Charles Amirkhanian, co-founder with Jim Newman in 1992 of Other Minds, is its Executive & Artistic Director. As a composer, he is renowned for his text-sound compositions that employ speech sounds in rhythmic patterns resembling percussion music, with influences from Ernst Toch, Gertrude Stein, Steve Reich, and Clark Coolidge. He also composes electroacoustic essays incorporating acoustic ambient sounds alongside more traditional instrumental music sources to create disjunct, trance-like dreamscapes and hörspiels.
In addition to programming and directing the Other Minds Festival since 1993, Amirkhanian has led the organization in producing many additional concerts devoted to the work of the American experimental tradition (Cage, Cowell, Rudhyar, Nancarrow, Hovhaness, Antheil, and others), establishing a record label, a weekly radio program, and commissioning new work annually from composers around the world.
He also established an ambitious website (radiOM.org) that provides access to new music information for listeners in 165 countries and territories. Beginning with a collection of 4000 reel-to-reel studio and aircheck tapes from the KPFA archives transferred in 1999 to Other Minds, an ongoing project of digitizing unique analog audio files has blossomed into one of the most impressive online reference libraries of experimental classical music. This rich preservation site, with universal free streaming access, is supported by a generous organizational partner, The Internet Archive, based in San Francisco.
Amirkhanian served as Music Director of KPFA Radio in Berkeley (1969-1992) and Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program (1993-1997). From 1977-1980 he was a full-time instructor in the Interdisciplinary Creative Arts Department at San Francisco State University. In San Francisco, Amirkhanian hosted and programmed the Exploratorium’s highly regarded Speaking of Music series (1983-1991), bringing live audiences together for intimate conversations in person with pathbreaking composers. And from 1988-1991 he co-directed, with John Lifton, the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado, which served as a model for the Other Minds Festival.
For his work at KPFA, he received the Letter of Distinction from the American Music Center in 1984 and the Deems Taylor Award from ASCAP in 1989. At Other Minds, he received the 2005 Letter of Distinction from the AMC, the 2009 ASCAP/Chamber Music America Award for Adventurous Programming of Contemporary Music, and the 2017 Champion of New Music Award from the American Composers Forum. In 1999 he was awarded the first Ella Holbrook Walker Fellowship for a year-long residency at the Rockefeller Foundation’s Bellagio Study and Conference Center on Lake Como in Northern Italy, where he established an electronic music facility for the foundation and composed a ten-movement tape work, Pianola (Pas de mains, 1997-2000) for WDR Cologne. He was featured in a lengthy interview with Mark Alburger in the May 1997 edition of 20th Century Music. The interview covers Amirkhanian’s early musical influences in Fresno, California, his move to the San Francisco Bay Area in 1967, his experiences working at KPFA and the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, and his co-founding of Other Minds.
In addition to his work as a composer, percussionist, and poet, Amirkhanian has produced several pivotal commercial recordings, including the complete works for player piano of Conlon Nancarrow, the first compilation of American text-sound composition, the first compilation of electronic music by American women composers, the only compilation of George Antheil performing his own piano music, and first recordings of unpublished music by Marc Blitzstein.
As a radio producer, Amirkhanian pioneered the broadcasting of minimalist music, sound poetry, radio happenings, and, with Richard Friedman, the World Ear Project, bringing continuous recordings of ambient sounds to the airwaves, beginning in 1970. Many of his hundreds of interviews with composers, performers, poets, and intermedia artists are available for listening on radiOM.org, the second website of Other Minds, designed to preserve the voices and work of cutting edge artists.
Amirkhanian has been awarded numerous composer commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Meet the Composer, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the 1984 Summer Olympics, the Arch Ensemble, Ensemble intercontemporain, and other organizations. His music has been choreographed by Bill T. Jones, Anna Halprin, Margaret Fisher, Nancy Karp + Dancers, and Richard Alston (Ballet Rambert). From 1975- 1986 he performed theatrical realizations of his sound poetry with projections by Carol Law at venues such as the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New Langton Arts (San Francisco), and throughout Australia. More recent performances have been in Berlin, Beijing, Linz, Huddersfield, Moscow, and Saint Petersburg.
His music is available on five solo CDs: Walking Tune (Starkland), Mental Radio (New World), Lexical Music (Other Minds Records), Loudspeakers (New World), and Miatsoom (Other Minds). Other works appear on compilations on Cantaloupe, Centaur, Wergo, Other Minds, Perspectives of New Music, and Fylkingen, among other imprints.
Amirkhanian resides in El Cerrito, California with his wife, visual artist Carol Law.