Martin Boykan studied composition with Walter Piston, Aaron Copland, and Paul Hindemith, and piano with Eduard Steuermann. He received a BA from Harvard University, 1951, and an MM from Yale University, 1953. In 1953-55 he was in Vienna on a Fulbright Fellowship, and upon his return founded the Brandeis Chamber Ensemble whose other members included Robert Koff (Juilliard Quartet), Nancy Cirillo (Wellesley), Eugene Lehner (Kolisch Quartet), and Madeline Foley (Marlboro Festival). This ensemble performed widely with a repertory divided equally between contemporary music and the tradition. At the same time Boykan appeared regularly as a pianist with soloists such as Joseph Silverstein and Jan de Gaetani. In 1964-65, he was the pianist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
Boykan has written for a wide variety of instrumental combinations including four string quartets, a concerto for large ensemble, many trios, duos and solo works, song cycles for voice and piano as well as voice and other instruments, and choral music. His symphony for orchestra and baritone solo was premiered by the Utah Symphony in 1993. His work is widely performed and has been presented by almost all of the current new music ensembles including the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, the New York New Music Ensemble, Speculum Musicae, the League-ISCM, Earplay, Musica Viva and Collage New Music.
He received the Jeunesse musicales award for his String Quartet No. 1 in 1967, and the League-ISCM award for Elegy in 1982. Other awards include a Rockefeller grant, NEA award, Guggenheim Fellowship, two Fulbrights, as well as a recording award and the Walter Hinrichsen Publication Award from the American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letters. In 1994 he was awarded a Senior Fulbright to Israel. He has received numerous commissions from chamber ensembles as well as commissions from the Koussevitsky Foundation in the Library of Congress and the Fromm Foundation.
At present Boykan is the Irving G. Fine Professor of Music at Brandeis University. He has been Composer-in-Residence at the Composer's Conference in Wellesley and a Visiting Professor at Columbia University, New York University and Bar-Ilan University (Israel). He has served on many panels, including the Rome Prize, the Fromm Commission, the New York Council for the Arts (CAPS) and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts. Over the years he has taught many hundreds of students including such well-known composers as Steve Mackey, Peter Lieberson, Ross Bauer and Marjorie Merryman. Boykan was invited to lecture at the Jerusalem Academy and the Hebrew University, Jerusalem, during Dec. 2004 - Jan. 2005.
Recent publications include a volume of essays on music entitled Silence and Slow Time, and Usurpations for piano solo. Three artist books produced in collaboration with his wife, the artist Susan Schwalb, were recently purchased by the Music Division of the Library of Congress: City of Gold (flute solo), Flume (clarinet), and Nocturne (viola da gamba).