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Article

Hugh Davies and Susan McClary

(b Chicago, IL, June 5, 1947). American performance artist, composer, and instrument innovator. Although she played the violin from childhood, she received her formal training in the visual arts (Barnard College, BA 1969; Columbia University, MFA 1972). During the 1970s she became one of the most celebrated practitioners of performance art. Her work has incorporated graphics, lighting, sculpture, mime, slides, film, speech, music, and many electronic devices, some of her own design. By 1976 her performances were featured prominently in museums and concert venues across Europe and North America.

Anderson has achieved great visibility, in part because of her originality: coming to music from the visual arts, she was free to manipulate sounds as she liked. Her unexpected crossover into the popular domain brought her a degree of fame and influence usually unavailable to avant-garde artists.

Since the mid-1970s Anderson has developed several instruments for use in her performances and exhibitions. A typical programme for one of her live shows includes all or part of her large-scale music theatre work ...

Article

Jody Diamond

(b Bay Shore, NY, April 7, 1946). American composer, performer, instrument builder and ethnomusicologist. She received the BA from Sarah Lawrence College, and the MA and PhD from Wesleyan University, where she studied Indonesian and Indian music. She has performed with the ensembles of Philip Glass, Jon Gibson, Alvin Lucier, Philip Corner and Daniel Goode. In 1976 she co-founded, with Corner and Goode, the Gamelan Son of Lion, New York, a new music collective and repertory ensemble under her direction. In addition, she has built several Javanese-style iron gamelans, including the instruments used by the Gamelan Son of Lion and Gamelan Encantada, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Benary’s compositional output has been primarily in the areas of ensemble and chamber music, and music for the theatre. She has described herself as a ‘part-time minimalist who also likes to write melody’. Many of her works integrate world music forms, structures and instruments with traditional Western materials. Her works for gamelan ensemble, which number more than 30, have been performed internationally. ...

Article

(b Springfield, MA, June 13, 1965). American composer, performer, and instrument maker, based in Oakland, California. She holds the BA in Computer Science and Music from Dartmouth College (1987) and MA in Electronic Music and Recording Media from Mills College (1992), and since 1993 has taught electronic music at the College of San Mateo. She performs on french horn and acoustic and electronic instruments of her own design, often with the improvisation ensemble Vorticella. Among her original instruments are amplified rocking chairs, bull kelp horns, Leaf Speakers, the Gliss Glass, and the Sliding Speaker. Her composition Lift, Loft, Lull explores the sonic properties of balloons as resonators in instruments made of metal bars, pipes, plates, and scraps. Bobrowski’s kelp horns (1989 and later) are long, slender conical tubes of natural kelp (Nereocystis luetkeana), slowly dried and shaped, and blown like a brass instrument. Leaf Speakers (...

Article

Stephen Ruppenthal

revised by Kyle Devine

(b Southgate, CA, Apr 17, 1937). American electronic instrument designer and builder, composer, and performer. After graduating from UC Berkeley (BA in physics, 1961) Buchla worked on a variety of projects, including a transistorized hearing aid and a NASA bid to send monkeys on long-term space missions. He also became affiliated with the San Francisco Tape Music Center where, alongside composers like Morton Subotnick and Ramon Sender, he refined his interest in musique concrète and began searching for electronic alternatives to the laborious and necessarily preplanned cutting and splicing that characterized tape composition. In 1963, with the aid of a Rockefeller Foundation grant, and simultaneously but independently from Robert Moog, he designed and built one of the first voltage-controlled synthesizers, the Modular Electronic Music System (part of the Buchla 100 series). By 1966, the first complete Buchla synthesizer was installed at the Tape Center. He formed Buchla & Associates in Berkeley in the same year to manufacture synthesizers. Apart from a brief period (...

Article

Dale Cockrell and Hugh Davies

(b San Francisco, May 17, 1941). American composer, writer, and instrument maker. He studied composition with Grant Fletcher at Arizona State University (BM 1963) and with Halsey Stevens, Dahl, and Perle at the University of Southern California (MM 1965). He then taught at Kansas State College, California Lutheran College, the Cleveland Institute, Miami University of Ohio, and the University of California, Santa Cruz. Since the early 1970s (particularly from 1979, working at Santa Cruz) he has constructed several percussion instruments for use in his own compositions. The Way (completed 1981) is based on Navajo Indian rituals, and is written in a system of just intonation having 33 notes to the octave. The instruments it uses are mostly of familiar types, and include aluminium bells, a large drum, plastic tubes blown transversely, and musical glasses. There are also parts for several ‘symbiotic’ instruments based on interacting systems of vibration and resonance: the Logsprinoka, for example, consists of a form of nail violin, and long springs stretched over bridges, which are attached to a 2-metre log drum. Some instruments, some with only one note, were made from Navajo prayer stones and other materials obtained from Canyon de Chelley in Arizona. Cope has also explored unconventional playing techniques and prepared instruments....

Article

John Chalmers and Brian McLaren

[O'Hara, Kenneth Vincent Gerard]

(b Portland, OR, May 5, 1917; d San Diego, CA, Feb 13, 1994). American composer, instrument inventor and theorist. He studied the cello, the piano and wind instruments at an early age. A composition student of Charles Wakefield Cadman, he began to compose using quarter-tones and just intonation during the 1930s. Although ill health prevented him from attending college, he taught himself electrical engineering and invented pioneering electro-acoustical instruments, including the microtonal keyboard oboe (1936), the amplifying clavichord (1940), the amplified cello (1941) and the electric keyboard drum (around 1945). During the 1960s he designed and built a 60-tone electronic organ with an ‘elastic tuning’ system that automatically justified traditional musical intervals.

In 1962 M. Joel Mandelbaum’s 19-tone compositions and Ervin Wilson’s microtonal instrument patents introduced Darreg to new tuning systems. He began an intensive programme of musical exploration and discovered that all equal temperaments have uniquely valuable musical properties (‘moods’). To hear these scales, he refretted guitars to 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 22, 24 and 31 notes per octave and constructed metallophones with 5, 10, 13, 14, 15, 17, 19, 22, 24 and 53 notes per octave. During the 1970s he created justly-tuned Megalyra and Kosmolyra amplified steel-guitar-like instruments, the sound of which has been described as ‘tuned thunder’. His last compositions use retunable MIDI synthesizers....

Article

Laurence Libin

(b St Joseph, MO, July 11, 1939; d Petaluma, CA, July 9, 2005). American musician, composer, and experimental instrument maker. He was a jazz pianist in Kansas City before turning in the 1960s to playing keyboard with San Francisco rock groups. Disillusioned by commercial work, he began composing ‘fusion’ music and making instruments (often inspired by non-Western models) with which to play it. He described himself as an itinerant flute-maker and sold his popular bamboo flutes and other creations at Bay Area fairs and concerts. Inventions of his include the Wind Wand (a long dowel with a handle and an adjustable cross-piece intersecting a large rubber band stretched over the ends of the dowel; swung in a circle or back and forth, it produces four pitches); Spirit Catcher (a smaller Wind Wand with two rubber bands, producing eight tones); Butu (a section of bamboo with fingerholes, played by striking the bottom on a hard surface and fingering the holes to change the pitch); Groove Stick (a long bamboo scraper), as well as the Tank, the Circular Violin, and a bamboo xylophone. He shared his music and instruments with public school classes, where he was known as ‘Mr. Sound Magic’. In later years DeVore explored improvisation together with like-minded musicians and experimental instrument makers including Bart Hopkin, Tom Nunn, and Richard Waters. After DeVore’s death many of his instruments were donated to local schools....

Article

Gordon Rumson

(b Aurora, IL, March 9, 1871; d San Francisco, April 15, 1954). American composer, pianist and inventor. A precocious musician, he graduated with ‘unprecedented’ honours from the Königliche Musikschule, Munich (1889), having studied with Rheinberger and Thuille. He settled in San Francisco in 1896, touring widely with Anton Schott, Amalie Materna, David Bispham and Ernestine Schumann-Heink. In 1901 he married the singer Edith Cruzan. He moved back to Germany in 1911, where he established a vocal studio in Berlin and obtained a patent (1912) for a new keyboard design with 60 notes to the octave. After returning to the USA in 1914, he became head of the music department at the University of Virginia (from 1920). His retirement in 1941 coincided with an American patent for the polytone, an instrument using an extended keyboard and allowing for a purer intonation of 3rds and 5ths....

Article

Edmond T. Johnson

(b Memphis, TN, 17 June 1957). American artist, composer, performer, and instrument inventor best known for inventing the Long String Instrument. Originally interested in visual and performance art, Fullman attended the Kansas City Art Institute where she began to incorporate sound into her works, at first through the manipulation of magnetic tape. Her first major work was the Metal Skirt Sound Sculpture (1980), an assemblage consisting of amplified guitar strings stretched between the artist’s shoes and a pleated metal skirt. Indirectly influenced by Alvin Lucier’s Music on a Long Thin Wire (1977), Fullman began experimenting with extended lengths of wire in 1980 and gave the first public performance on a prototype of the Long String Instrument at the Walker Art Gallery in Minneapolis in November 1981.The design of the Long String Instrument has varied significantly over time and in different installations. It generally consists of several dozen stainless steel, phosphor bronze, or brass wires that are arranged in groups stretched horizontally at about waist height. Depending on the specific installation, the wires span from about 15 to 90 metres. At one end the strings are affixed perpendicularly to the soundboards of securely anchored wooden box resonators (designed in cooperation with the instrument maker Stephen Wise). The strings extend to blocks where they are fastened to tuning pins and tensioned just below their breaking point in order to maximize resonance. A brass capo of unique design (originally a C-clamp) on each string determines its vibrating length. Because the sound arises from longitudinal rather than transverse vibrations, string material (density) and length alone determine pitch, not tension (about 18 kg per string) or thickness. Consequently, the strings sound at a much higher pitch than might be expected from their length. Once tensioned, the strings are tuned by means of the capos in a flexible system of just intonation and typically encompass a range of three octaves down from ...

Article

Kathryn Bridwell Briner

(David )

(b Chicago, IL, Jan 27, 1950). American horn player, historical horn maker, music educator, and composer. He studied horn with Ernani Angelucci, John Barrows, Helen Kotas, Ethel Merker, Frank Brouk, and Dale Clevenger. He was appointed assistant principal horn for the Detroit Symphony in 1972, and has also performed as principal horn with the Mexico City Philharmonic (1978–80), the Cincinnati Symphony (1984–6), the Toledo Symphony (1990–7), and as guest principal horn with the Antwerp Philharmonic/Royal Flemish Orchestra. He has taught the horn at Interlochen Arts Academy, Wheaton College, Oakland University, the University of Cincinnati, the University of Michigan, the School of Perfection in Mexico City, and the Carl Nielsen Academy in Odense, Denmark. Greer has written solo pieces for both the modern and natural (valveless) horn, as well as a mass for hunting horns and organ.

Noted for his flexible tone and facile technique, Greer has toured widely as a soloist and has made notable recordings, particularly on the natural horn; those recordings include Beethoven’s Sonata for horn, Brahms’ Trio for horn, violin, and piano, and the horn concertos of Mozart....

Article

Hugh Davies

(b New York, NY, June 19, 1934; d Wiesbaden-Erbenheim, Germany, Feb 9, 1993). American instrument inventor and composer. As a youngster in Brooklyn he was trained in classical music, but turned to jazz drumming and studied composition briefly with John Cage and Earle Brown. From 1962 (working at first in New York, then from about l973 in Asolo, near Vicenza) he constructed many instruments, influenced particularly by his involvement with the Fluxus group in New York. That association began in 1963, the same year some of his experimental instruments were shown at the Betty Parsons Gallery. He concentrated on self-playing instruments operated by small electric motors, to which beaters or lengths of leather bootlace that rotate like propellers are attached; many of them incorporate existing string and percussion instruments (often toys, and including zithers and normal and toy violins and guitars). Both motors and instruments are suspended on long strings or wires; their operation causes them to move around so that the sound varies continuously. Despite the simplicity of the basic idea of nearly all of Jones’s instruments, in most of which sustained sounds are derived from sources that are normally percussive, they produce a surprisingly wide range of delicate and subtle sounds....

Article

Leonard B. Smith and Raoul F. Camus

[Brockton, Lester]

(b Southville, MA, Oct 25, 1879; d Palisade, NJ, March 16, 1955). American composer, conductor, editor and arranger. He studied at the New England Conservatory and was playing the violin with professional symphony orchestras in Boston by the age of 16. From 1896 to 1910 he conducted various theatre orchestras, including the orchestra of the Teatro Payret, Havana, then one of the largest theatres in the western hemisphere. He later moved to New York, where he wrote arrangements for Victor Herbert, John Philip Sousa, Edwin Franko Goldman, Percy Grainger, Henry Hadley and George M. Cohan. In 1913 he became editor-in-chief of band and orchestral music at Carl Fischer, a position he held for 35 years. His textbook, The American Band Arranger, was published by Fischer in 1920. He taught at the Ernest Williams School, Columbia University and New York University. He also conducted his band, Symphony in Gold, for NBC radio. More than 3000 of his arrangements and compositions were published, some under the pseudonym Lester Brockton. The Heritage of the March series of recordings includes a sample of his work. Lake’s autobiography is entitled ...

Article

(b Boston, April 28, 1951). American instrument builder, composer, and performer, noted for constructing instruments from discarded objects. He studied composition with Milton Babbitt at Princeton and in 1989–90 pursued music performance and instrument making in Java in connection with the activities of his wife, the late Deena Burton, founder of Arts Indonesia. Since 1974, when LaPlante first sought new sounds as a dance accompanist and composer (he has written about 100 works for dance performances), he has made hundreds of instruments of all kinds from recycled materials, some inspired by non-Western models. In 1975 he co-founded (with Carole Weber) the ensemble Music for Homemade Instruments, a New York collective involving instrument makers, performers, and composers. As a member of the American Festival of Microtonal Music he has made new versions of instruments such as Julian Carillo’s 96-note-per-octave harp and various types built by Harry Partch. He conducts instrument-making workshops for children under auspices of Bash The Trash and Young Audiences of New York, and has collaborated in theatre productions with Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin....

Article

Ronald W. Holz and Raoul F. Camus

(b Stockholm, March 25, 1894; d New York, Dec 20, 1962). American composer, arranger and conductor of Swedish birth. He studied at the Swedish Royal Academy of Music, Stockholm, emigrated to the USA in 1915, and by 1923 assumed leadership of the Salvation Army New England Staff Band. In 1926 he moved to New York, where he became music director of the Salvation Army’s Centennial Memorial Temple. He consequently composed hundreds of vocal and instrumental pieces for the Army, and wrote orchestral transcriptions and original works for the Goldman Band, many of which were published by Carl Fischer and Charles Colin. It has been suggested that he also made substantial contributions to many marches by E.F. Goldman and band works by Ernest Williams, including the Symphony in C minor. He was head of the theory department at the Ernest Williams School for eight years, director of the Swedish Glee Club of Brooklyn and the Arma Company band and a teacher at the National Music Camp, Interlochen, Michigan. Between ...

Article

Stephen Montague

(b Mount Vernon, NY, Nov 24, 1953). American composer, computer instruments inventor and educator. He studied composition and cello at the University of California, Santa Cruz (1971–3), Columbia University (1973–4), the Juilliard School (BM 1975, MM 1977), specialising in computer music technology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. His principal teachers were Luigi Dallapiccola (1973), Roger Sessions (1973–5) and Elliott Carter (1975–8). He was the principal cellist with the Canadian Opera Company (1975–6) and a guest composer at IRCAM, Paris (1978–9), where he subsequently served as director of musical research (1980–84). He returned to the United States and in 1985 joined the faculty of MIT as professor of music and media at its new media laboratory and became director of the Experimental Media Facility and head of the Hyperinstruments/Opera of the Future group where he continues to work. In ...

Article

Hugh Davies

(b Kansas, c1880; d Angel’s Camp, CA, 1969). American composer and sound sculptor. He studied music in the San Francisco Bay area, but in the 1920s he abandoned composition, burning all his scores. From that time his interests slowly turned to sound sculpture and for over 30 years he constructed wind-, water-, fire-, and gravity-powered works at Angel’s Camp in the California mountains. His earliest piece, which used wind chimes, was built in 1934; wind-powered elements that appeared later included bell-chimes, tubular chimes, piano strings, and drums struck by beaters, whistle holes, and a slide pipe consisting of two concentric tubes. He constructed a total of 53 aeolian instruments. He first used water in a sound sculpture in 1947 and his only work to involve fire was built in 1955. After his death his sculptures were dispersed to remote locations; this was done in accordance with his will, which is also the cause of the almost complete lack of information about his work, since it directed that many documents be destroyed or suppressed....

Article

Olivia Mattis

(b Columbus, NE, 1926; d San Francisco, April 21, 2011). American engineer, inventor and composer. One of the pioneers of computer music, he was a member of the Bell Telephone Laboratories group that included John Pierce and Newman Guttman. He studied electrical engineering at the California Institute of Technology (BS 1950) and MIT (MS 1952, ScD 1954) before working in acoustic research at Bell Labs (1955–87). In 1987 he was appointed to a professorship at Stanford University's Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics (CCRMA). His many honours include the SEAMUS Award from the Society for Electro-Acoustic Music (1989) and the French Legion of Honour (1994).

Mathews’ best-known composition, his rendition of Bicycle Built for Two using instrumental and vocal sounds synthesized by the computer (1961), became a cultural icon when it was used as the basis of the final scene of Stanley Kubrick’s film ...

Article

Dorothy de Val

(b Kecskemét, nr Szeged, Feb 19, 1863; d Mt Pélerin, nr Vevey, Oct 20, 1931). Hungarian composer, pianist and inventor. The son of a cantor, he studied in Prague, Budapest and Vienna before travelling to America in 1885 to pursue a career as a pianist and conductor. In 1888 he settled in England, but travelled frequently to the continent for performances of his works and was encouraged by Brahms, whom he met in 1889. In England his work was championed by George Henschel, who conducted his First Symphony, the Concert Overture and the Piano Concerto in D; the concerto shares with the Second Symphony (1895) a distinctive Hungarian style in its strong rhythms and harmonies. In 1901 Moór moved to Switzerland, where he turned increasingly to opera. Diverse in style and favourably received (most were staged), the operas were nonetheless dropped from the repertory before long, and Moór continued with instrumental composition, finding champions in such performers as Casals (the dedicatee of several works), Marteau, Eugene Ysaÿe and Flesch. Highly rhapsodic and coloured, Moór’s music was often inspired by the contrapuntal complexity of J.S. Bach, as well as by his own Hungarian and Jewish background; despite the musical innovations of the first decades of the twentieth century, Moór’s work remained rooted in the nineteenth century....

Article

Alan Buechner

revised by Laura Moore Pruett

(b Setauket, NY, Nov 26, 1807; d Setauket, NY, Nov 18, 1868). American painter, composer, fiddler, and inventor. Best known as a genre painter of the Hudson River School who depicted some significant examples of banjo and fiddle iconography, he is also notable for his ‘improved’, louder model of the violin, patented 1 June 1852 (no.8981). The patent model, a 7/8-size instrument (US.W.si), was patterned after a design that requires fewer constituent parts than usual; it incorporates a boutless, almond-shaped body, a ‘hollow’ (i.e. concave, cradle-like) bent back, a ‘spring-beam’ bass-bar, shortened soundpost, and straight soundholes. In its final form, as exemplified by a full-sized violin of 1857 (Museums at Stony Brook, New York, where Mount’s patterns and notes are also preserved), it possesses a boutless, guitar-shaped body, the same ‘hollow’ back, a conventional bass-bar, and ordinary soundholes in reversed position. Under the trade name ‘The Cradle of Harmony’ various models were displayed at the Crystal Palace, New York, during the ...

Article

Richard Kassel

(b Oakland, CA, June 24, 1901; d San Diego, Sept 3, 1974). American composer, theorist, instrument maker and performer. He dedicated most of his life to implementing an alternative to equal temperament, which he found incapable of the true consonance his ear and essentially tonal aesthetic demanded. He invented an approach to just intonation he called ‘monophony’; realizing that traditional instruments and performers would be inimical to his system, he designed and constructed new and adapted instruments, developed notational systems, and trained performing groups wherever he was living and working. By the 1940s he had transformed a profound antipathy to the European concert tradition into the idea of ‘corporeality’, emphasizing a physical and communal quality in his music.

Growing up in the American Southwest, Partch had piano lessons and played well enough to accompany silent films in Albuquerque. By 1920 he had returned to California, where he spent the next 13 years as a proofreader, piano teacher and violist. During this period he began to research intonation, sparked by his discovery of Helmholtz's ...