Mumma, Gordon

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Mumma, Gordon

innovative American composer, performer, electronic-music engineer, teacher, and writer on music; b. Framingham, Mass., March 30, 1935. He received private instruction in piano, horn, and composition, and attended the Univ. of Mich, in Ann Arbor (1952–53). In 1958 he became co- founder of Ann Arbor’s Cooperative Studio for Electronic Music, remaining active with it until 1966; also was co-director of the ONCE Festival and ONCE Group there (1960 –66). He helped to develop a revolutionary theatrical art based on projected images, resulting in an aesthetic medium called “Manifestations: Light and Sound” and, later, “Space Theatre”; in 1964 he participated in a memorable presentation of “Space Theatre” at Venice’s Biennial Exhibition, a pioneering demonstration of the electronic light show. Having attended the Inst. of Science and Technology at the Univ. of Mich. (1959 –62), he returned there as a research assoc. in acoustics and seismics (1962 –63). From 1966 to 1974 he was active as a composer and performer with the Mercé Cunningham Dance Co. in N.Y.; also was active with the Sonic Arts Union in N.Y. (from 1966). He taught at the Univ. of 111. at Urbana (1969 –70) and at the Univ. of Calif, at Santa Cruz (1973 –75), where he subsequently was a prof, of music (from 1975). He also was a visiting lecturer at Brandeis Univ. (1966 –67), the State Univ. of N.Y. at Buffalo (1968), and the Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt (1974); in 1981 he held the Darius Milhaud Professorship at Mills Coll. in Oakland, Calif.; after serving as a visiting prof, at the Univ. of Calif, at San Diego (1985, 1987), he returned to Mills Coll. as Distinguished Visiting Composer in 1989. In 1995 he was made prof, emeritus. Mumma has contributed various articles on contemporary music to journals and other publications. He pioneered the process of “cybersonic music,” the control of acoustical and electronic media by means of feedback; also applied computer techniques to composition.


Sinfonia for 12 Instruments and Tape (1958 –60; Ann Arbor, March 4, 1961); Mographs, pieces for Various Combinations of Pianos and Pianists (1962 –64); Retrospect, stereophonic electro-acoustic music (1962 –82; Santa Cruz, Calif., Oct. 6, 1982); Megaton for William Burroughs, live electronic piece for 10 Electronic, Acoustic, and Communication Channels (1963; Ann Arbor, Feb. 28, 1964); Music for the Venezia Space Theatre for 4-channel Magnetic Tape with Live Electronic Music (Venice, Sept. 1, 1964); The Dresden Interleaf 13 February 1945, quadraphonic electronic music on magnetic tape (Ann Arbor, Feb. 13, 1965); Horn for Cybersonic Horn and Voices (1965); Mesa, live electronic music for Cybersonic Bandoneon (St. Paul de Vence, France, Aug. 6, 1966); Hornpipe for Cybernetic Horn and Waldhorn (1967); Schoolwork for Bowed Psaltery, Piano Melodica, and Bowed Crosscut Saw (1970); Telepos for Dancers, Telemetry Belts, and Accelerometers (1971; N.Y, Feb. 2, 1972); Cybersonic Cantilevers, cybersonic electronic system with public participation (Syracuse, N.Y, May 19, 1973); Some Voltage Drop, variable-duration theater piece with electroacoustical implementation (Paris, Oct. 13, 1974); Earheart: Flights, Formations, and Starry Nights for Dancers and Electronics (Portland, Ore., Sept. 9, 1977); Echo-BCD for Dancers and Electronics (Portland, Ore., Oct. 15, 1978); 11 Note Pieces and Decimal Passacaglia for Harpsichord (1979); Pontpoint for Dancers and Electronics (1979; Portland, Ore., March 14, 1980); Faisandage et galimafrée, divertimento for Trios of Diverse Instruments (Santa Cruz, Calif., June 10, 1984); Epifont (Spectral Portrait in memoriam George Cacioppo), stereophonic electroacoustic music on magnetic tape (1984; Ann Arbor, April 14, 1985); Than Particle for Percussion and Digital Computer (Los Angeles, Nov. 7, 1985); AleutianDisplacement for Chamber Orch. (1987); Orait for Dancers and Vocal Ensemble (Santa Cruz, Calif., June 17, 1988); Ménages à deux for Violin, Piano, Vibraphone, and Marimba (1989; Berkeley, Calif., Feb. 10, 1990).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis Mclntire

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Mumma, Gordon

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