Harrison, Lou (Silver)

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Harrison, Lou (Silver)

Harrison, Lou (Silver), inventive American composer and performer; b. Portland, Ore., May 14, 1917. He studied with Cowell in San Francisco (1934–35) and with Schoenberg at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles (1941). From 1945 to 1948 he was a music critic for the N.Y. Herald- Tribune. He was also an active promoter of contemporary music, including the works of Ives, Ruggles, Varèse, and Cowell. He prepared for publication Ives’ 3rd Sym., and conducted its premiere (N.Y, April 5, 1946). He taught at Reed Coll. in Portland, Ore. (1949–50) and at Black Mountain Coll. in N.C. (1951–52). In 1952 and 1954 he held Guggenheim fellowships. In 1961 he visited the Far East. In 1963 he served as the senior scholar at the East-West Center of the Univ. of Hawaii. From 1967 to 1980 he taught at San Jose State Univ., and from 1980 to 1985 at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif. In 1983 he was a senior Fulbright scholar in New Zealand. Harrison’s extensive output reflects his belief that the entire sound world is open to the creative musician. He has made use of both Western and non-Western musical traditions. He has demonstrated a preoccupation with pitch relations, most notably just intonation. In some of his works, he has utilized non-Western instruments or folk instruments, and he has also constructed various instruments of his own invention. He has even been bold enough to explore the use of unconventional “instruments,” such as flowerpots, washtubs, and packing cases. Whatever the resources used, Harrison molds them into his own eclectic style in which melody and rhythm predominate.


dramatic: Opera: Rapunzel (Rome, 1954); Young Caesar, puppet opera (Aptos, Calif., Aug. 21, 1971). theater piece:Jeptha’s Daughter (1940-63; Aptos, Calif., March 9, 1963). dance scores:Changing World (1936); Green Mansions (1939); Something to Please Everybody (1939); Johnny Appleseed (1940); Omnipotent Chair (1940); Orpheus (1941–69); Perilous Chapel (1948); Western Dance (1948); The Marriage at the Eiffel Tower (1949); The Only Jealousy of Emer (1949); Solstice (1949); Almanac of the Seasons (1950); Io and Prometheus (1951); Praises for Hummingbirds and Hawks (1951). OTHER: Incidental music to plays and film scores. ORCH.: Suite for Symphonic Strings (1936–60); Sym. No. 3 (1937–82); Concerto for Violin and Percussion Orch. (1940–59); Elegiac Symphony (1941–75); Alleluia (1944); 2 suites for Strings (1947, 1948); Symphony on G (1948-54; rev. 1966); Suite for Violin, Piano, and Small Orch. (1951); Moogunkwha, se tang ak for Korean Court Orch. (1961); Pacifika rondo for Chamber Orch. (1963); Concerto for Organ, Percussion, and Orch. (1972–73); Simfony in Free Style (1980); Double Concerto for Violin, Cello, and Large Javanese Gamelan (1981–82); Piano Concerto (N.Y, Oct. 20, 1985); Last Symphony (N.Y, Nov. 2, 1990); A Parade for M.T.T (San Francisco, Sept. 6, 1995). CHAMBER: Concerto No. 1 for Flute and Percussion (1939); Canticle No. 1 for 5 Percussion (1940) and No. 3 for Flute or Ocarina, Guitar, and Percussion (1941; rev. 1989); Song of Queztecoatl for Percussion Quartet (1940); Double Music for Percussion Quartet (1941; in collaboration with J. Cage); Fugue for Percussion Quartet (1941); Labyrinth for 11 Players of 91 Percussion Instruments (1941); Schoenbergiana for 6 Woodwinds (1945); Siciliana for Wind Quintet (1945); Motet for the Day of Ascension for 7 Strings (1946); String Trio (1946); Suite for Cello and Harp (1949); Suite No. 2 for String Quartet (1949–50); 7 Pastorales for 4 Woodwinds, Harp, and Strings (1952); Koncherto for Violin and 5 Percussion (1959); Concerto in slendro for Violin, Celesta, 2 Tack Pianos, and Strings (1961); Quintal taryung for 2 Flutes and Changgo (1961); Prelude for P’iri and Harmonium (1962); Majestic Fanfare for Trumpets and Percussion (1963); At the Tomb of Charles Ives for Chamber Group (1964); Avalokiteshvara for Harp and Jaltarang (1965); Music for Violin and Other Instruments (1967–69); Beverly’s Troubadour Piece for Harp and 2 Percussion (1968); In Memory of Victor Jowers for Clarinet and Piano (1968); Suite for Violin and American Gamelan (1972-73; in collaboration with R. Dee); Arion’s Leap for Justly Tuned Instruments and Percussion (1974); Main bersama-sama for Horn and Sundanese Gamelan Degung (1978); Serenade for Betty Freeman and Franco Asseto for Sundanese Gamelan Degung and Suling (1978); String Quartet Set (1978–79); Suite for Guitar and Percussion (1978–79); Threnody for Carlos Chavez for Sundanese Gamelan Degung and Violin (1979); Ariadne for Flute and Percussion (1987); Varied Trio for Violin, Piano, and Percussion (1987); many Javanese gamelan pieces; piano music. VOCAL: Mass for Chorus, Trumpet, Harp, and Strings (1939–54); Easter Cantata for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1943–46); Alma redemptoris mater for Baritone, Violin, Trombone, and Tack Piano (1949); A Political Primer for Soloists, Chorus, and Orch. (1951); Holly and Ivy for Voice, Harp, and Strings (1951); Peace Piece 3 for Voice, Violin, Harp, and Strings (1953); 4 Strict Songs for 8 Baritones and Orch. (1955); A Joyous Procession and a Solemn Procession for Chorus, Trombones, and Percussion (1962); Nova odo for Chorus and Orch. (1962); Haiku for Unison Voices, Xiao, Harp, and Percussion (1968); Peace Piece 2 for Tenor, 3 Percussion, 2 Harps, and String Quintet (1968); Peace Piece 1 for Unison Voices, Trombone, 3 Percussion, 2 Harps, Organ, and String Quintet (1968); La koro sutro for Chorus, American Gamelan, and Percussion Orch. (1972); Scenes from Cavafy for Baritone, Men’s Voices, and Large Javanese Gamelan (1979–80); The Foreman’s Song Tune for Chorus and Gamelan (1983).


About Carl Ruggles (N.Y., 1946); Music Primer: Various Items About Music to 1970 (N.Y, 1971); with others, Soundings: Ives, Ruggles, Varèse (Santa Fe, N.Mex., 1974); P. Garland, ed., A Lou Harrison Reader (Santa Fe, N.Mex., 1987).


V. Rathbun, L. H. and his Music (thesis, San Jose State Univ., 1976); C. Rutman, The Solo Piano Works of L. H. (diss., Peabody Cons, of Music, 1983); L. Miller and F. Lieberman, L. H: Composing a World (N.Y, 1998).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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