Alvin Curran

Alvin Curran, an American composer, sound artist and writer, is also an educator. He has been a composer, sound artist, writer, and educator for over a long career. His works often combine acoustic instrumentation and electronics, as well as taped/sampled sound, including voices, foghorns and sounds of nature like wind, water, or animal noises. Curran founded the pioneering electro-acoustic improvisation group Musica Elettronica Viva, in 1966. He began releasing solo music in the ’70s with the acclaimed Canti evedute del Giardino Magnetico, in 1975. Through the decade, he continued to release solo electro-acoustic music as well as collaborative works with free jazz musicians like Steve Lacy or Evan Parker. He began to focus on environmental concerts in the ’80s (later compiled with the release Maritime Rites), and radio concerts that involved multiple ensembles performing at different locations. The 1994 release Crystal Psalms illustrates this type of concert. Since the 1990s, Curran has been working on solo piano pieces called Inner Cities and percussion work Theme Park (1998). He also created pieces for the Shofar (an ancient Jewish instrument), including Shofar Rags (2013). Curran’s work is diverse, but they still convey a fascination with history, natural and human. Some of his work, especially his later, sample-heavy, has a sense both absurdity and humor. Alvin Curran was a Providence native, born in 1938. He took piano lessons as a child and was a trombone player in several marching bands and jazz ensembles. He studied composition at Brown University with Ron Nelson, then at Yale with Elliott Carter, and finally at Yale with Mel Powell. After graduating, he moved to Berlin with Carter and then moved to Rome for a year. Curran, Frederic Rzewski and Richard Teitelbaum founded Musica Elettronica Viva. Curran performed improvisations with synthesizers and horns. The collective also played more than 200 concerts across Europe and the United States. Sometimes to hostile audiences. He was a major influence in free jazz, electro-acoustic music improv, experimental music, and noise. Curran left MEV for Rome in 1971 but remained there to teach vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica from 1975 to 1980. Canti e Vedute del Giardino Magnetico, 1975, was his first solo recording. It featured gentle synthesizer sounds, bells, vocals and electronic effects. Fiori Chiari, Fiori Obscuri (Light Flowers and Dark Flowers) was also composed at the same time. It was released in 1978. Curran was also a part of improvisational jazz collaborations such as 1977’s Threads with Steve Lacy and Rzewski and 1978’s Real Time with Andrea Centazzo, Evan Parker and Evan Parker. Canti Illuminati, a choral-based piece that Curran recorded in solo in 1980, was released in 1982. Natural History, which is a montage mostly made from untreated field recordings was released on cassette in 1983. Curran started producing Maritime Rites in 1984, a series that featured environmental concerts for National Public Radio. Curran’s 1986 piano compositions For Cornelius/Era Ora were dedicated to Cornelius Cardew (his former associate), who died in 1981. Curran began to compose pieces for electronic samples, live instruments, and “electric rags” (compositions for live instruments). New Albion released the computer-conducted Electric Rags II in 1990. It was performed by Rova Saxophone Quartet. Curran was the Milhaud professor of composition at Mills College, Oakland, California. He taught there until 2006. Schtyx/VSTO 1994 released two chamber compositions. One was created for Trisha Brown, Curran’s choreographer. Crystal Psalms was also released in 1994. It is a recording of Curran’s radio-communication ensemble. Curran’s first Tzadik release was Animal Behavior in 1995. It featured the title piece Animal Behavior that is war-themed and sample-based. In 1998, Curran released percussion work Theme Park. Real Time Two, an unissued recording by Centazzo u0026 Parker, was also released in that same year. Rossbin, an Italian label, released Our Ur in 2003. It was a collaboration with Domenico Sciajno. In 2004, Lost Marbles was a Tzadik release that included pieces from many of Curran’s highly contrasting styles. New World Records also issued a double-CD with Curran’s Maritime Rites pieces that year. I Dischi Di Angelica released the sample-heavy Toto Angelica in 2005. Long Distance issued a four-CD set of Curran’s solo piano pieces, Inner Cities. Tear released The Art of the Fluke (with CenkErgun) in 2007. New World Records released Curran’s first three solo recordings in the triple-CD Solo Works, The 70’s. Die Schachtel released two of Curran’s early-’70s pieces as the LP under the Fig Tree. Also in 2010, Cramps Records released POPtraits in 2012 with Paolo Tofani (and Mauro Tespio). Shofar Rags was part of Tzadik’s Radical Jewish Culture Series in 2013. In 2015, a radiophonic performance entitled “Hearing the Brooklyn Bridge Sing in Yiddish” was released digitally. Oren Ambarchi’s Black Truffle label gave Natural History its first vinyl issue in 2016. Dodicilune released the double-CD from the Alvin Curran Fakebook in 2016. Superior Viaduct reissued Canti e Vedute del Giardino Magnetico on vinyl in 2018. Curran’s Endangered Species was also released by New World Records that year. It featured a double-CD with jazz standards, remastered using a Disklavier hybrid grand piano. Allmusic

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