ALVIN CURRAN
the making of a contemporary music maker


[photo of Alvin Curran]

Democratic, irreverent and traditionally experimental, Curran travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River, and makes music for every occasion with any sounding phenomena -- a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles and fiddle heads. He is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.

Curran's music-making embraces all the contradictions (composed/improvised, tonal/atonal, maximal/minimal...) in a serene dialectical encounter. His more than 150 works feature taped/sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion and chorus. Whether in the intimate form of his well-known solo performances, or pure chamber music, experimental radio works or large-scale site-specific sound environments and installations, all forge a very personal language from all the languages through dedicated research and recombinant invention.

 


THE MAIN STORY


Providence, 1952, between azalea and rhododendron

With a fortuitous bang, he begins his musical journey (1965 in Rome) as co-founder of the radical music collective MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA, as a solo performer, and as a composer for Rome's avantgarde theater scene. In the 70's, he creates a poetic series of solo works for synthesizer, voice, taped sounds and found objects. Seeking to develop new musical spaces, and now considered one of the leading figures in making music outside of the concert halls -- he develops a series of concerts for lakes, ports, parks, buildings, quarries and caves -- his natural laboratories. In the 1980's, he extends the ideas of musical geography by creating simultaneous radio concerts for three, then six large ensembles performing together from many European Capitals. By connecting digital samplers to MIDI Grands (Diskklavier) and computers, since 1987, he produces an enriched body of solo performance works -- an ideal synthesis between the concert hall and all sounding phenomena in the world. He creates a visually striking series of sound installations, some of them in collaboration with visual artists including Paul Klerr, Melissa Gould, Kristin Jones, Pietro Fortuna, Umberto Bignardi, Uli Sigg. Throughout these years he continues to write numerous pieces for radio and for acoustic instruments.

 


TEACHING

Prof. Curran and students in Riti Marittimi, Laghetto of Villa Borghese, Rome 1979

From 1975-80 taught vocal improvisation at the Accademia Nazionale d'Arte Drammatica (Rome) and from 1991 to 2006 was the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College in Oakland, California.  Currently teaching privately in Rome in addition to master classes, residencies, and lectures at Oberlin, Peabody, Brown, Berkeley, The Hague, Haifa, Bolzano, Northwestern, Yale, Beijing, etc.

 


FORMATIVE YEARS


Born December 13, 1938, Providence, Rhode Island. From five years: piano lessons, trombone, marching bands, Synagogue chants, Jazz, and his father's dance bands. Becomes an artist at age 13 in an apple tree at the house of his lifelong friend, poet Clark Coolidge. Hears Spike Jones, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, Satchmo, The Boston Symphony Orcherstra, Art Tatum, Charlie Parker, The Band of America, Thelonius Monk, Gerry Mulligan, Miles Davis, Coltrane, Bartok and Christian Wolff.

Studies composition with Ron Nelson (B.A. Brown University 1960) and with Elliott Carter and Mel Powell ( M.Mus., Yale School of Music 1963). During summer vacations, plays European crossings with the "Brunotes" on the Holland American Line, in a Greek Dance Band in the Catskills, and in the Dunes Hotel in Las Vegas.

Continues studies and friendship with Carter in Berlin (1964 Ford Foundation Grant), meets Stravinsky, Xenakis, Berio, Yuji Takahashi, Andriessen, Remo Remotti, and above all Rzewski. Goes to Darmstadt, hangs with Babbitt and Earl Brown, hears Stockhausen and Ligeti. Goes to Rome with Joel Chadabe and plays piano in bars on via Veneto, meets Franco Evangelisti and Cornelius Cardew.

In the MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA years (1966 -1971 in Rome), performs in over 200 concerts in Europe and the USA with Teitelbaum and Rzewski, Carol Plantamura, Ivan Vandor, Alan Bryant and Jon Phetteplace; and makes significant artistic encounters with Giuseppe Chiari, Edith Schloss, AMM, Cardew, Steve Lacy, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Steve ben Israel, Anthony Braxton, Simone Forti, Steve Reich, Joan La Barbara, Michael Nyman, La Monte Young, Trisha Brown, Ashley, Behrman, Gordon Mumma, Alvin Lucier, Larry Austin, Bill Smith, Ketoff, Robert Moog, Nuova Consonanza, MEV2, Meme Perlini, Mario Ricci, Maria Monti, Prima Materia, Ron Bunzl, Phil Glass, Charlemagne Palestine, Terry Riley, George Lewis, Evan Parker, Gregory Reeves, Serge Tcherepnin, Kosugi, Pulsa, Maryanne Amacher, John Cage, David Tudor, Morton Feldman. Scelsi becomes his friend and mentor.

 

PRIZES AND AWARDS

 

 

Bearns Prize, BMI award 1963, National Endowment for the Arts (twice), DAAD (Berlin residencies 1963-4 and 1986-7), Logos Award 1975, WDR Ars Acustica International 1988 ("For Julian"), Prix Italia 1985 (Gian Franco Zaffrani Prize, for "1985 - A Piece for Peace"), the city of Pisa Premio Novecento, Fromm Foundation (Harvard University), Hass Family Award (San Francisco), Meet the Composer (assistance to many concerts), Leonardo Award for Excellence 1995, interviewed by the Yale Oral History American Music project (category:  "Major Figures in American Music"), Guggenheim Foundation 2004, Ars Electronica 2004, Phonurgia Nova 2005 ("I Dreamt John Cage Yodeling in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof"), Experimental Music Studio (Freiburg residencies 2006, 2007), Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Gutenberg Fellowship (Mainz 2010-11), Elson lectureship (Harvard 2012), member of New Music USA Artists Council 2011, juror for Civitella Ranieri Fellowship 2011, juror for Sonic Arts award (Premio Internazionale Arti Sonore) 2013-


PRINCIPAL MUSIC COLLABORATIONS

with F. Rzewski, R. Teitelbaum, S. Lacy, G. List, G. Lewis, Ferrara, May 2002. Photo C. Casanova

Abel-Steinberg Winant Trio
Alter Ego
Arditti Quartet
Ars Ludi
Ars Nova (cond. Huw Rhys James)
Bang on a Can Allstars
Nicola Bernardini
Bomarzo town Band
Bruce Brubaker
John Cage
Cassatt Quartet
Mike Cooper
Philip Corner
Jed Distler
Chris Dobrian
The EAR Unit
Eve Egoyan
Ensemble Modern
Cenk Ergün
Luc Ferrari
Frankie Hi NRG
Fred Frith
Scot Gresham-Lancaster
Group 180 (Budapest)
Grup Instrumental de València
Shelley Hirsch
The Hub
Huddersfield Choral Society
IATO Orchestra
Joan Jeanrenaud
Kronos Quartet
Joan Jonas
Joan La Barbara
Steve Lacy
Joëlle Léandre
George Lewis
Garrett List
Anton Lukoszevieze

Maarten Altena Ensemble
Yvar Mikhashoff
Ali Momemi
Pauline Oliveros
Ursula Oppens
Evan Parker
Paul Dresher Ensemble

Melvyn Poore
Relache Ensemble

Jon Rose
Rova Saxophone Quartet
Frederic Rzewski
San Francisco Contemporary Music Players
Scanner
Domenico Sciajno
John Sebastian, Sr.
Gabriella Smart
Soldier Quartet
Peter Stelzl
St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (cond. Denis Russel- Davies)
Süddeutscher Rundfunk Orchestra (cond. Alex Winterson)
Kathleen Supove
SWR Vokalensemble
Aki Takahashi
Teatro Comunale di Bologna Orchestra
Richard Teitelbaum
Stefan Tiedje
Frances Uitti
Daan Vandewalle
Reinier Van Houdt
Ilan Volkov
William Winant
Stefano Zorzanello

MEMORABLE VENUES AND PRODUCERS

Alte Oper Frankfurt

Ijsbreker Café

Centre Pompidou

Il Laghetto di Villa Borghese

 The Kitchen

                                                                         

ABC Listening Room (Andrew McLennan )
Accademia Filarmonica Romana

Alte Oper, Frankfurt
American Academy, Rome
Americans Festival Groningen
Charles Amirkhanian (KPFA, Other Minds)
ANEM ANEM (Llorenç Barber )
Angelica Festival (Massimo Simonini)
Ars Electronica Festival (Gottfried Hattinger)
ATOPOS (Fulvio Di Rosa)
Auditorium Parco della Musica
BBC Proms
Peter Behrendsen (Deutzer Brücke...)
David Bernstein
Deutschland Radio (Goetz Naleppa, Marcus Gammel)
Blurred Edges (Nikolaus Geresciewski)
CalArts (David Rosenboom)
Centre Beaubourg
Contemp. Jewish Museum SF (Connie Wolf)
Darmstadt Ferienkurse

de Ijsbreker (Jan Wolff)
Donaueschingen Festival (Armin Köhler)
EMF (Joel Chadabe)
Festival delle Nazioni
Frankfurt Hochschule für Musik
Galerie Giannozzo (Rolf Langebartels)
Harvard Music Dept. (Anne Shreffler)
Hessischer Rundfunk (Ernstalbrecht Stiebler, Berndt Leukert)
Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival(Graham McKenzie)
The Integra Project (Lamberto Coccioli)
Peter Kiefer (U. Mainz, Bundesgartenschau)
The Kitchen
Klangturm St. Poelten (Mia Zabelka)
The Knitting Factory

Kunstradio ORF (Elisabeth Zimmermann)Daniele Lombardi
Make Music New York (Aaron Friedman)
Museum of Modern Art

National Public Radio

New Music America
New Radio and Performing Arts, Inc.
Eddie Prevost (AMM, Matchless Rec.)
RAI Radio 3 Audio Box (Pinotto Fava)
RAI Radio 3 Battiti (Pino Saulo)
Roulette (Jim Staley)
Royal Conservatory of Music, The Hague (Martijn Padding)
St. Paul’s Within the Walls
Nicola Sani
David Sansone
Schloss Moyland
Schweizer Radio DRS (Thomas Adank)
Schwetzingen FestivalScuola Popolare di Musica di Testaccio
Serralves em Festa
Soundstream
Spazio Zero
Sudwest Rundfunk (Burkhard Schlichting)
Taktlos Festival (Peter Kraut)
Teatro Beat 72 (Simone Carella)
Teatro Valle Occupato
Tura New Music (Tos Mahoney)
Valentina Valentini
Venice Biennale
Theatre de Ville
Westdeutsche Rundfunk (Wolfgang Becker, Klaus Schoening)
The Western Front (DB Boyko)
VPRO (Hans Reiziger)
Zerynthia (Mario Pieroni, Dora Stiefelmeier)
John Zorn
ZKM Karlsruhe


THEATER, DANCE, FILM, VIDEO, VISUAL ARTS

Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

Trisha Brown

The Achim Freyer Ensemble

"In Hora Mortis"

The School of Hard Knocks

The Living Theatre

Vita Accardi
Achim Freyer Ensemble

Bruno Agostinelli
Michelangelo Antonioni (Zabriskie Point)
Umberto Bignardi
Vivien Bittencourt & Vincent Katz
Achille Bonito Oliva
Franco Brocani
Ron Bunzl (Cloud Chamber)
Jacob Burckhardt
Rudy Burckhardt
Yoshiko Chuma (School of Hard Knocks)
Clark Coolidge
Enzo Cosimi
Merce Cunningham Dance Company
Molly Davies and Sage Cowles
Willem de Ridder
Ellen Webb Dance Co.
Theo Eshetu
Molissa Fenley
Simone Forti
Pietro Fortuna
Wanda Golonka
Lino Greco & Gerardo Lamattina
Melissa Gould
Alberto Grifi

Georg Hajdu
Pierre-Alain Hubert
Joan Jonas
Kristin Jones
Paul Klerr
The Living Theatre
Lucia Latour
Joan Logue
Margaret Jenkins Dance Co.
Roberto Masotti
Mass MOCA
Annabella Miscuglio
Nancy Karp Dancers
Jack Ox
Michael Palmer
Meme Perlini
Alfredo Pirri
Marcia Plevin
Stephen Ratcliffe
Mario Ricci
Edith Schloss
Ira Schneider
Ulli Sigg
Trisha Brown Dance Co.
Claudia Von Alemann
June Watanabe

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