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Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick

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American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is perhaps best known for challenging the traditional musical establishment along with his contemporaries and close colleagues: composers John Cage, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Leonard Bernstein; Living Theater founder, Judith Malina; and choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Today, musicians from Bang on a Can to Bj�rk are inde American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is perhaps best known for challenging the traditional musical establishment along with his contemporaries and close colleagues: composers John Cage, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Leonard Bernstein; Living Theater founder, Judith Malina; and choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Today, musicians from Bang on a Can to Bj�rk are indebted to the cultural hybrids Harrison pioneered half a century ago. His explorations of new tonalities at a time when the rest of the avant garde considered such interests heretical set the stage for minimalism and musical post-modernism. His propulsive rhythms and ground-breaking use of percussion have inspired choreographers from Merce Cunningham to Mark Morris, and he is considered the godfather of the so-called "world music" phenomenon that has invigorated Western music with global sounds over the past two decades. In this biography, authors Bill Alves and Brett Campbell trace Harrison's life and career from the diverse streets of San Francisco, where he studied with music experimentalist Henry Cowell and Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, and where he discovered his love for all things non-traditional (Beat poetry, parties, and men); to the competitive performance industry in New York, where he subsequently launched his career as a composer, conducted Charles Ives's Third Symphony at Carnegie Hall (winning the elder composer a Pulitzer Prize), and experienced a devastating mental breakdown; to the experimental arts institution of Black Mountain College where he was involved in the first "happenings" with Cage, Cunningham, and others; and finally, back to California, where he would become a strong voice in human rights and environmental campaigns and compose some of the most eclectic pieces of his career.


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American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is perhaps best known for challenging the traditional musical establishment along with his contemporaries and close colleagues: composers John Cage, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Leonard Bernstein; Living Theater founder, Judith Malina; and choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Today, musicians from Bang on a Can to Bj�rk are inde American composer Lou Harrison (1917-2003) is perhaps best known for challenging the traditional musical establishment along with his contemporaries and close colleagues: composers John Cage, Aaron Copland, Virgil Thomson, and Leonard Bernstein; Living Theater founder, Judith Malina; and choreographer, Merce Cunningham. Today, musicians from Bang on a Can to Bj�rk are indebted to the cultural hybrids Harrison pioneered half a century ago. His explorations of new tonalities at a time when the rest of the avant garde considered such interests heretical set the stage for minimalism and musical post-modernism. His propulsive rhythms and ground-breaking use of percussion have inspired choreographers from Merce Cunningham to Mark Morris, and he is considered the godfather of the so-called "world music" phenomenon that has invigorated Western music with global sounds over the past two decades. In this biography, authors Bill Alves and Brett Campbell trace Harrison's life and career from the diverse streets of San Francisco, where he studied with music experimentalist Henry Cowell and Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg, and where he discovered his love for all things non-traditional (Beat poetry, parties, and men); to the competitive performance industry in New York, where he subsequently launched his career as a composer, conducted Charles Ives's Third Symphony at Carnegie Hall (winning the elder composer a Pulitzer Prize), and experienced a devastating mental breakdown; to the experimental arts institution of Black Mountain College where he was involved in the first "happenings" with Cage, Cunningham, and others; and finally, back to California, where he would become a strong voice in human rights and environmental campaigns and compose some of the most eclectic pieces of his career.

36 review for Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    Bill Alves and Brett Campbell have written a wonderfully detailed and informative account of the life of composer Lou Harrison. While I wonder if non-musicians will struggle with some of the information about the structures of Javanese gamelan music, given how utterly consumed Harrison was with this music for the last 25 years of his life, it's hard to say how you could talk about his life and work without getting into the topic. No one will struggle with how the authors explore Harrison's rich Bill Alves and Brett Campbell have written a wonderfully detailed and informative account of the life of composer Lou Harrison. While I wonder if non-musicians will struggle with some of the information about the structures of Javanese gamelan music, given how utterly consumed Harrison was with this music for the last 25 years of his life, it's hard to say how you could talk about his life and work without getting into the topic. No one will struggle with how the authors explore Harrison's rich and varied life as a composer. An early advocate for Charles Ives, a collaborator with John Cage, an associate of Virgil Thomson, student of Henry Cowell and Arnold Schoenberg, Harrison was close to many of the most important figures in 20th century music. He also had an intimate connection with dance, from early work with Jean Erdman and Bonnie Bird to later projects with Mark Morris. I am grateful to Alves and Campbell for piecing together certain aspects of Lou's life and work that have previously been hard to connect. And non-musicians, who might struggle with some of the terminology, are assisted by a glossary in the back. Well done, gentlemen!

  2. 4 out of 5

    Clark Nichols

    Very well researched, a fantastic source for Harrison scholars. However, the authors are unfairly dismissive of critics who argue that harrison 's music perpetuates European musical hegemony. The analysis of Harrison's ballet solstice was extremely lacking and at times incorrect. Still, I'm glad my favorite composer is finally starting to get the credit he is due

  3. 5 out of 5

    Brett Waytuck

    A fascinating account of the life and compositions of a unique voice in American music. Lou Harrison was an out and proud gay man who didn't let prevailing opinions influence the art he was committed to creating.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Mills College Library

    780.92 H319a 2017

  5. 4 out of 5

    Alton F. Foreman

  6. 4 out of 5

    JP Schlegelmilch

  7. 5 out of 5

    M.

    An in depth study. Excellent biography / music history in one.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frederick Rotzien

  9. 4 out of 5

    Micielle

  10. 5 out of 5

    Melly Mel

  11. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Bradley

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    Edgar Connell

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    Stacia Chappell

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    Adam Lowy

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    Brooke

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    Tammy Hornbeck

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    Kathy Heare Watts

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Hohler

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    Pam Mooney

  20. 5 out of 5

    Robert

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    Barry B

  22. 5 out of 5

    Katharine Adams

  23. 4 out of 5

    Kara Lauren

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    Debee Sue

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    Donna Barney

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    Alexandra

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    Sarah Salvaggio

  28. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Bradshaw

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    Ms. Reader

  30. 4 out of 5

    Gwen

  31. 5 out of 5

    Ted

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    Manya

  33. 4 out of 5

    Ray

  34. 4 out of 5

    Pam

  35. 4 out of 5

    David Bathurst

  36. 4 out of 5

    Jeffrey Stevenson

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