Nurock, Kirk

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Nurock, Kirk

Nurock, Kirk, innovative American composer and originator of “natural sound”; b. Camden, N.J., Feb. 28, 1948. He held scholarships for study at the Juilliard School in N.Y. and at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. His teachers in composition were Persichetti, Sessions, and Berio. He was awarded the Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge Prize in chamber music in 1970. From his earliest essays in composition, he adhered to extraordinary and unusual sound production; became active as a conductor of idiosyncratic theater productions, among them the temporarily objectionable musical Hair, which aroused indignant protests on the part of tender- minded listeners. He further developed a natural ability to perform advanced keyboard jazz music. In 1971 he developed an experimental vocal technique which he called “natural sound,” founded on the assumption that every person’s vocal cords, as well as other parts of their bodies, are capable of producing variegated sound. In several works he annexed animal noises; the most challenging of them being Sonata for Piano and Dog (1982) and Gorilla, Gorilla for Piano (1988). Audience participation is welcomed as an integral part of “natural sound” productions. Several of Nurock’s works are specifically scored for untrained, improvisatory participants. Interestingly enough, many newspaper reviews of his presentations seem to revive the alarmed outcries of shocked innocence that greeted first performances of the now-recognized works of Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Varèse.


dramatic: music theater:Mowgli, after Kipling, with 12 Singing Actors and 6 Musicians (1978–84). orch.:Accumulations (1968); Assemblage (1969). chamber: Clarinet Chant for 6 Clarinets and Bass Clarinet (1970); Creature Memory (1979). ”natural sound,” including animals:Elemental Chant (1972); Audience Oratorio, with Audience Participation (1975); Howl for 20 Voices and 4 Canines (N.Y., Jan. 15, 1980); Bronx Zoo Events (Bronx Zoo, N.Y., Oct. 24, 1980); Sonata for Piano and Dog (1982; N.Y., March 16, 1983); Expedition for Jazz Trio and Siberian Husky (N.Y., Jan. 14, 1984); Sendings for 5 Winds and 4 Creatures (N.Y., March 17, 1984); Haunted Messages for Piano and Barking Audience (1984; N.Y., March 20, 1990); Listening Bach for Orch., Chorus, Narrator, and Animals (1986–88); Gorilla, Gorilla for Piano (N.Y., March 19, 1988). other:The Incurable Dorothy Parker, song cycle for Soprano and Piano (Philadelphia, Nov. 10, 1986); 3 Screams for 2 Amplified Pianos (N.Y., March 20, 1990); numerous ensemble numbers for plays.

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire