Lou Harrison: Composing a World, Volume 1

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Oxford University Press, 1998 - Biography & Autobiography - 385 pages
Lou Harrison, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 1997, has often been cited as one of the America's most original and influential composers. In addition to his prolific musical output, Harrison is also a skilled painter, calligrapher, essayist, critic, poet, and instrument-builder. During his long and varied career, he has explored dance, Asian music, tuning systems, and universal languages, and has actively championed political causes ranging from pacifism to gay rights. As an articulate and outspoken observer of the contemporary musical scene, he is frequently quoted in the media; yet until now no comprehensive study of his life and works has been published.

The present book, supported by extensive archival research and nearly 70 interviews, examines the ideas that have shaped Harrison's creative output, as seen through the eyes of the composer and his associates. A detailed biographical section is followed by individual chapters focusing on Music and Dance, Intonation and Tuning, Instruments, Asian influences, Gamelan, Music and Politics, Music Criticism, and Compositional Processes. In a separate chapter, the authors describe the historical background of the San Francisco gay community, Harrison's literary and musical statements on gay rights, and possible "gay markers" on his musical style.

An annotated works-list details over 300 compositions, and a full-length CD illustrates the text in sound, including several unique and previously unrecorded works.

This engaging study of Harrison's life and works will be indispensable to students and scholars of American music and to performing artists and programmers.

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LOU HARRISON: Composing a World

User Review  - Kirkus

That this biographical study of composer, polymath, and activist Lou Harrison began as an oral history explains a lot; its cozy tone betrays long exposure not only to octogenarian Harrison himself ... Read full review

Lou Harrison: composing a world

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

Miller and Lieberman (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) have fashioned a respectful portrait of composer Lou Harrison (b. 1917), emphasizing his humanity and enthusiasm for incorporating diverse ... Read full review


West Coast Prelude 19171943
East Coast Fugue 19431953
California Toccata 1953present

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About the author (1998)

About the Authors:
Musicologist and flutist Leta Miller has published articles, books, and critical editions of Renaissance, Baroque, and contemporary music and has been featured on thirteen solo recordings, including three CDs of music by Lou Harrison. Composer and ethnomusiclogist Fredric Lieberman has published compositions, articles, books, films, and recordings dealing with Chinese, Indian, and other Asian musics and on American popular music. Both authors are Professors of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

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