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New Albion Records and The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts Present "The Music of Lou Harrison"

Eleanor Davis

Saturday Night Performance Includes Solo to Anthony Cirone, Suite for Violin and American Gamelan, and La Koro Sutro, Performed by 100­–Voice Chorus, Violin, American Gamelan, Harp and Pump Organ

ANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, N.Y.—The Music of Lou Harrison,” a presentation by New Albion Records and The Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts at Bard College, will be performed on Saturday, October 15, at 8 p.m., in the Sosnoff Theater. Tickets are $45, $35, $25, and $15, and can be ordered online or by calling the box office at 845-758-7900. Additional program information can be found at

Lou Harrison (1917–2003) was an American original who lived a creative life that was clearly outside the halls of the cultural institutions of the day. His singular body of work was inspired by studies of early music and tunings, world music, and the influence of other musical mavericks, including Henry Cowell, Charles Ives, and John Cage. Eventually, he began to receive acknowledgement and acceptance from critics and classical audiences through increasing exposure on the stage.

The three works on this program offer a generous glimpse of Lou Harrison’s musical world. Solo to Anthony Cirone (1972) is a work that was long lost, then found during a New Albion recording project and realized by William Winant; it has since been performed around the world. Winant, “one of the best avant-garde percussionists working today” according to music critic Mark Swed (Los Angeles Times), will perform on tenor bells.

Suite for Violin and American Gamelan (1973), written with violinist Richard Dee, incorporates medieval dance rhythms, drones, mesmerizing gamelan patterns, and melodic variations in a series of textures that become progressively richer, bringing the work to a grand and solemn conclusion. In the 1940s and ’50’s Lou Harrison and John Cage were very involved with percussion ensembles, and they used an astounding array of found objects to create their instruments: objects found in every day life - garbage cans, glasses, and rice bowls, and in the junkyards (the epicenter of their searches) -springs, brake drums, tongued and toothed gears, gas and oxygen tanks, and vehicle doors. Among the most beautiful of all of those compositions is the Suite for Violin and American Gamelan, which will be performed by Krista Bennion Feeney, violin; American Gamelan; and Patrick Gardner, conductor

Finally, La Koro Sutro, a monumental work for large-scale chorus, gamelan, harp, and organ, presents in one huge bundle many of Harrison’s musical and personal preoccupations: percussion, the avoidance of functional harmony, and Buddhism, and the piece was premiered at an international Esperanto conference in 1972. The Riverside Choral Society, a 100- member chorus, will perform, along with American Gamelan, a percussion orchestra featuring William Winant, Ches Smith, Ben Paysen, Shayna Dunkelman, Zihan Yi (’16), and Amy Garapick; plus Jacqui Kerrod, harp; and Patrick Gardner, conductor.

Lou Harrison

Born in Portland, Oregon, on May 14, 1917, Lou Harrison grew up in the culturally diverse San Francisco Bay Area. There he was influenced by Cantonese Opera, Gregorian chants, and the music of California's Spanish and Mexican cultures. Harrison also developed an interest in Indonesian gamelan music through early recordings.

As a young man, Lou Harrison worked as a dancer and a dance accompanist. His early compositions included a large body of percussion music, combining Western, Asian, African and Latin American rhythmic influences with homemade “junk” instruments. During this period, Harrison worked closely with John Cage and began studies in Los Angeles with Arnold Schoenberg.

A move to New York in the mid-forties brought Lou Harrison to the Herald Tribune as music critic. Here Harrison helped to bring wider attention to the work of Charles Ives, and is considered largely responsible for Ives’s receiving the Pulitzer Prize. The young composer and critic also embarked on a study of early European music during this period. In the late forties, Harrison taught at the legendary Black Mountain College. By the early fifties, he moved back to California, where he lived ever after.

Residence on the West Coast intensified Harrison’s involvement in a synthesis of musical cultures bordering on the Pacific, reflected in such works as Pacifica Rondo and La Koro Sutro for chorus and gamelan. He maintained an interest in dance, theater, and the craft of instrument building, and was an accomplished puppeteer who wrote musical pieces for puppet theater. Harrison travelled extensively, adding his artistry to the global resonance, performing and studying with the musical masters of varied cultures.

Lou Harrison died suddenly in his 85th year on the evening of February 2, 2003. He was traveling to Columbus Ohio, after having taken the California Zephyr from the West Coast to Chicago, en route to a festival in his honor at Ohio State University. During a stop along the way he suffered an apparent heart attack and was pronounced dead shortly thereafter.

New Albion Records was founded in San Francisco in 1984, to explore the world of art music. Its current catalogue includes 138 releases. In recent years, with the onset of the Internet, its focus has moved from recording projects to concert events. This is New Albion’s fourth such event with the Richard B. Fisher Center at Bard College. New Albion has partnered with the John Cage Trust and Merce Cunningham Dance Company.

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This event was last updated on 09-29-2011