Alvin’s in the house! It’s good to welcome back an old friend who has been a leader in so many areas of experimental music since the Sixties. And in keeping with our theme The Nature of Music, we’ve asked the composer to screen some of his private videos of the major environmental performance works he’s created.
As a pioneer in this genre, also practiced by John Cage, R. Murray Schafer, Charlie Morrow, Pauline Oliveros, and John Luther Adams among many others, Curran’s work is distinguished by a heightened sensitivity to overall formal construction but without reference to mathematics or music theory. You might say his reference, rather, is burlesque. Curran is an entertainer, open to any and all content and adept at its employment. His genius is in the evolution of his pieces in time, holding back surprises til just the right moment, or building shattering climaxes that can rival Fluxus happenings. His tool chest runs the gamut from minimalism to music hall. And his aesthetic displays a rollicking sense of humor one minute, a profound– sorrow the next. Anything is possible, and anything will happen in a Curran event. Fasten your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.
Democratic, irreverent and traditionally experimental, Alvin Curran (b. December 13, 1938, Providence, Rhode Island) travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River, and makes music for every occasion with any sounding phenomena – a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles and fiddle heads. He is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.
Curran’s music-making embraces all the contradictions (composed/improvised, tonal/atonal, maximal/minimal…) in a serene dialectical encounter. His more than 200 works feature taped/sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion and chorus. Whether in the intimate form of his well-known solo performances, or pure chamber music, experimental radio works or large-scale site-specific sound environments and installations, all forge a very personal language from all the languages through dedicated research and recombinant invention.
With a fortuitous bang, he begins his musical journey as co-founder of the radical music collective Musica Elettronica Viva, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome’s avant-garde theater scene. In the 70’s, he creates a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls – he develops a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries and caves – his natural laboratories. In the 1980’s, he extends the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six large ensembles performing together from many European Capitals. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Disklavier) and computers, since 1987, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works – an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He creates a visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, Uli Sigg. Throughout these years he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.
To learn more about Alvin Curran and his work, follow this link to his web site.
The program consisted of a conversation between Alvin Curran and Charles Amirkhanian, with video clips of some of Alvin’s past work of music in environments.
Event Media: Video
Conversation: Alvin Curran
With Charles Amirkhanian
Composer Alvin Curran in conversation with Other Minds Artistic Director Charles Amirkhanian during his appearance in The Nature of Music, a series of talks/performances with musicians whose work incorporates elements of the natural environment or environmentalism. The Nature of Music is produced by Other Minds in conjunction with the David Brower Center, and performances take place at the Brower Center’s Goldman Theater in Berkeley.
Photos from the event
Photos by Richard Friedman
Live in Rome
Alvin Curran, Roma, Dal Verme 15/06/2016.
Maritime Rites (ending)
Recorded during Make Music New York, 2012.
A track from the album Natural History.
Canti Illuminati (edit)
An edit from one of Alvin’s classic compositions from the 1970s.