A speaking drummer and composer whose music enthusiastically defies category, Sean Noonan prefers the title rhythmic storyteller – an apt description for a modern-day sonic griot who spins imaginative yarns in the ancient tradition of wandering minstrels while weaving captivating narrative tapestries via his unique polyrhythmic language.
Noonan merges the voice with the drum kit, providing a 'fifth limb' to the four-limbed practice that exists today. It steals and stretches the responsibilities of both the drummer and narrator into one. His compositions treat ensembles as an extension of the drummer's limbs by orchestrating rhythmic language derived from the drum kit.
Noonan has released over 30 albums that are informed by an eclectic variety of influences, including rock opera, avant-garde chamber music, and improvised jazz-rock. Thousands of listeners in 15 countries have heard his music. His projects have featured artists such as Marc Ribot, Jamaaladeen Tacuma, Malcolm Mooney (CAN), Matthew Bourne and Abdoulaye Diabaté with hundreds of performances in diverse venues and international festivals like: Bimhuis, A38, EFG London Jazz Festival, Haldern Pop Festival, Jazz Liege, Jazz Od Nowa, Sons D'Hiver MS Stubnitz Nottingham Jazzsteps Vilnius Jazz Festival Jazzclub Unterfahrt The Roulette, NY Kraakpand, Ghent.
Noonan received a Bachelor of Music in Music Education at Berklee College of Music and spent part of those years at the Old School House Theater on Sanibel Island, Florida, backing legendary Hollywood songstress Marni Nixon. In 1999 Noonan settled in New York forming THE HUB, a punk-jazz trio which John Fordham (The Guardian) described as “Maniacally exhilarating, gripping in its precision and energy, a real breath of fresh air.”
In 2006, Sean Noonan received a commission from the American Composers Forum, which led to formulating the "wandering folk" theory where he wanders the globe collecting and adapting folklore of diverse cultural traditions. During this period of travel and research between 2006 and 2011 produced 5 albums with Brewed by Noon merging Bardic (Susan McKeown) and Malian Griot (Abdoulaye Diabaté) traditions.
In 2010, a Master's Degree in Composition was earned from the Aaron Copland Music School. This achievement led to the release of A Gambler's Hand, a suite of pieces for amplified string quartet and drums. The work was primarily composed, but incorporated improvisational sections that merged jazz and classical forms influenced by Beethoven and Bartok being particularly influential.
In 2016, the Sant'Anna Arresi Jazz Festival commissioned Noonan to premiere his Zappanation Rock Opera, dedicated to Frank Zappa and Edgard Varèse. The performance featured the Sardinian vocal quartet Drumavox and the Ligeti Quartet.
In 2019 Rarenoise Records releases the Tan Man's Hat by the harmolodic jazz-rock ensemble Pavees Dance that fuses free funk, pre-rap beat poetry, and features Malcolm Mooney of CAN and Jamaaladeen Tacuma (Ornette Coleman).
In 2022 Noonan released two albums, Knott Tones, a collision of new music and free improvisation, written for the Ligeti string quartet and drumkit and Zappanation.
In April 2022 Noonan set out on a six concert tour with the Ligeti Quartet for the UK premier of Bartalk which culminated with a special large ensemble performance at London’s St. Giles Church on April 30 featuring Matthew Bourne and Alex Ward. Commissioned by the Arts Council of England, PRS for Music, and Forestry England, Bartalk is a cross genre monodrama for speaking drummer which explores the psychological stresses caused by solitary confinement.
Future projects include Beats of the Biosphere: A Concerto for Planet Drum, a 30 minute work to be recorded with the London Symphony Orchestra and myself as speaking drummer. The three movements will highlight our current climate emergency.
"Imagine a head on collision between Swell Maps, Gong, the Residents, the Magic Band and the Modern Lovers. Freeform jazzy struts, too many notes; outrageous, dayglo sonic curlicues." Richard Foster - Louder Than War
"The commitment to overall ambience, and mystery, and dark intensity is unwavering. Has there been an album (Memorable Sticks) so nonchalantly creepy released this year? That would be hard to imagine." New York Music Daily
"The drummer and composer Sean Noonan approaches postmodern jazz and world music from the same angle of self-discovery ....he manages to make his pieces speak coherently, and in a unified voice." The New York Times
"Drummer Noonan's notion of conflating 'bardic and griot traditions' has juice. The Celtic tunes and African grooves retain their singularity, even when surrounded by flashes of fusion." The Village Voice
"You think this might be boring? C’mon man, relax, this is Sean Noonan…it’s like nothing else out there." Something Else! S. Victor Aaron
"Menacingly surreal, often assaultive, a feast for fans of dark, challenging music…it’s a category unto itself – and one of the best in any style of music. Scary Stuff from Sean Noonan." Lucid Culture
"Stories to Tell," album by drummer Sean Noon's group Brewed by Noon, is a funky feast of music .....bursting with talented musicians and interesting sounds ...." All About Jazz New York
"Noonan strikes again conducting a string quartet with his drumsticks…like Bela Bartok french kissing with John Zorn. I wonder when the man finally will get some serious recognition in Culture loving Flanders?" Rifraf (BE)-Bootsie
"The drummer is a musical terrorist at heart…well-conceived and expertly arranged and performed pieces that reveal not merely an inner logic, but an external one as well. " Thom Jurek-allmusic
"This is not the typical release but an experience. A dynamic and virtually flawless execution of art at an apex of creativity few can match." Brent Black @CriticalJazz
"Sean Noonan's A Gambler's Hand is a further step forward in his evolving blend of music and narrative." - All About Jazz
" ....he succeeds at bridging the gap during the preponderance of these fascinating arrangements, constructed upon a multicultural array of cadences. Here, jazz vernaculars and birthrights are fused into a bold and beautiful chain of musical events, often enamored with vigor and finesse." www.ejazznews.com