Honoring Lou Harrison on his birth centennial

Posted on: May 2, 2017

“ ‘Cherish, conserve, consider, create’: you could do worse than to live your life according to the principles propounded by the composer Lou Harrison, who would have been a hundred in May,” writes Alex Ross in last Monday’s (4/24) New Yorker. “His profile [was] inextricably associated with the cultures of the West Coast, where he spent most of his life. He was a vegetarian; he spoke Esperanto; he practiced calligraphy; he embraced non-Western music, especially the Javanese gamelan; he was openly gay long before it was acceptable, or even safe…. Harrison’s music traverses a huge stylistic range, from adamantine dissonance to melodies of homespun sweetness. What is striking now, in an age of bloated genre-blending, is his lucid synthesis of extremes…. Unfortunately, little attention is falling this year on Harrison’s major orchestral scores: the Symphony on G and the ‘Elegiac Symphony,’ which show his command of jagged sonorities after the fashion of Ives and Ruggles; and the Piano Concerto, whose gloriously unhinged Stampede movement rouses audiences into a frenzy on the rare occasions that the work is played. Mark Morris, a brilliant choreographer of Harrison’s scores, has written, ‘You either love Lou’s music or you haven’t heard it yet.’ ”

Posted May 2, 2017