Amacher, Maiyanne

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Amacher, Maiyanne

Amacher, Maiyanne, ingenious American composer and sound installation artist; b. Kates, Pa., Feb. 25, 1943. After piano studies at the Philadelphia Cons, of Music, she studied music in Salzburg and England as an Inst. for International Education Fellow; she also studied with Stockhausen. She trained in both music and computer science at the Univ. of Pa. (B.F.A., 1964), where she received the Hugh Clark Fine Arts Prize and the Laisse Fine Arts Award, and at the Univ. of 111. at Champaign—Urbana, where she studied acoustics and began composing her first electroacoustic works. She then was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Mass. Inst. of Technology (1972–76), where she created projects for solo and group shows in collaboration with the visual artists Scott Fisher and Luis Frangella and with the architect Juan Navarro Baldweg. From 1973 to 1984 she was active in the creation of works with John Cage and his lifetime choreographer partner, Mercé Cunningham. In 1975 she composed the storm environment for Cage’s multimedia work, Lecture on the Weather, and in 1978 the sonic environment Close Up that accompanied his 10-hour solo voice composition, Empty Words. She and Cage presented both works together in performances in Canada, Germany, and the U.S. (1976–84). In 1976 she received a commission from the Cunningham Dance Foundation to compose the repertoire sound work for the choreographer’s Torse. This was followed by several other evening-length sound works for the Cunningham Dance Company’s “events” in N.Y. (1974–80).

Amacher’s work is best represented in three series of multimedia installations: the sonic telepresence series CITY-LINKS #1–22 (from 1967), the architecturally staged MUSIC FOR SOUND-JOINED ROOMS (from 1980), and the MINI-SOUND SERIES (from 1985), a new multimedia form unique in its use of architecture and serialized narrative. In these major works she has adopted the television mini-series format in order to develop a more involving narrative context, a serialized narrative to be continued in consecutive episodes. Evolving scenarios build upon each other over a period of several days or weeks: the 6-part Sound House, for example, her first in the series, was produced during a 3-month residency at the Capp Street Project in San Francisco (1985), while The Music Rooms was produced by Berlin’s DAAD Gallery over a 4-work period (1987). Other works in the series are Stolen Souls (1988), commissioned by INKA Digital Arts in Amsterdam, 2021 The Life People (1989), commissioned by the Ars Electronic Festival and first presented in Beurs van Berlage in Amsterdam, and the Biaurals (1990), commissioned by The Electrical Matter and first presented at the Samuel Fleisher Art Memorial in Philadelphia. Installations of MUSIC FOR SOUND-JOINED ROOMS include works created for the Galerie Nachst St. Stephan, Vienna, the Kunsthalle, Basel, the Oggi Music Festival, Lugano, the Cultural Commune di Roma, and the Walker Arts Center in Minneapolis, among many others, while installations of CITY LINKS #1-22 include works created for both solo and group shows at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago (1974), the Walker Arts Center (1974), the Hayden Gallery at the Mass. Inst. of Technology (1975), the Inst. of Contemporary Art in Boston (1975), and at Mills Coll. (1980, 1994). Among her recent endeavors are inclusion in “The American Century, Art and Culture 1950–2000” Sound Art Group Show at N.Y.’s Whitney Museum of American Art (2000) and a 90-minute profile on the composer produced by Frankfurt am Main’s Hessischer Rundfunk (2000). She has also been commissioned by the Kronos String Quartet, through funding by the Lila Wallace-Reader’s Digest Fund, for a String Quartet with Electroacoustic Installation.

Amacher’s work is formidably original, ever pressing on the available edge of available technology. In addition to grants and fellowships from such sources as the NEA, NYSCA, the Pew Memorial Trust, and the N.Y. Artist Fellowship Program (1976–98), she was a Bunting Inst. Fellow at Radcliffe Coll. (1978–79), resident artist at the Capp Street project in San Francisco (1985), recipient of Berlin’s Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) grant (1986–87), a visiting artist at the Banff Center for the Arts (1991–92), and the first Rosenkrans Artist-in-Residence in Music at Mills Coll. (1993). In 1997 she received both the Prix Ars Electronic Golden Nica Distinction in Computer Music award from the Ars Electrónica International Competition for Cyber Arts in Linz, Austria, and a Guggenheim fellowship. In 1999 she received a grant from N.Y.’s Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire