Lou Harrison, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 1997, has often been cited as one of the America’s most original and influential composers. In addition to his prolific musical output, Harrison is also a skilled painter, calligrapher, essayist, critic, poet, and instrument-builder. During his long and varied career, he has explored dance, Asian music, tuning systems, and universal languages, and has actively championed political causes ranging from pacifism to gay rights. As an articulate and outspoken observer of the contemporary musical scene, he is frequently quoted in the media; yet until now no comprehensive study of his life and works has been published.
The present book, supported by extensive archival research and nearly 70 interviews, examines the ideas that have shaped Harrison’s creative output, as seen through the eyes of the composer and his associates. A detailed biographical section is followed by individual chapters focusing on Music and Dance, Intonation and Tuning, Instruments, Asian influences, Gamelan, Music and Politics, Music Criticism, and Compositional Processes. In a separate chapter, the authors describe the historical background of the San Francisco gay community, Harrison’s literary and musical statements on gay rights, and possible « gay markers » on his musical style.
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