Other Minds is a global New Music community where composers, students, and listeners discover and learn about fine innovative music by composers from all over the world.
Other Minds is dedicated to the encouragement and propagation of contemporary music in all its forms through concerts, recordings, broadcasts, audio preservation, and public discussions that bring together artists and audiences of diverse traditions, generations, and cultural backgrounds. By fostering cross-cultural exchange and creative dialogue, and by encouraging exploration of areas in new music seldom touched upon by mainstream music institutions, Other Minds is committed to expanding and reshaping the definition of what constitutes “serious music.”
Founded in 1993, Other Minds in San Francisco is a leading organization for new and experimental music, devoted to championing the most original, eccentric, and underrepresented creative voices in contemporary music, with an emphasis on composers of the American Experimental Tradition. From festival concerts, film screenings, radio broadcasts, and the commissioning of new works, to producing and releasing CDs, preserving thousands of interviews and concerts and distributing them free on the Internet, Other Minds has become one of the world’s major conservators of new music’s ecology.
We accomplish our mission by working in the following four areas:
Other Minds Records offers neglected hits of yesterday’s avant-garde & today’s innovators: Antheil, Braxton, Blitzstein, Cowell, Nancarrow, Bill Fontana, Cheryl Leonard, Raven Chacon, Tony Gnazzo, Kui Dong, Henry Birdsey…
No other city has an organization quite like Other Minds, cultivating all the music that would otherwise drop between the cracks.
ALEX ROSS of THE NEW YORKER
The first Other Minds Festival, with 11 invited maverick composers, took place during the grand opening of the Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens in San Francisco in November 1993. That which distinguished the event actually preceded the concerts. Robert Ashley, Philip Glass, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Trimpin and Julia Wolfe, among others, were guests at the secluded retreat of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Francisco for four days before moving into the city for the remainder of the week to take the stage in front of wildly enthusiastic audiences. The camaraderie resulting from private time together in a place of extraordinary natural beauty enlivened the onstage panel discussions and led to another quarter century of presentations in this format. With OM Festival 22 in 2017, the format changed to explorations of a single subject—the centennial of composer Lou Harrison—and for OM 23, an international festival of sound poetry.
Behind the scenes, Other Minds had been co-founded by Charles Amirkhanian and Jim Newman, two longtime advocates for living artists who themselves actively created new work. Amirkhanian was well-known to the San Francisco Bay Area new music community as a broadcaster of interviews and concerts on KPFA Radio (1969-1992) and a composer of sound poetry and electroacoustic music. Newman was the legendary founder of San Francisco’s first serious art gallery of the modern era, Dilexi (1959-1970), and producer of experimental television programs and films on music and the visual arts.
Initially their goal was only to create an annual festival of cutting edge music with composers from around the world present for their performances. The guests would include avant-garde composers, world music innovators, and experimental jazz and free improvisation stalwarts. A conscious effort was made to blend mature, mid-career, and emerging artists so that mentoring processes (in both directions) might ensue by default.
But, as opportunities presented themselves, the organization grew to encompass broader activities:
- The Other Minds Records label
- Two websites preserving Other Minds concert recordings and photo documentation (otherminds.org) and thousands of hours of KPFA broadcasts about new music dating from 1949-1995 (radiOM.org)
- Music From Other Minds, a weekly terrestrial radio program on KALW in San Francisco
- The Other Minds webstore focusing on obscure but important recordings and related music materials
- Occasional non-festival concerts as tributes to composers from the American Experimental Tradition, such as Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, John Cage, Dane Rudhyar, Ruth Crawford Seeger, Alan Hovhaness, and George Antheil. The Nature of Music is a series of concerts devoted to composers working with natural and ambient sounds. And, most recently, our Latitudes series presents artists working in underground forms of contemporary music.
The name of the organization was suggested by Jim Newman. When American composer John Cage died in August 1992, The New Yorker ran an unattributed and somewhat dismissive obituary: “His epitaph might read that he composed music in other peoples’ minds.” Taking up the gauntlet, Newman suggested that our composers would be just those individuals—composers who fit no category better than “other.”
Many of the most remarkable voices from that time to the present are those with atypical training and aesthetics. In turn, many of those artists felt beholden to Cage for opening up compositional vistas that rejuvenated and reinvigorated the field.
To date, the festival has hosted 268 guest composers and hundreds more performers. We have commissioned 26 new works from composers, given 96 world premieres, and national and local premieres of 127 pieces. We have presented performances in 20 venues throughout Northern California and collaborated with most of the major presenting organizations from Cal Performances and Yerba Buena Center for the Performing Arts, to the San Francisco Symphony for whom we commissioned Henry Brant to compose his magnum opus, Ice Field, winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize.
For more in-depth information on the history of Other Minds, consult the article titled “Giving Birth to Other Minds,” the PDF excerpt from our 20th Festival Program book.
Click here to download a PDF of a 2009 article in Fanfare about Other Minds Records.
There have been few advocates of exploratory new music as committed and dedicated as Charles Amirkhanian and his Other Minds organization.
HENRY BRANT | COMPOSER
Board of Directors
Mitchell Yawitz, President
Product and User Experience Designer
Eric Seifert, Vice President
Trespass Foundation Films, Attorney
Brian Baumbusch, Secretary
Composer, Adjunct Faculty, University of California, Santa Cruz
George Freeborn, Treasurer
Investor, GBF Investments
Composer, Executive & Artistic Director of Other Minds
Charles Céleste Hutchins
Composer, Assistant Director, Music Technology Program, Foothill College
Composer, Professor of Music, University of California at Berkeley
Radio Producer, SV Productions
Caren Meghreblian, Ph.D.
Secretary of the Board, American University of Armenia
Dean Emeritus of Academic Affairs, Art Institute of California, San Francisco
Board of Advisors
Dennis Russell Davies
Yoko S. Nancarrow