Essential Cowell: Selected Writings on Music

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9780929701639: Essential Cowell: Selected Writings on Music

Edited by Dick Higgins. Preface by Kyle Gann. Photos, index, discography.

Foreword Magazine "Book of the Year" 2002 Gold Medalion.

This volume presents for the first time a generous selection from the more than 200 essays and articles written by one of the most original American composers and musical theorists of the twentieth century. There are articles on harmony, melody, notation and music history; essays on vocal innovation, folk music, and the intersection of music with other arts; reviews of concerts and recordings by contemporaries; notes on several of his own works, and several pieces on his life and experiences as a composer. Henry Cowell may be best known as a creator of "tone cluster" compositions, which he began writing while in his early teens, but his inXuence has been far broader and much deeper. As founder in 1925 of the New Music Society, he became a concert impresario for works by, among others, Carl Ruggles, Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Ives and Leo Ornstein; and publisher from 1927 to 1958 of New Music: A Quarterly of Musical Compositions. His many students included George Gershwin, John Cage, and Lou Harrison, but his interests extended beyond western classical traditions, and his radio program, "Music of the World's Peoples," introduced a large audience to world music long before it was fashionable. Just as Cowell's groundbreaking book of 1930, New Musical Resources, continues to inspire successive generations of composers, Essential Cowell is key to understanding the origins and expanding dimensions of contemporary music.

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About the Author:

Henry Cowell (1887-1965) was a leading composer, critic and educator who worked largely in the experimental vein of American music. He was born in California and attended Stanford University. Throughout the 1950s he lived in New York City and upstate New York, and taught at the New School. Through his journal (New Music Quarterly), his concert promotions, and his WBAI-New York radio programs, he is credited with having "rediscovered" Charles Ives, published Carl Ruggles, and effectively promoted Edgard Varese. Aside from his famous book, New Musical Resources , however, Henry Cowell's many essays, reviews, manifestos, and other writings have never been gathered and published in book form. In the thirty-five years since Cowell's death, he has attained a significant position as a composer (there are over 130 CD recordings available); live concerts featuring Cowell works are no longer uncommon; and an authorized biography is being written.

Poet, essayist, composer, performance artist and a founding member of Fluxus, Dick Higgins was a leading proponent of "Intermedia," which he named. Through his publishing house, Something Else Press, he issued from 1964 to 1973 the Wrst "artist's books," including works by Emmett Williams, Claes Oldenburg, and Merce Cunningham, and reissued six books by Gertrude Stein (notably The Making of Americans) along with Henry Cowell's New Musical Resources. Among Dick Higgins' numerous books are A Book About Love & War & Death, Poems Plain & Fancy, foew&ombwhnw, Pattern Poetry: Guide to an Unkown Literature, Horizons: The Poetics and Theory of Intermedia, A Dialectic of Centuries, and Modernism Since Postmodernism.

Kyle Gann is a composer, music critic for The Village Voice, and Assistant Professor of Music at Bard College, Annandale-on-Hudson, New York. He is the author of American Music in the 20th Century

From Library Journal:

An American composer and intellectual active in avant-garde music circles from the early 20th century until his death in 1965, Cowell was a pioneer of experimental music and influenced composers like John Cage. Today, his works are not widely played or praised, but music students still read his classic guide to contemporary music, New Musical Resources. Cowell felt that no limits should be placed on the composer, and he incorporated strange piano manipulations and elements of world music into his selections. The late Higgins, an artist, publisher, and composer who studied with Cowell at New York City's New School, collected these 46 essays by Cowell. Included are 18 studies of fellow musicians and composers, from Charles Ives to Bela Bartok; a section on world music; and essays on musical craft, theory, and history. For the most part, his writing is accessible and perceptive, and even those without extensive knowledge of 20th-century music will find these pieces engaging. Recommended for music and large public libraries. Bill Walker, Stockton-San Joaquin Cty. P.L., CA
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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