Cover image for Lou Harrison : composing a world
Lou Harrison : composing a world
Miller, Leta E.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
New York : Oxford University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
xiv, 385 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm + 1 audio disc (73 min., 49 sec. : digital ; 4 3/4 in.)
General Note:
Includes list of works: p. 267-315.
Contents of compact disc: Simfony #13 (9:06) -- Two improvisations in Greek tunings (5:49) -- Cinna : suite for tack piano (15:59) -- Strict songs. Mvt. 3, Here is tenderness (3:04) -- Simfony in free style (4:08) -- Hyi mun (Hùimun) (3:36) -- The garden at one and a quarter moons (2:33) -- Gending in honor of the poet Virgil (9:30) -- Pacifika rondo. Mvt. 6, A hatred of the filthy bomb (2:50) -- Peace piece 2 : Passages 25 (7:02) -- Three songs (1985). Mvt. 1, King David's lament for Jonathan (3:21) -- Symphony on G. Mvt. 1 (6:07).
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
ML410.H2066 M55 1998 TEXT Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Lou Harrison, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 1997, has often been cited as one of the America's most original and influential composers. In addition to his prolific musical output, Harrison is also a skilled painter, calligrapher, essayist, critic, poet, and instrument-builder. During hislong and varied career, he has explored dance, Asian music, tuning systems, and universal languages, and has actively championed political causes ranging from pacifism to gay rights. As an articulate and outspoken observer of the contemporary musical scene, he is frequently quoted in the media; yetuntil now no comprehensive study of his life and works has been published. The present book, supported by extensive archival research and nearly 70 interviews, examines the ideas that have shaped Harrison's creative output, as seen through the eyes of the composer and his his associates. A detailed biographical section is followed by individual chapters focusing on Musicand Dance, Intonation and Tuning, Instruments, Asian influences, Gamelan, Music and Politics, Music Criticism, and Compositional Processes. In a separate chapter, the authors describe the historical background of the San Francisco gay community, Harrison's literary and musical statements on gayrights, and possible "gay markers" on his musical style. An annotated works-list details over 300 compositions, and an included CD illustrates the text in sound, including several previously unrecorded works. This engaging study of Harrison's life and works will be indispensible to students and scholars of American music and to performing artists and programmers.

Author Notes

About the Authors Musicologist and flutist Leta Miller has published articles, books, and critical editions of Renaissance, Baroque, and contemporary music and has been featured on thirteen solo recordings, including three CDs of music by Lou Harrison. Composer and ethnomusiclogist Fredric Lieberman has publishedcompositions, articles, books, films, and recordings dealing with Chinese, Indian, and other Asian musics and on American popular music. Both authors are Professors of Music at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

Miller and Lieberman (Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) have fashioned a respectful portrait of composer Lou Harrison (b. 1917), emphasizing his humanity and enthusiasm for incorporating diverse influences into his music. Based on thorough research and many interviews, the book first traces Harrison's life and then devotes chapters to subjects such as his use of Asian instruments, alternative tunings and temperaments, and explorations in dance, poetry, and calligraphy. In addition, Harrison's political views and openness regarding homosexuality are investigated non-judgmentally. The composer's own voice shines through, as do stories of influential encounters with seminal figures of 20th-century music such as Arnold Schoenberg, Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Harry Partch, and Virgil Thomson. Heidi Von Gunden's The Music of Lou Harrison (Scarecrow, 1995) covers much of the same material, although the present book eschews musical analysis except in limited instances. Warmly recommended for music and 20th-century culture collections.‘Barry Zaslow, Miami Univ. Libs., Oxford, OH (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

In American Music in the Twentieth Century (CH, Sept'98), Kyle Gann wrote that "to list composers who have borrowed from some brand of non-Western music would virtually be to name every young composer active in the 1990s." The forebear of this trend is 81-year-old Lou Harrison, whose eclecticism embraces world music, the history of music, and its various tunings and instrumentations. This sympathetic and penetrating study covers much of the 20th-century experimental tradition itself, for Harrison has been associated with Ives, Cowell, Schoenberg, Thomson, Cage, et al. Harrison is not simply an experimenter; his emphasis on lyricism and his keen sense of form have gained a wide public for his music. After a biography (part 1), Miller and Lieberman (both Univ. of California, Santa Cruz) deal with Harrison's activities and interests: dance, tuning, instrument making, Asian music, politics, homosexuality, criticism, poetry, art, typography, and compositional process. The authors apply their varied backgrounds in music performance, history, and ethnomusicology to provide a uniformly superior, wide-ranging discussion. A catalog of compositions, a listing of Harrison's reviews as music critic for The New York Tribune (1944-47), and a CD giving an overview of Harrison's music are also provided. Highly recommended for collections serving general readers through professionals; much of the discussion is not technical. W. K. Kearns; University of Colorado at Boulder

Table of Contents

Part 1 Biography
1 West Coast Prelude (1917 - 43)
2 East Coast Fugue (1943 - 53)
3 California Toccata (1953 - present)
Part 2 The Artist's World
4 Music and the Dance
5 Tuning and Temperment
6 Instruments Foraged, Modified, or Invented
7 Lou Harrison and East Asian Music
8 Gamelans People PLay: co-authored withJonathon Grasse
9 Sounding Off: Music and Politics
10 Harrison, Homosexuality and the Gay World
11 Assembling the Pieces: The Compositional Process
12 Not Just Music: Criticism, Poetry, Art, and Typography
1 List of interviews
2 Lou Harrison's reviews in the 'New York Herald Tribune'Catalogue of the Works of Lou HarrisonLeta E. Miller and Charles Hanson
Editorial Procedures
Alphabetical Index by Title
Index by Medium and Genre
Chronological List of Works
Selected Bibliography
Compact Disc Contents