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LOU HARRISON: Born and raised in Portland, 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 Björk 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.

Representative Works:

Double music, for percussions (1941) John Cage and Lou Harrison. Ensemble Percussion Ricerca directed by Eddy De Fanti.

Four Strict Songs for choir and orchestra. The Louisvlle Orchestra

Suite for Violin, Piano, and Small Orchstra(1988) Lucy Stoltzman (violin), Keith Jarrett, (piano), Ensemble directed by Robert Hughes

Threnody for Carlos Chavez Miriam English Ward (viola) and Venerable Showers of Beauty (Gamelan)

Visit Online: Lou Harrison: American Musical Maverick

Oregon Connection: Born in Portland 1917. Returned in 1949-50 to compose music for Reed College ballets with Bonnie Bird. Returned often in the 1980s and '90s to work with Venerable Showers of Beauty Gamelan, Portland Gay Men's Chorus, Oregon Repertory singers, Third Angle, all of which have recorded and/or performed his music in concert. He even tuned VSB's instruments and made the music stands with his life partner, Bill Colvig, who not only built several gamelans with Lou from the late '60s through early 2000s, but is also himself a native Oregonian, born in Medford the same year as Lou, to an Oregon pioneer family.

Video: LOU HARRISON: A World of Music (Film Trailer) An in-depth look at the life and work of Lou Harrison created with footage collected for over two decades by documentary filmmaker/music producer Eva Soltes, who was closely associated with Lou Harrison during his lifetime.

Content for this page compiled by Brett Campbell, Oregon ArtsWatch.



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