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date: 19 September 2020

Russell, William [Wagner, Russell William](ii)locked

  • John Kennedy

Extract

[Wagner, Russell William]

(b Canton, MO, Feb 26, 1905; d New Orleans, Aug 9, 1992). American composer, record producer, jazz musician and historian. He studied at the Quincy (Illinois) Conservatory, Culver-Stockton College (Missouri), privately with Max Pilzer (New York) and at Columbia University Teachers College (New York). During the 1930s he became acquainted with Cowell and Cage (who later programmed many of his works) and, over eight years, composed his complete oeuvre. To avoid any association with Richard Wagner, he adopted his first name, Russell, as a surname when Cowell published his Fugue (1931–2), a work first performed on the same programme as the première of Varèse’s Ionisation. From 1934 to 1939 he toured with the Red Gate Shadow Players, a Chinese shadow puppet play troupe, playing Chinese percussion instruments.

A collector of early jazz recordings, Russell co-founded the Hot Record Exchange in 1935. During the 1930s his writings appeared in ...

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New Haven (CT), Yale University, Oral History Archive