August 24, 1998
From left to right: Leta Miller, Lou Harrison, and Fredric Lieberman
By Barbara McKenna
A new book on one of America's most influential and renowned contemporary composers has just arrived in bookstores this month.
The book, Lou Harrison: Composing a World (Oxford University Press, August 1998), is authored by Leta Miller and Fredric Lieberman, both professors of music. Along with the book comes an audio CD, featuring previously unrecorded works and unreleased recordings of Harrison's own performances from the 1950s, '60s, and '70s.
Miller and Lieberman bring to the book both their extensive musical knowledge and their academic expertise. Additionally, the authors worked closely with Harrison in writing the book, consulting his archives and conducting extensive interviews with him and his colleagues. The result is a thorough, insightful, and compelling account of the remarkable life and music of the eminent composer. This engaging study of Harrison's life and works will be indispensable to students and scholars of American music and to performing artists and programmers.
To celebrate the release of the book, Harrison will join the authors for a booksigning on Tuesday, September 15, at 7 p.m. at Bookshop Santa Cruz, 1520 Pacific Ave. For more information on the booksigning, call (831) 423-0900.
Lou Harrison: Composing a World is supported by extensive archival research and nearly 70 interviews. The book examines the ideas that have shaped Harrison's work, as seen through the eyes of the composer and his associates. A detailed biographical section is followed by individual chapters on "Music and 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 gay rights, and possible "gay markers" on his musical style.
An annotated works-list details over 300 compositions, and the full-length CD illustrates the text in sound, including nine previously unpublished works and three excerpts from existing recordings.
About Lou Harrison:
Lou Harrison, who celebrated his 80th birthday in 1997, has often been cited as one of 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 his long 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; yet until now no comprehensive study of his life and works has been published.
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 13 solo recordings, including three CDs of music by Lou Harrison.
Composer and ethnomusicologist Fredric Lieberman has published compositions, 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 UCSC.
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