[Currents header graphic]

April 21, 1997

UCSC celebration of Lou Harrison's 80th birthday kicks off with inaugural lecture

By Barbara McKenna

Musicologist and flutist Leta Miller will present an inaugural lecture titled "Sounding Off: Lou Harrison's Musical Politics" at 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 22, in the Music Center. The talk is part of the campuswide celebration of Harrison's 80th birthday that also includes a concert and art exhibit (see below). The lecture is free and open to the public.

Miller and colleague Fredric Lieberman, both professors of music at UCSC, have just completed a book on the world-renowned composer, who is a resident of Santa Cruz County. Their book, tentatively titled "Lou Harrison: Composing a World," will be released later this year by Oxford University Press. Miller is also featured on four recordings of the music of Lou Harrison.

Miller's talk draws from a chapter in the forthcoming book and will incorporate musical samples, slides, and excerpts from interviews with Harrison and his colleagues.

"Lou has never separated politics from his music," Miller said. "He's written multiple compositions since the 1930s and as recently as 1991 expressing his political ideals." Miller described some of Harrison's politically oriented work, which began in the 1930s when he wrote a series of political pieces designed for modern dance. The first, Waterfront 1934, was a pro-union composition concerning the San Francisco general strike. It premiered at the Longshoreman's San Francisco headquarters in a boxing ring, Miller said. Harrison's politically oriented work also includes Peace Pieces he wrote during the Vietnam War and Homage to Pacifica, composed in 1991.

Miller and Lieberman's work on the book has received support from two NEH grants totaling more than $55,000. The book begins with an extended biography followed by a series of topical chapters, including "music and the dance," "tuning and temperament," "instruments and instrument building," "music and politics," "music and sexuality," and "compositional process." Also included is a detailed catalog of works, listing more than 300 items. The authors conducted interviews with Harrison over a period of a year and a half and also interviewed more than 50 people around the country associated with Harrison over the past half century.

Harrison is regarded as one of the world's foremost living composers, recognized for his work in the areas of percussion, experiments with intonation systems, and the synthesis of Western and Asian musical styles. He is a member of the National Institute of Arts and Letters and the recipient of two Guggenheim awards, two Rockefeller grants, and a Fulbright award. In addition to his musical compositions, Harrison has authored and published prose and poetry, and his paintings have been displayed in a number of public exhibitions. His calligraphy is renowned and Harrison has even designed several computer fonts.

Inaugural lectures are presented to celebrate UCSC faculty members' promotion or appointment to the position of full professor. The lectures are presented by UCSC Arts & Lectures and supported by the Offices of the Chancellor and Executive Vice Chancellor, the Council of Provosts, and University Affiliates. For more information, call (408) 459-2159 (voice or TDD).

An exhibit on Harrison is taking place in the Porter Faculty Gallery (D-222) through May 4. On display are some of Harrison's gamelan puppets, replica "toy" theaters, and a collection of his scores, some of which he penned himself. For more information, call (408) 459-2564.

The night after Miller's talk, on Wednesday, April 23, a concert will be performed at 8 p.m. in the Music Center by UCSC faculty and the UCSC percussion ensemble. For more information on the concert, call (408) 459-2787.

Return to the Currents home page

Go to UCSC's home page