Henry Cowell

A tireless musical explorer and inventor, Henry Cowell was born 11 March 1897 in Menlo Park, California, where he grew up surrounded by a wide variety of Oriental musical traditions, his father's Irish folk heritage, and his mother's Midwestern folktunes. Already composing in his early teens, Cowell began formal training at age 16 with Charles Seeger at the University of California. Further studies focused primarily on world music cultures. His use of varied sound materials, experimental compositional procedures, and a rich palette colored by multiple non-European and folk influences revolutionized American music and popularized, most notably, the tone cluster as an element in compositional design.

In addition to tone clusters evident in such works as Advertisement and Tiger, Cowell experimented with the "string piano" in works like The Aeolian Harp and The Banshee where strings are strummed or plucked inside the piano. Studies of the musical cultures of Africa, Java, and North and South India enabled Cowell to stretch and redefine Western notions of melody and rhythm; mastery of the gamelan and the theory of gamelan composition led to further explorations with exotic instruments and percussion. Later, Cowell developed the concept of indeterminancy or "elastic form" in works like the Mosaic Quartet (where performers determine the order and alternation of movements).


Cowell's influence is legion, counting among his students John Cage, Lou Harrison, and George Gershwin. Cowell taught at the New School for Social Research in New York and also held posts at the Peabody Conservatory and Columbia University. A plethora of awards, grants, and honorary degrees was capped by his election in 1951 to the American Institute of Arts and Letters.

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Year / Artwork Title Importance Medium
1915 What's This 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1915 Scenario 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mirecourt Trio +
1915-1917 Quartet Romantic 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Paul Dunkel,
Susan Palma,
Rolf Schulte,
John Graham
1916-1919 Quartet Euphometric, for string quartet, HC 283 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Kronos Quartet
1920 Fabric 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Joel Sachs - Piano
1925 Piece for Piano with Strings 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1925 Vestiges 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1925 Seven Paragraphs for String Trio 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Evan Paris,
Lois Martin,
Madeleine Shapiro
1925 Polyphonica 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Continuum cond. Joel Sachs
1925 The Banshee 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1925 Suite for Violin and Piano 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mia Wu - Violin
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
1928 Woofs for Piano (1 and 2) 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
A fine Argo recording

Alan Feinberg - Piano

1928 Tiger 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Joel Sachs - Piano
1929 The Fairy Answer 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Joel Sachs - Piano
1929 Euphoria 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1929 Irish Suite for String Piano and Small Orchestra 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum cond. Joet Sachs
1933 2 Songs 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
- Sunset
- Rest

Raymond Murcell - Baritone
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano

1936 Three Anti-Modernist Songs 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Ellem Lang - Mezzo-Soprano
Cheryl Seltser - Piano
1938 Deep Color 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Joel Sachs - Piano
1941 Elegie 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1949 Six Casual Developments 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
David Krakauer - Clarinet
Joel Sachs - Piano
1952 Set of Five 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Marilyn Dubow - Violin
Gordon Gottlieb - Percussion
Joel Sachs - Piano
1954 Hymn and Fuguing Tune No 3 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Villa-Lobos Comments:
Louisville Orchestra cond. Jorge Mester
1954 Quartet for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Rosenfeld, Jayn - Flute
Heller, Marsha - Oboe
Kitsopoulos, Maria - Cello
Seltzer, Cheryl - Harpsichord
1954 Symphony No 11 "Seven Rituals of Music" 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Villa-Lobos Comments:
Louisville Orchestra cond. Robert S. Whitney
1955 Hymn And Fuguing Tune No. 10 4.00 out of 5 stars LP
Comments:
Celia Nicklin - Oboe
Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields cond. Neville Marriner
1957 Wedding Anniversity Music 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mirecourt Trio
1957 Orgaku for Orchestra 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Villa-Lobos Comments:
Louisville Orchestra cond. Robert S. Whitney
1959 Homage to Iran 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mark Steinburg - Violin
Joel Sachs - Tombak
Cheryl Seltzer - Piano
Continuum
1961 Thesis (Symphony No 15) 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Villa-Lobos Comments:
Louisville Orchestra cond. Robert S. Whitney
1962 Andante for Violin and Cello 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mirecourt Trio
1965 Duo for Violin and Cello "Duet" 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
Mirecourt Trio
Compilation Works for brass ensemble 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Villa-Lobos Comments:
Tall Tale (1947)
Grinnell Fanfare (1948)
Hymn and Fuguing Tune (1957)
Rodo (1958)

The London Gabrieli Brass Ensemble cond. Christopher Larkin

Compilation New Music: Piano Compositions 4.00 out of 5 stars CD
Comments:
1 Dynamic Motion (1914)
Chris Brown
2 What's This? (1914)
3 Amiable Conversation (1917)
4 Advertisement (1914)
5 Antinomy (1914)
6 Timetable ?
7 Banshee (1925)
8 Exultation (1919)
9 Tides of Manaunaun (1912) Sorrel Hays
10 Aeolian Harp (1923)
11 Hero Sun ?
12 Fabric (1917)
13 Lilit of the Reel (1925)
14 Nine Ings: Floating (1922) Joseph Kubera
15 Nine Ings: Frisking
16 Nine Ings: Fleeting
17 Nine Ings: Scooting
18 Nine Ings: Wafting
19 Nine Ings: Seething
20 Nine Ings: Whisking
21 Nine Ings: Sneaking
22 Nine Ings: Swaying
23 Slow Jig (1925) Sarah Cahill
24 Fairy Answer (1929)
25 Set of Two Movements: I-Deep Color ?
26 Set of Two Movements: Ii-High Color