018 Irtijal (Beirut, Lebanon)
2018 Motor City Muscle Festival
2018 Edgefest (Ann Arbor, MI
2019 Fusebox Festival
2019 Edgefest
2019 YallaPunk
2020 I was named a Kresge Arts in Detroit fellow.