MUSICA ELETTRONICA VIVA
MEV 40 (1967–2007)
1. SpaceCraft 30:49
Akademie der Kunste, Berlin, October 5, 1967
Allan Bryant, homemade synthesizer made from electronic organ parts
Alvin Curran, mbira thumb piano mounted on a ten-litre AGIP motor oil can, contact microphones,
amplified trumpet, and voice
Carol Plantamura, voice
Frederic Rzewski, amplified glass plate with attached springs, and contact microphones, etc.
Richard Teitelbaum, modular Moog synthesizer, contact microphones, voice
Ivan Vandor, tenor saxophone
2. Stop the War 44:39
WBAI, New York, December 31, 1972
Frederic Rzewski, piano
Alvin Curran, VCS3-Putney synthesizer, piccolo trumpet, mbira thumb piano, etc.
Garrett List, trombone
Gregory Reeve, percussion
Richard Teitelbaum, modular Moog synthesizer
Karl Berger, marimbaphone
1. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Pt. 1 43:07
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone
Garrett List, trombone
Alvin Curran, Serge modular synthesizer, piccolo trumpet, voice
Richard Teitelbaum, PolyMoog and MicroMoog synthesizers with SYM 1 microcomputer
Frederic Rzewski, piano, electronically-processed prepared piano
2. Kunstmuseum, Bern 24:37
November 16, 1990
Garrett List, trombone
Alvin Curran, Akai 6000 sampler and Midi keyboard
Richard Teitelbaum, Prophet 2002 sampler, DX 7 keyboard, Macintosh computer
Frederic Rzewski, piano
1. Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Pt. 2 44:05
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone
Garrett List, trombone
Alvin Curran, Serge modular synthesizer-processing for piano and sax, piccolo trumpet, voice
Richard Teitelbaum, Polymoog and MicroMoog synthesizers with SYM 1 microcomputer
Frederic Rzewski, piano, electronically processed prepared piano
2. New Music America Festival 30:51
The Knitting Factory, New York, November 15, 1989
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone
Garrett List, trombone
Richard Teitelbaum, Yamaha DX 7, Prophet sampler, computer with MAX/MSP, Crackle Box
Alvin Curran, Akai 5000 Sampler, MIDI keyboard, flugelhorn
Frederic Rzewski, piano
1. Ferrara, Italy 67:03
June 9, 2002
Steve Lacy, soprano saxophone
George Lewis, trombone, computer
Garrett List, trombone, voice
Alvin Curran, keyboard, computer, MAX/MSP, Kontakt-sampler, piano, flugelhorn, shofar (ram’s horn)
Richard Teitelbaum, Kurzweil K2000 sampler keyboard
Frederic Rzewski, piano, voice
2. Mass. Pike 10:57
Festival of Contemporary Music, Tanglewood Music Center, Lenox, Mass., August 2, 2007
Alvin Curran, MacBook Pro, Kontakt-sampler and MIDI-keyboard, shofar, toy boom-boxes.
Frederic Rzewski, piano, prepared piano, small instruments
Richard Teitelbaum, Kurzweil K2000 sampler keyboard and MacBook Pro with Ableton Live, Crackle
Box, small instruments
“The Spontaneous Music of Musica Elettronica Viva”
Something extraordinary began to take form in the spring of 1966 when some American composers living
in Rome presented a concert of experimental music in the crypt of St. Paul’s American Church. The
following fall, the same group participated in “Avanguardia Musicale 1,” a festival at the Accademia
Filarmonica Romana with an impressive program: instrumental music by Morton Feldman, John Cage,
Cornelius Cardew, and Alvin Lucier; “action music” by Giuseppe Chiari; Fluxus “events” by Takehisa
Kosugi and George Brecht; and electronic music by Karheinz Stockhausen, Vittorio Gelmetti, Mauricio
Kagel, Pietro Grossi, Luc Ferrari, David Behrman, Jon Phetteplace, Frederic Rzewski, and Allan Bryant.
There was a substantial number of performances with live electronic music, including Rzewski’s
Composition for Two Performers, in which Richard Teitelbaum used flashlights and a homemade
photocell mixer to control the amplified output from Rzewski’s scrapings on a large glass plate; and Bryant’s
Quadruple Play for performers playing microtonal intervals and aperiodic rhythms on amplified rubber
bands. Several of the works employed indeterminate notation and improvisation. The festival concluded
with a performance by Franco Evangelisti’s free improvisation ensemble, the Gruppo d’Improvvisazione
“Nuova Consonanza” di Roma.
“Avanguardia Musicale 2” followed quickly on the heels of the first festival in March 1967. Its program also
featured an exciting variety of music, from traditional works by Charles Ives and Arnold Schoenberg, to
more recent compositions by John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Niccolò Castiglioni, and Ivan Vandor. Live
electronic music was once again prominent. There was an entire concert devoted to performances by the
Sonic Arts Union (David Behrman, Alvin Lucier, Robert Ashley, and Gordon Mumma) and an evening of
music by a new ensemble called Musica Elettronica Viva (MEV).
During the 1960s, the ancient Mediterranean city of Rome was, as Frederic Rzewski observed, “unlike any
other place on earth.” Its artistic community included The Living Theater and Giacinto Scelsi, the mystic,
playboy, nobleman, and self-taught visionary composer; Federico Fellini and Michelangelo Antonioni were
making revolutionary changes to the art of filmmaking; Don Cherry, Gato Barbieri, Ornette Coleman, and
Steve Lacy were involved in the city’s lively free jazz scene; and performances by avant-garde dancers and
musicians—Trisha Brown, Yvonne Rainer, Simone Forti, La Monte Young, Marian Zazeela, Terry Riley,
Charlotte Moorman, and Nam June Paik, to name but a few—took place at Fabio Sargentini’s Galleria
L’Attico and the Feltrinelli Bookstore. Rome provided the ideal creative environment for MEV, which in its
earliest period consisted of the composers and musicians who took part in the initial concert at St. Paul’s
Rzewski, a composer and virtuoso pianist, had returned to Rome in the spring of 1966 with an assortment
of contact microphones, Lafayette mixers, and electronic circuitry he had obtained from his friend and
fellow Harvard graduate David Behrman. Rzewski, along with Alvin Curran and Richard Teitlelbaum,
became the nucleus of MEV. Curran had met Rzewski while on a DAAD fellowship (Deutscher
Akademischer Austausch Dienst) to study with Elliott Carter in Berlin and had moved to Rome in 1965;
Teitelbaum, a composer who in 1964 received a Fulbright to study in Italy, first with Goffredo Petrassi, and
in the following year with Luigi Nono, was Curran’s roommate while both composers were graduate
students at Yale. Jon Phetteplace, a cellist and composer who had traveled to Italy to study with Pietro
Grossi was also an original member of MEV; as were Allan Bryant, a composer and instrument builder who
made stringed instruments with rubber bands and weird tunings and constructed his own homemade
synthesizer; Carol Plantamura, a soprano specializing in new music, known for her performances of works
by John Cage, Luciano Berio, and Luigi Nono; and Ivan Vandor, a composer, tenor saxophone player, and
member of “Nuova Consonanza.”
The founding of MEV was in part a reaction against the acrid academicism of what Curran calls the “twelve-
tone church” and the institutions that promoted its music. Inspired by John Cage and David Tudor, who in
the early 1960s were performing works such as Cartridge Music (1960) and Variations II (1961) using live
amplified sounds, MEV’s artistic credo emphasized live electronic music rather than music recorded on
magnetic tape. For the most part, in its early days, the musicians in MEV used inexpensive unorthodox
“homemade” electronics rather than elaborate circuitry. Their instruments consisted of found objects, often
amplified by contact microphones, and a variety of acoustic instruments. Curran performed on a five-liter
tin can made by AGIP, one of the principal producers of motor oil in Italy. It had the three bands of Italian
colors, white, red and green, a contact microphone, an African thumb piano taped on the top, and was a
very effective resonating box, which could produce extremely loud drum-like sounds. He also played a
twisted old trumpet with a contact microphone in the bell with which he would use breathing, vocal sounds,
and trumpet tones to distort the diaphragm of the microphone. Rzewski, who at that time had renounced
the piano as a bourgeois instrument, performed with a thick piece of window glass cut in the shape of a
piano to which he also attached a contact microphone. Using plastic scrapers, he created shrieking high
frequency sounds; and with his fingers played his glass plate as if it were a percussion instrument. He also
had a collection of amplified springs of various kinds, which he plucked, bowed, scraped, and struck and
could produce an array of thunderous and shrill sounds. In addition to an amplified cello, Phetteplace
played amplified coat racks, and other objects he found at various concert venues. Vandor contributed high-
energy tenor saxophone playing to the group, often using multiphonics and other extended techniques.
In MEV’s early period, Allan Bryant and Richard Teitelbaum comprised the group’s synthesizer “section”;
Bryant’s instrument was a modified electric organ with a maze of wires, which, as Curran recalls, emitted
“sputtering grunts and blats,” making it sound almost human. In 1967, after a trip back to the United States
to explore “biofeedback music” utilizing electronic interfaces with human neurological and physiological
systems, Teitelbaum returned to Rome with the first Moog synthesizer played in Europe along with a
brainwave amplifier also designed by Moog that made it possible for him to use alpha wave signals
produced by the brain as control voltages for his synthesizer.
Pursuing a different approach to live electronic music from that explored by Cage and Tudor, MEV
embraced a form of spontaneous music now termed “free improvisation.” Interest in free improvisation,
like its political and social corollaries, “free jazz,” “free speech,” “free love,” and “freedom rides,” began to
take root in the 1960s in the new music scene. As did other groups and ensembles such as Franco
Evangelisti’s Nuova Consonanza, AMM, The Spontaneous Music Ensemble, New Phonic Art, QUAX, and
Larry Austin’s New Music Ensemble, MEV turned away from written music to free improvisation, inspired
by the indeterminate scores and “open forms” of John Cage and others as well as the omnipresent
background of the jazz tradition. Just as the free jazz of such giants as John Coltrane, Coleman, Charles
Mingus, and Albert Ayler was an outcry by African Americans against centuries of racial oppression, free
improvisation, for MEV, was an act of defiance by members of the liberated white majority, a revolt against
bourgeois values in a capitalist/consumer society. All of these artists sought to unleash the elemental power
of spontaneous music-making. Improvised music was a means to combat oppression by creating new worlds
through the medium of sound.
The members of MEV turned their backs on mainstream professional careers. This decision had serious
economic consequences, but allowed MEV to pursue its own unique artistic vision. It also made it necessary
for the group to develop a communal lifestyle with a strong sense of collective responsibility—very much in
the same spirit as its music—which fostered strong artistic and personal ties that still exist today. Moreover,
MEV’s independence from such affluent institutions as the electronic music studios in Cologne and Milan,
inculcated a certain “do-it-yourself” self-sufficiency that yielded highly original results despite often limited
MEV diametrically rejected musical tradition. As Rzewski declared in his “Parma Manifesto” in 1968,
improvised music “must be concerned with creation out of nothing. Its decisions cannot be governed by
structures and formulas retained from moments of past inspiration.” It must be “free to move in the present
without burdening itself with the dead weight of the past.” MEV’s members were, in a sense, compelled, as
Curran recalls, “to strip off their clothes and run naked in a musical world free from the pall of tragic
history.” Tradition was purged. The results were ecstatic for some, incomprehensible and even terrifying for
But MEV’s approach to spontaneous music, despite its endorsement of radical freedom, did not entail an
“anything goes” attitude. They often began an improvisation with some form of conceptual basis; and they
cultivated their craft during many hours of practice and group discussions. Rzewski described one approach
to free collective improvisation in his “Plan for SPACECRAFT,” an essay on MEV’s first major group
Each performer considers his own situation as a sort of labyrinth. Each begins by making
music in the way in which he knows how, with his own rhythms, his own choice of
materials, et cetera, setting up some kind of simple ensemble situation, without particular
regard for the others. This primitive ensemble, however, is superficial, and has nothing to
do with the fundamental unity, which is the final goal of the improvisation.
Once the performers have asserted their own individuality, they may free themselves from the labyrinth and
a new music may emerge:
The secret of the labyrinth is that the way out is not forward or backwards, to the left or to
the right, but up. To go up it is necessary to fly. . . . If the magic takes over, and the music
happens, the entire space and everything in it will be transformed.
Free improvisation was a transformative process for MEV, which embraced certain transcendental qualities,
an interest that reflected the growing appeal of mysticism during the 1960s. Rzewski had read Gershom
Scholem’s and Martin Buber’s writings on Jewish mysticism while studying with Jacob Taubes at Harvard.
The ancient Jewish Kabbalah particularly fascinated Teitelbaum. He also described SPACECRAFT from a
more contemporary perspective as a form of surrealist automaticism, which unleashed the creative energies
of the unconscious mind. His own work with brainwaves and biofeedback was certainly a means to this end,
and was an integral part of MEV’s early music. Teitelbaum’s In Tune, a work first performed by MEV in
1967 in St. Paul’s American Church, used the artist Barbara Mayfield’s heartbeats, brainwaves, and
breathing to control his Moog synthesizer. Particularly striking were the thunderous sounds produced by
opening and shutting her eyes (a movement that generated higher levels of brainwave activity).
In order to achieve a transcendental music, MEV cultivated a unique sensibility based upon dialogue and
humility. A strong sense of collective music making was at the heart of MEV’s aesthetic and practice. Their
musical anarchism was dependent upon, as was its political counterpart, a balance between individual
freedom and social responsibility. The musicians in MEV could join together in creating staggering walls of
sound; they also knew when and how not to play. What Curran calls a “counterpoint without sound” was as
much part of MEV’s musical dialogues as were their ecstatic outbursts.
MEV’s improvisations increasingly involved audience participation. In 1967 the group established its own
studio in an old converted foundry in Trastevere, which became a resource for both musicians and non-
musicians alike. The entire public was invited to participate in their concerts. As Rzewski proclaimed in
We are all “musicians.” We are all “creators.” Music is a creative process in which we can
all share, and the closer we can come to each other in this process, abandoning esoteric
categories and professional elitism, the closer we can all come to the ancient idea of music
as a universal language.
In September and October 1968, MEV organized performances of a work entitled Zuppa (or Soup) that
included audience participation at their studio every night for six weeks. There was a growing interest in
eliminating distinctions between performer and audience throughout the 1960s. Other artists and groups,
such as Cornelius Cardew’s “Scratch Orchestra,” for example, practiced similar participatory performances
during the same period. The Living Theater was active in Italy at that time; several of its members,
particularly Steven Ben Israel, were closely associated with MEV. It is likely that their now-legendary theater
piece Paradise Now, which both confronted and included the audience, was a major influence on MEV. In
Zuppa, MEV served as a catalyst, which provoked the active participation of the audience in spontaneous
music-making. The goal was to inspire the audience to listen carefully, and to respond responsibly, and to
partake in the communal, collective form of improvisation that the group had cultivated since 1966.
Zuppa resulted from MEV’s growing commitment to an egalitarian form of music involving composer,
performer, and listener. Sound Pool, which MEV first performed in 1969, was another step in that
direction. A free improvisation without pre-determined limits, it instructed audience members to “bring
your own sound and add it to the pool.” Performances of Sound Pool took place all over Europe, and often
led to moments, as Curran recalls, “of unbelievable harmony and intensity.” It unleashed a powerful
collective impulse, which for some was a Dionysian revolt against a cold-blooded technocracy and stultifying
social mores. The communal instincts and “mass togetherness” inspired by MEV were phenomena
resembling spectacles staged on a larger scale, including the Summer of Love, which took place in 1967,
and rock music festivals at Monterey, the Isle of Wight, Woodstock, and other venues; and like some of
these events Sound Pool could get out of hand, such as during the performance at the University of Louvain
when members of the audience set the furniture in the room on fire, causing MEV to make a hasty retreat.
As was the case for Sound Pool, MEV’s activities in the late 1960s took place within a broader socio-
political context, during the rise of the counterculture and the New Left, urban riots, and student activism.
In Italy, 1967 was a year proliferated with student protests against the class biases of the Italian educational
system and international issues, particularly the Vietnam War. Virtually every university in Italy had
experienced some form of student strike or occupation by the end of 1967. “Hippies” from Northern
Europe—or capelloni—had, since about 1965, migrated to Rome, presumably because of the warm climate,
good food, and wine. By the late 1960s this phenomenon became more and more Italian; thousands of
long-haired Italian youth were in evidence in such cities as Rome and Milan. The intense political and social
climate in both Europe and in the United States which, in 1968 as a result of assassinations, riots, strikes,
and student protests had become increasingly intense, certainly had a profound effect on MEV, inspiring
the group to bring its music into the streets and to perform in occupied universities and factories.
In 1970, after a tour in the United States cut short by the turmoil following the protest at Kent State
University when four students were shot and killed by the Ohio National Guard, Rzewski and Teitelbaum
decided to remain in the United States and Curran returned to Rome. As a result, MEV became three
separate ensembles, residing in New York, Rome, and Paris (where Ivan and Patricia Coaquette, two
musicians who had played with MEV in Rome, had formed a group using its name). In the 1970s, the
political and social climate in the United States and Europe began to change. The counterculture began to
dissipate; the anti-war movement disappeared after the fall of Saigon in 1975 and the end of the Vietnam
War. As the political landscape changed, so did MEV. Although MEV never renounced its anarchist ideals,
the group evolved into a professional ensemble in the 1970s and at various times performed with an
impressive list of musicians including Anthony Braxton, Maryanne Amacher, Garrett List, Gregory Reeve,
Steve Lacy, Karl Berger, Roscoe Mitchell, George Lewis, and many others. Today, MEV’s core members
pursue their own compositional careers, but have continued to perform together, and have developed into
one of the world’s finest free improvisation ensembles.
The recordings contained in this box set provide a stunning documentation of the group’s evolution over
forty years beginning with a performance of SPACECRAFT at the Akademie der Kunste in Berlin in 1967, a
year during which the group toured Europe, performing in Italy, West Germany, Holland, Belgium, and
France. MEV’s performances were not always well received, particularly at the more conservative venues
like the Akademie der Kunste, where Curran recalls that members of the audience jumped on the stage and
tried to stop the group from playing. The recording of this concert introduces the listener to MEV’s early
world of sounds created by Rzewski’s amplified glass plate, Curran’s amplified tin can, thumb piano, and
mangled trumpet, Plantamura’s amplified voice, Vandor’s wailing tenor sax, and a synthesizer section with
Byrant and Teitelbaum (the latter triggering his Moog both manually and with his brainwaves and toes).
Experiencing SPACECRAFT strikingly demonstrates that gifted musicians using primitive means can make
extraordinary music as rich as that created with today’s most advanced digital technologies.
The performance aired on WBAI, a progressive radio station in New York City, on December 31, 1972
features trombonist Garrett List and Gregory Reeve and Karl Berger on percussion, three musicians who
joined the group in New York, along with Curran, Rzewski, and Teitelbaum. This New Year’s Eve live
broadcast took place at a time when Richard Nixon had ordered the “Christmas” bombing of Hanoi and
Haiphong during the Vietnam War. Its allusions to the war consist of quotations from “When Johnny
Comes Marching Home,” “Taps,” and “Bandiera Rossa,” an early twentieth-century labor movement song
sometimes called “Avanti Popolo.” Following the performance, the station aired a tape loop created by
Steven Ben Israel with both audience and musicians singing, “Stop the War! Stop the War!” to the tune of
In 1982, Eddy de Wilde curated a monumental exhibition entitled “’60 ’80: Attitudes/Concepts/Images” at
the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, which, in his own words, “attempted to relive the memory of two
decades that are among the most turbulent of twentieth-century art.” In addition to visual art, the exhibition
included dance, performance art, video, film, and music by John Cage, Brian Eno, Charlemagne Palestine,
David Tudor, Meredith Monk, Elliott Carter, and performances by Frances-Marie Uitti and MEV. The two
tracks from the Amsterdam concert feature the five-member MEV, which had emerged since the late
1970s. The group now included Steve Lacy, a composer and a soprano saxophone player who had played
with Cecil Taylor, Gil Evans, and Thelonius Monk, and with MEV in the late 1960s. Lacy brought his own
broad musical vision ranging from Dixieland to free jazz to the group. MEV’s performances with Lacy often
incorporated his own compositions, as in the second part of the Amsterdam performance. His eclecticism
meshed well with MEV’s own stylistic pluralism. Listeners will immediately realize that this is collaboration
between master improvisers traversing a vast musical terrain. MEV did not limit itself to abstract electronic
sounds, which often gave way to or engaged in a counterpoint with more diverse musical styles, from the
folk and workers’ songs in the WBAI recording to Lacy’s jazz “licks” and Rzewski’s prepared piano in the
Amsterdam performance. The recording from the Tonart Festival at the Kunstmuseum, Bern, also presents
a variety of musical quotations and stylistic allusions. Over the years MEV has developed a seemingly
unlimited sonic palette integrating electronic and acoustic sounds—as heard in the track from the 1989 New
Music America Festival at the Knitting Factory in New York, its lightning fast duets by Lacy and List joined
by flurries and whirlwinds of melodic material and thick clouds of harmonies from the synthesizers and the
The performance from Ferrara’s Aterforum Fesitival in June 2002 was Lacy’s last concert with MEV; he
died from liver cancer two years later. The music, punctuated by samples from Curran’s synthesizer ranging
from cantorial singing to a loop with the phrase “talkin’ about your mama,” revolves around a written
composition by Lacy, and features solos by trombonists George Lewis and Garrett List (who also sings “You
Are My Sunshine”), and a duet with Lacy on soprano sax and Curran playing the shofar. Certainly the
eclecticism characteristic of this performance resembles MEV’s earlier work. Yet it also takes MEV’s
stylistic heterogeneity to a new level, reveling in what Curran calls today’s “new common practice”—the
enormous reservoir of musics available at the turn of the twenty-first century. But perhaps most impressive
is the extent to which the musicians integrate their diverse material.
The most recent performance in this collection took place at Tanglewood in August 2007 in the Seiji
Ozawa Hall. MEV, which for this concert consisted of only Curran, Teitelbaum, and Rzewski, had to face
the challenge of playing for a conservative audience in an iconic space. The group’s decision to play, for the
most part, as quietly as possible resulted in a beautiful mix of Curran’s haunting samples of ship horns,
serene drones from Teitelbaum’s synthesizer, and a simple broken triad on the piano, all of which must
have magically resonated in the vast wood-paneled hall. The audience was gently introduced to MEV’s
radical sound world, but not without a political message. Listeners may notice that Rzewski’s triad is in fact
“Taps,” and that later on he plays passages from “When Johnny Comes Marching Home,” recasting the
antiwar message from the WBAI performance to protest yet another war twenty-five years later.
Over a period of more than four decades, Musica Elettronica Viva has set a very high artistic standard for
improvised music based on trust, discipline, a certain courage and willingness to take risks, and above all, a
commitment to collective music. Today, perhaps more than ever, the avant-garde remains a political and an
artistic necessity. I hope that MEV will perform together again and again and, as Curran and Teitelbaum
jointly declared in an open letter written for the 1989 New Music America Festival, continue to
call for an open revolt against the encroachment of governmental ignorance and corporate
speculation in the arts and call instead for a program of massive proportions to regenerate
dignity and real work places for American artists whose unfettered experimentation may
take place. Let the artists make aircraft invisible and let them raise their poetry, music, and
dance on the flagpoles.
—David W. Bernstein
David W. Bernstein is a Professor of Music at Mills College. His publications include books and articles on
John Cage, the San Francisco Tape Music Center, Arnold Schoenberg, and the history of music theory.
MEV, at 42, is the microcosm of an age—born smack dab between analog and digital life, on the banks of
the Hudson and Tiber rivers, on the fault line running down the middle of the late 20th century, where St.
Vitus dances convulsed atonally with stark-naked minimalisms and where the avant-garde heavies drank
beer with the ultra-cool postmodernists. Where Jazz, Rock and indigenous experimentalists dated seriously
for the first time. Where the license to kill the “father” and even the “mother” of all things was regularly
granted. These were the times.
Composers all, nurtured in renowned ivy gardens; some mowed lawns. They met in Rome, near the Cloaca
Maxima—and without further ado, began like experimental archeologists to reconstruct the origins of
human music. They collected shards of every audible sound, they amplified the inaudible ones, they
declared that any vibrating object was itself “music,” they used electricity as a new musical space and cultural
theory, they ultimately laid the groundwork for a new common practice. Every audible gurgle, sigh, thump,
scratch, blast, every contrapuntal scrimmage, every wall of sound, every two-bit drone, life-threatening
collision, heave of melodic reflux that pointed to unmediated liberation, wailing utopias, or other
disappearing acts—anything in fact that hinted at the potential unity among all things, space, and times—were
MEV’s “materia prima.”
Then and ever since, MEV has theorized and demonstrated that there is no relevant difference between
composing music and making it spontaneously. . . . Bred on Mozart, the Second Viennese School, and
hand-me-down avant-gardisms, we sprang with zeal into the revolutionary trenches where Marx, Buddha,
Boulez, Braxton, Buber, Amacher, AMM, Scelsi, Moog, Mao, Ornette, Zappa, Feldman, and Zorn sit in
with DJ Karlheinz and Snoop Dog. MEV—which unlike me never dropped a name—was like your
neighborhood encounter-group: it cost next to nothing, laid no trip on anyone, was strictly a door-affair,
promised nothing, and gave away everything it had: its youth, confusion, exile, charisma, optimism,
chutzpah—not to mention its mastery of the latest music linguistics and a shared desire to bury them alive in
the hope they would quickly rot, forming a rich compost from which a new musical lingua franca would
grow. This language would enable the conquest of time, the abolition of ego, and the democratization of all
audible sound, musical action, and memory. It would reclassify silence as an obligatory ethical act and
embrace the raw, the primal, and the transcendent as the unequivocal rudiments of music.
These were lofty, necessary goals, ones that have since guided our personal lives and careers, ones that say—
huh? —early MEV continued where Beethoven’s anarchic last sonatas ended. . . . That is, in spite of all of
our carryings-on we still openly embraced our European musical heritage even as the latter morphed before
our eyes into a world gamelan jamboree with Ghana car-horn orchestras, conch-shell hippie bands, and
phase-vocoded string quartets. At this party all we wanted was to make Cage’s inspired acts of purification
swing!—and at the same time drink the healing toxins of free jazz! while lyrically, mystically stopping time
like Morty! Do not be deceived, these plain-clothes improvisers were always composers in drag, but by the
mid-80s nobody could tell the difference, nor could they care.
By then MEV had long become a stable but intermittent act including Steve Lacy and Garrett List among
the regulars; this made the group resemble a kind of Kabbalistic Dixieland band, needing only a tuba and a
banjo to complete the instrumentation. The meaning of this music as in the beginning years was a staunch
affirmation of the original MEV premise: that music resides in all things, all one needs is the will to release
So what about the electronics? Electronics, only yesterday considered the musical antichrist, are now the
universal subtext of our time. In less than half a century, regardless of genre, all music has become
electronic, and the term “electronica” has now come to mean wacky looped dance beats. Anyhow, our
prominent use of self-made circuitry, synthesizers, and sampling only partially define the group’s music
throughout its 40-year cycle. MEV, while enthralled by Tudor’s “circuitry”—its extreme otherness, its
magical powers, its endless home-made promises —never lost sight of the sound-quality and musical
potential of a piece of found junk, and never seriously considered abandoning conventional acoustic
instruments. Musica Elettronica Viva—Vittorio Gelmetti’s brilliant moniker for MEV—and our determined
mission, just happened to coincide with the initial historic practice of live electronic music and its
Maybe MEV now hauls its frayed history book around in a knapsack designed for 70-year-old veterans of
the last century’s art-wars. But in today’s interminable sonic traffic jam—the cool jumble of musical practices
and the manic eclectic polyphony, liberated from anything and everything but stalled on the freeway—maybe
if you listen hard you can hear an old broken horn from MEV’s ’68 Volkswagen bus.
Postscript: this bit of flying-whale overview could use a couple of anecdotes to bring it back to Earth:
At the prestigious Festival d’Avignon in 1968—the one where the complete nudity of The Living Theater
delighted and affronted the residents of the Palais des Papes—MEV gave a performance of which I
remember only that Cornelius Cardew was playing with us. We did a sound-check in the hot afternoon—all
onstage; but at the concert, Cornelius decided to perform unseen from under the huge outdoor stage . . . as
I remember he put a contact microphone on the “tubi Innocenti”—the stage’s steel supporting structure,
and played the entire concert from “down under”. . . I remember this because it disturbed me; I did not
mind that someone dissociated themselves from the main group-attraction on stage, I minded that a music
was being made with a component whose origin nobody but us could possibly be aware of . . . and at the
time, seemed to be a sanctimonious act of self-denial . . . but therein lay Cornelius’s genius.
Shortly after the MEV group began to meet in the late afternoons at John Phetteplace’s apartment, on the
fourth floor of a building which overlooked Hadrian’s magnificent Pantheon building—Takehisa Kosugi was
in town and decided to do a living-room performance at Phetteplace’s. Then I had only vague notions of
the avant-garde, the Dadaists, and their post-Fluxus/Situationist propagations, but to this day watching
Kosugi slip himself into a large leather gym bag, with an acoustic guitar . . . have himself zipped up and then
slowly/inexorably roll across the floor, “playing” the guitar however his churning body happened to contact
it, is an event which, musically speaking, changed my life.
A comparable epiphany was on hearing Giuseppe Chiari—another unsung master of the Fluxus world—
perform his “Maria” and a number of epigrammatic pieces, at a solo concert sponsored by MEV at the
American Episcopalian Church in Rome. . . . A piece reduced to an incessant sequence of varied
enunciations of the word “Maria” struck me as a potent creative model. Around this time in the same
cultural center we all played in Rzewski’s brilliant “Requiem” for chorus, pianos, jew’s-harps, and bull-
roarers, another genetic experience in which hard-core atonalism—in flying buckets of roman shards and
personal pain—is swallowed alive by the sheer magic of the surrounding archaic instruments. It was in the
same church, where Reverend Bill Woodhams gave us free rein, that Teitelbaum inaugurated his custom-
made brain-wave machine—a psycho-musical device mystically triggered by the beautiful Barbara Mayfield’s
The MEV soundtrack for Antonioni’s Zabriskie Point—primarily done in post-production by Richard
(shining on the Moog and the cutting table at Antonioni’s house) and myself—was one of those youthful
encounters, common in Rome in those days, centimeters away from real fame and glory; and when
Antonioni in all earnestness declared that he liked our versions of the main scenes more than those of Pink
Floyd, but that he had to give into the big-boys at MGM, we knew we had genuinely pleased the “maestro”—
it conferred on us somehow a “touch of class” even if our music ended up being used, in bittersweet
achievement, mostly under the opening titles.
WHY MEV? Because MEV—in its collective fluidity, its illegitimate, never-defined body and sprawl, its
crumbling but stubborn 40-year history and its proud refusal to die—wrote the first draft of a genuine
democratic musical constitution. This draft—like Steve Lacy’s claim of having put thousands of notes into
the walls of the MEV studio—was inscribed in brick and mortar. Revolutionary in spirit, MEV, from day
one, was imbued with American pragmatism. So if one sifts through remnants and shards of the group’s
material legacy, they will find signs that our immaterial flutters, plucks, wallops, howlings, and lyric
screechings were all transformed into monetary donations, which were in turn transformed into pizza ai
funghi at the Obitorio (the Morgue)—our favorite Trastevere pizzeria . . . putting us and our music into a
pleasing equation of socio-economic utility. So one could say the first law of the new constitution was: assure
that the energy one puts into making the music can be translated into caloric energy to keep the body well
and the mind in an optimal creative condition.
In a democratic musical state, as MEV imagined, there are no hierarchical structures (hence no leaders or
followers, no agreed compositions, conductors, no scores, plans or goals, and no beginnings or endings),
only the appreciation of a collective “flux” and the demands of its unknowable genetic structure.
So this was a practical constitution which not only stipulated that all human beings were musical beings, but
encouraged anyone who so wished to prove this, with or without us. This self-evident premise,
notwithstanding, led to predictable human troubles such as electrical blackouts, mid-concert venue
shutdowns, near-riots, threats, fights, police intervention, fires, theft, cuckolding, ecstatic states, and a bill
from Brown University for damages to their physical plant.
The MEV constitution also stipulated that all authentic musicians are created equal regardless of gender,
race, religion, musical instrument, or education. While this law was not revolutionary in itself, MEV
practiced it with much fervor, and took humble inspiration from all the great musics of Asia, Africa,
Europe, and North and South America.
For a brief period MEV professed that anyone could be a musician and could participate with anyone else,
musician or not. This radical clause, as practiced under the title of the Sound Pool project, provoked an
endless debate among the group’s original members; the debate focused ultimately on questions of
competence, elitism, and legal ownership of the music—dogged questions which to this day our constitution
has never adequately resolved.
Most delicate, elusive, and difficult to practice was the MEV constitutional law about human trust. This law,
unspoken in MEV circles, is the fundamental premise of any spontaneous collective musical essay. In this
context, it implies that in an ideal state, all performing musicians will listen with equal intensity and
understanding to every audible sound and musical gesture as if it were their own, and respond only when
they must. An important corollary allows this agreement of trust to be momentarily voided, in cases of
inspired autism. Furthermore, this premise, while centered on an instinctive understanding of creative risk
and the benefits of increasing it progressively, did not make us—the MEV group—immune from getting
screwed or from making lousy music, but it did help in getting us to some unimaginable spaces—territories
on the other side of time, density, chance, ego, silence, ordinary societal demands, technique, technology,
and occasionally to the other side of our own crude and sublime animal behavior.
MEV also constitutionally stipulated that music has no beginning and no end—a no-brainer, but one which
might explain why the original MEV core continues today to practice what it has always preached.
This is for me, WHY MEV.
Grateful thanks to Susan Levenstein and her superb literary contributions.
WHY MEV?At its best, like the weather. Clouds pass over, a burst of sunlight, stars. Sudden storms. Like
life, unpredictable, sometimes making sense, mostly not.
It’s unclear whether there ever was a “theory” of MEV. Words have been written, but words cannot express
the unique experience of playing in this group.
(The entire sequence across forty years could be heard as one continuous Song without Words.)
It’s unclear too how MEV came into being, how it evolved, whether it has a direction.
If this music is about some one primary thing, I’d say flight: flying, fleeing, fleeting.
But in that case, why has it persisted?
My mother told me, when I was about seven, that life is “hard work and suffering.” I thought, Wait a
minute. There must be something else.
So I found music. And we found each other, partly because we all had this notion of music as a way out.
We pooled our resources in order to find another way, beyond the Establishment.
And we still share this idea. We make music for love. Real love persists. This form of spontaneous music-
making, which has certainly been around for thousands of years, will certainly continue beyond the Century
of Recording, when there was confusion between art and its electronic image, to an age of clarity in which
music is a creative act, rather than a commodity to be passively consumed.
But why persist in thousand-year-old traditions? Why not pursue the technological dream?
Gadgetry goes in and out of fashion. When Edison invented his gramophone, he didn’t think at all of
recording music. This machine, with its relatively simple mechanical design, could easily have been
developed a hundred years earlier. Mozart, with his love for automata and watches, might have liked it.
There is no technical reason why we couldn’t have recordings of Beethoven’s improvisations. It’s simply
that nobody was interested. The electronic dream that seems to lure so many artists today could easily fizzle,
just as we might return to horses and sailing ships.
Furthermore, art is no longer in advance of technology, as it might have been ninety years ago, when people
like Tatlin imagined futuristic cities that were partly realized decades later. In the 20th century artists may
have inspired architects and engineers, but in the 21st the roles are reversed. Science has advanced with
accelerating velocity, while art has remained locked into older, traditional concepts, such as that of the
“avant-garde,” itself a creation of the 19th century. Artists who today turn out the latest gimmicks seem not
so much to produce new and original work as rather to turn out advertising jingles for the entertainment
industry (which could also fizzle). The two colonoscopies I had last year, when I travelled in real time
through my own incredibly beautiful bowels, were incomparably more meaningful than any kind of “video
art” I have ever seen. The early electronic works of Pierre Henry and Stockhausen are more interesting
(and more advanced) than the academic exercises of “computer music” today.
So where does that leave MEV?
High and dry, as usual. MEV has always been out of both the commercial and the academic grids, and on
the few occasions when it came dangerously close to success in one of these areas, somebody invariably ran
off with the cashbox (sometimes literally, as Alvin can attest).
And yet, here we are. Whatever the significance this music might have to future listeners, it is a document of
what results when people make that fateful decision to live and work together as artists over decades. I
remember hearing Judith Malina say once about The Living Theater’s ups and downs: We always did what
we wanted to do. This notion has served as a model for MEV as well. We’re still here because we are
stubborn believers in this principle, which has surely been solidly implanted in human society for at least
thirty thousand years. And I’m sure it will carry on for a long time yet, with or without our help.
MEV has always been about openness, acceptance, tolerance, inclusiveness, reconciliation. As American
expats in Rome, we in MEV were uniquely positioned to draw inspiration from both sides of the pond, and
we did not hesitate to delve as deeply into European expressionism as into American experimentalism,
where John Cage was an important influence. Furthermore, from the American side, we also received much
inspiration from the African-American experimental tradition, (not of much interest to Cage), which was
undergoing a tremendous creative surge in the 60s, ranging from the anarchic free counterpoint of Ornette’s
Free Jazz album to the dense, screaming New Thing “noise” music of late Coltrane and others. In part it
was that influence that encouraged MEV’s music toward interaction, stimulus, and response rather than the
cooler, non-reactive independence espoused by Cage.
Over the years, MEV has continued to be based on friendship and trust, but in the early days it often
seemed more like a family, or even a clan, with various roles, relationships, and group dynamics played out
both inside and outside the music. This doubtless contributed to the intensity of feelings and emotions the
music frequently expressed. Unlike the Cage-Cunningham collaborative strategy, MEV wasn’t clever enough
to establish ground rules that restricted each family member to work in independent isolation. Nor, really,
was that what we were all about. By privileging the group rather than the individual we established a very
different means toward diminishing personal identity, taste, and ego, through the merging of the individual
into the collective. The tensions created by this integrative process often provided the sparks that heated,
and occasionally enflamed, the music.
In this endeavor, electronics provided a vehicle and catalyst, by mixing, inter-modulating, equalizing,
integrating, and transforming individual gestures into a group sound that was physically displaced in space,
surrounding the players and audience from distant loudspeakers. By not supplementing the remote quad
PA with nearby individual monitors, we “played” the whole space in a way that contributed to sensations of
interpenetration and out-of-body experience such that it was frequently difficult to identify who in the
collective web of sound was doing what (and to whom).
In its inclusiveness, MEV brought together and integrated many seemingly contradictory and incompatible
streams of activity: introverted mysticism and socio-political activism; high tech synthesizers with found
objects and cheap junktronics; new electronic technology combined with (to paraphrase the poet Jerome
Rothenberg) ancient “technologies of the sacred”; academic training and virtuosity with untutored non-
musicians. A typical concert in the late 60s might start with a highly focused, meditative piece exploring the
performer’s internal psychic and physiological states, and end with an anarchic free-form Sound Pool that
welcomed all present (sometimes a hundred people or more) to join in and participate in whatever way they
saw fit. The results were often chaotic, stretching the Cagean challenge to “accept whatever eventuality” to
Perhaps my fondest memory of an unexpected “eventuality” of this sort was the MEV concert at the 1968
Palermo Festival on the night before New Year’s Eve, (with both Cage and Feldman in the audience). The
concert began with my brainwave piece, Barbara Mayfield half-reclining on a large inflatable plastic chair,
bathed in mysterious blue light as I mixed her amplified heartbeats, breathing, and brainwaves,
“orchestrating” them with the Moog synthesizer. It ended quite differently, when a group improvisation that
included Frederic, Alvin, Steve Lacy, myself, and a special guest, the late Giuseppe Chiari, disintegrated into
utter chaos. Before the concert, Chiari told me: “Rzewski wants this to end in peace and love, but I don’t.”
Toward the end of the final improv, Chiari began to perform a famous piece of his by repeatedly shouting
the word “Luce!” (“light” or “lights”) through his electric megaphone. Either by accident or design, this
triggered a wild sequence of events: the people controlling the stage lights abruptly cut them and the power
and turned up the house lights. With his power cut, synthesizer designer Paul Ketoff, who was doing sound
for the concert and had joined in the improv by playing sounds by fast forwarding and rewinding a 10-inch
open reel tape machine at high speed watched helplessly as masses of loose tape flew all over the control
room. Then stagehands started pouring onto the stage, carrying away the instruments while we were still
playing. I’ll never forget Alvin swinging a mallet at a set of tubular orchestral chimes just as they were pulled
out from in front of him, so that he hit nothing but air. It was like a scene out of a Marx Brothers movie.
By the end of the Rome period, MEV had grown from a close-knit family to a floating commune of
musicians and non-musicians, spouses, fans, and camp followers. Though memories on this differ, several
of us recall dividing our fee among some eighteen people when we played at the notorious Amougies
Festival in Belgium during the summer of 1969. When MEV was reconstituted in New York in the early
70s, it became a different kettle of fish: a small ensemble, more melodic, harmonic, tonal, and acoustic.
Electronics remained a constant element, although the electronic sounds have continued to evolve. MEV
music has retained much of its original character, still structured in an intuitive way, based on listening and
dialogue, but always leaving space for individual initiative and surprise.
MEV’s music continues to be spurred by current political and social concerns. Our efforts are buoyed by a
new hopeful spirit among the young, as well as by the current enthusiasm among many young musicians for
much that MEV has always stood for. Ideas and musical tools championed by MEV and others in the 1960s
(which still spark MEV’s current music making) have become integral to younger composer-performers.
We seek for what first excited us, using open and improvised forms, and combining acoustic objects and
instruments with live electronics, ranging from found objects and low-cost electronic circuits to computers.
So it’s on to the next forty years!
Alvin Curran’s music career spans nearly fifty years as a composer/performer and teacher in the
American Experimentalist tradition—his work readily embraces all the contradictions. Born in Providence,
Rhode Island, in 1938 into a Yiddish-speaking family of popular musicians, he studied piano from the age
of five and learned trombone by himself, opening up to early formative experiences playing jazz, dance
music, orchestral, choral, and band music. He studied composition with Ron Nelson at Brown University
(in the American symphonic style) and with Elliott Carter at Yale School of Music, earning an M.Mus.
degree in 1963. Since 1964 he has resided in Rome, Italy, where he taught briefly at the Accademia
Nazionale d’Arte Drammatica, and was the Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College (1991–
2006). His work is a kind of handbook to music-making in the late 20th–early 21st-century, seen through
his innovative pursuits of live electronic improvisation (founding member of MEV); solo performance
(Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden, Electric Rags for Diskklavier, Endangered Species,
TransDadaExpress–Extraordinary Renderings); and radio art (NPR’s Maritime Rites radio series, Crystal
Psalms, Erat Verbum, I Dreamt John Cage Yodeling in the Zurich Hauptbahnhof . . .). His expansive
composition with natural sound and acoustic and electronic instruments in theatrical and sculptural sound
installations (Maritime Rites on the Laghetto of Villa Borghese  and on the Thames River at the Tate
Modern ; The Twentieth Century; Gardening with John, a sounding garden shed; Oh Brass on the
Grass Alas, with 300 local brass band players, Donaueschingen; Beams. . .) has lead to the creation of a
form of new musical theater with masses of musicians in large architectural and natural spaces. His chamber
music includes abundant music for solo piano (Inner Cities 1–14, a six-hour piano cycle) and numerous
works for ensembles, small orchestras, and chorus, many in collaboration with choreographers Trisha
Brown, Joan Jonas, Margy Jenkins, Achim Freyer, Nancy Karp, Wanda Golonka, and Yoshiko Chuma.
Numerous awards include DAAD residencies in Berlin, two NEA grants, and a Guggenheim Fellowship
(2005) for the FakeBook project; Tonspur residency–Museums Quartier, Vienna 2005. He writes
ebulliently and critically (Musiktexte, The New York Times . . .) and is in the process of assembling a
collection of compositional materials from the past forty years in The Alvin Curran Fakebook, a source-
work conceived as music for all occasions.
Born in Westfield, Massachusetts, in 1938, Frederic Rzewski studied music at first with Charles Mackey
of Springfield, and subsequently with Walter Piston, Roger Sessions, and Milton Babbitt at Harvard and
Princeton universities. He went to Italy in 1960, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and met Severino
Gazzelloni, with whom he performed in a number of concerts, thus beginning a career as a performer of
new piano music. Rzewski’s early friendship with Christian Wolff and David Behrman, and (through Wolff)
his acquaintance with John Cage and David Tudor strongly influenced his development in both
composition and performance. In Rome in the mid-sixties, together with Alvin Curran and Richard
Teitelbaum, he formed the MEV (Musica Elettronica Viva) group, which quickly became known for its
pioneering work in live electronics and improvisation.
The experience of MEV can be felt in Rzewski’s compositions of the late sixties and early seventies, which
combine elements derived equally from the worlds of written and improvised music (Les Moutons de
Panurge, Coming Together). During the seventies he experimented further with forms in which style and
language are treated as structural elements; the best-known work of this period is The People United Will
Never Be Defeated!, a 50-minute set of piano variations. A number of pieces for larger ensembles written
between 1979 and 1981 show a return to experimental and graphic notation (Le Silence des Espaces Infinis,
The Price of Oil), while much of the work of the eighties explores new ways of using twelve-tone technique
(Antigone-Legend, The Persians). A freer, more spontaneous approach to writing can be found in more
recent work (Whangdoodles, Sonata). The Triumph of Death (1987–8) is a two-hour oratorio based on
texts adapted from Peter Weiss’s 1965 play Die Ermittlung (The Investigation). Rzewski’s largest-scale work
to date is The Road, an eight-hour “novel” for solo piano.
From 1983 to 2003 Rzewski was Professor of Composition at the Conservatoire Royal de Musique in Liège,
Belgium. He has also taught at the Yale School of Music, the University of Cincinnati, the State University
of New York at Buffalo, the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California at San Diego, Mills
College, the Royal Conservatory of the Hague, the Hochschule der Künste in Berlin, and the Hochschule
für Musik in Karlsruhe.
Richard Teitelbaum was born in New York City in 1939. He holds a B.A. degree from Haverford
College and a Master of Music from Yale, where he worked with Allen Forte and Mel Powell. In 1964–66
he studied with Goffredo Petrassi and Luigi Nono on a Fulbright in Italy. In 1967 he brought the first Moog
synthesizer to Europe and helped to found Musica Elettronica Viva in Rome. In 1970 he returned to the
United States to found the World Band, one of the first intercultural improvisation groups, with musicians
from non-Western traditions teaching in the World Music Program at Wesleyan University. In 1976–77 he
spent a year studying traditional Japanese music in Tokyo, composing Blends for shakuhachi, synthesizers
and percussion for his teacher, the great master player Katsuya Yokoyama. The recording of this piece on
New Albion Records was named one of the ten best classical recordings of 2002 by The Wire.
Among his many works are two operas dealing with Jewish mystical expressions of redemptive hopes:
Golem: An Interactive Opera (1989); and his ongoing project Z’vi (2002–), based on the true story of the
17th-century “Jewish-Moslem” messiah Sabbatai Z’vi, which has been performed at Bard College’s Fisher
Center, the Venice Biennale, and the Center for Jewish History in New York.
He has received numerous grants and awards, including a Prix Ars Electronica from the Austrian Radio and
Television, two Fulbrights and a Guggenheim, and composed commissioned works for pianists Aki
Takahashi, Ursula Oppens, and others. His work has featured long-standing collaborations with leading jazz
musicians such as Steve Lacy, Anthony Braxton and George Lewis, and he has collaborated with leading
artists in other disciplines, including Nam June Paik and Joan Jonas. In 2008 he received a commission
from the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and performed with them at the Dia Beacon Art Center.
Teitelbaum has performed his music at the Berlin Jazz Festival in Philharmonic Hall, the Pompidou Center
in Paris, the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The Almeida Theatre in London, the Kennedy Center in
Washington, the Tanglewood Music Center in Massachusetts, the Experimenta Festival in Buenos Aires,
the VI International Festival of Electroacoustic Music in Havana, Super Deluxe in Tokyo, and in many
other venues throughout the world.
A new work commissioned by the Fromm Music Foundation for instruments and computer will be
premiered in New York City in 2009 by the Da Capo Chamber Players. His music has been recorded on
New Albion, Tzadik, Hat Art, Silkheart, Music and Arts, Victo, Matchless and other labels. Teitelbaum is a
professor of music at Bard College, where he has been teaching for twenty years.
Karl Berger (b. 1935), the co-founder and director of the Creative Music Studio and six-time winner of
the Downbeat Critics Poll as a jazz soloist, has been a highly respected artist in contemporary music for
several decades. He has recorded and performed with Don Cherry, Lee Konitz, John McLaughlin,
Gunther Schuller, the Mingus Epitaph Orchestra, Dave Brubeck, Dave Holland, Ed Blackwell, Ray
Anderson, Pharoah Sanders, James Blood Ulmer, and many others at festivals and concerts in the U.S.,
Canada, Europe, Africa, India, the Philippines, Japan, Mexico, and Brazil. His recordings and
arrangements appear on the Atlantic, Axiom, Black Saint, Blue Note, Capitol, CBS, Douglas Music,
Elektra, EMI, Enja, Island, JVC, Knitting Factory, MCA, Milestone, Polygram, RCA, Sony, Stockholm, and
Vogue labels, among others.
Steve Lacy (1934–2004) was the first avant-garde jazz musician to make a specialty of the soprano
saxophone, an instrument that had become almost completely neglected during the Bop era. Indeed, he is
credited with single-handedly bringing the instrument back from obscurity into modern music of all types.
Throughout his career, Lacy was widely admired for the beauty and purity of his tone, for his incisive
melodic sense, for keeping his music uncompromising and fresh, and for his eagerness to play with a wide
variety of musicians while retaining long-term musical relationships. He regularly received awards from
DownBeat magazine as the premier soprano saxophonist and in 1992 received a MacArthur Foundation
Fellowship. In 2002, he was made a Commandeur de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French
government. A prolific recording artist, Lacy is represented on many labels, including Universal, hat Hut,
RCA, Verve, Label Bleu, New Albion, EMI, CBS/Columbia, and Denon.
George E. Lewis (b. 1952) is the Edwin H. Case Professor of American Music at Columbia University,
and the Director of the Center for Jazz Studies at Columbia. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship in
2002, an Alpert Award in the Arts in 1999, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts,
Lewis studied composition with Muhal Richard Abrams at the AACM School of Music, and trombone with
Dean Hey. A member of the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM) since 1971,
Lewis’s work as a composer, improviser, performer, and interpreter explores electronic and computer
music, computer-based multimedia installations, text-sound works, and notated and improvisative forms,
and is documented on more than 120 recordings. His book, A Power Stronger Than Itself: The AACM
and American Experimental Music, was recently published by the University of Chicago Press.
Garrett List’s (b. 1943) apprenticeship as a trombonist was completed at The Juilliard School of Music;
as an artist, with the likes of John Cage and friends, Karl Berger and the Creative Music Studio, and MEV
in its NYC version. The wildly eclectic atmosphere of downtown New York City in the ’60s and ’70s, where
he met and played with poets, dancers, painters, and composers in a bewildering assortment of musics,
from classic and contemporary to blues, salsa, and jazz, was a marvelously fertile place for creative energy.
But it was the free improvised music in those days that finally set him on his own path as a composer. The
A-1 Art Band (1975–80) was his orchestra of this period. Living and working in Belgium for the past thirty
years, he has been able to expand upon this foundation: working in the theater with Max Parfondry and
Jacques Delcuvellerie; as a performer, creating different ensembles; and as a composer, with works such as
the 24-composition suite Music for Trees (1986–89) and a series of cantatas.
Carol Plantamura (b. 1941) is Professor Emerita of Music at the University of California at San Diego.
Plantamura was born in Los Angeles, graduated from Occidental College and was an original member of
the Creative Associates at SUNY Buffalo under the direction of the composer Lukas Foss. She spent twelve
years living in Italy and was a founding member of Musica Elettronica Viva, Rome; Teatro Musica, Rome;
2e2m, Champigny Paris; and performed many times with Gruppo Nuova Consonanza, L’Ensemble
Intercontemporain, as well as in opera houses and with symphony orchestras throughout Europe. She
founded and performed for fourteen years with The Five Centuries Ensemble, a group that specialized in
the performance of 17th- and 20th-century music. She has appeared on more than 25 recordings on
Wergo, Deutsche Grammophon, “Italia” Fonit/Cetra, CRI, Leonarda, and many smaller labels.
Gregory Reeve was born in New York City and has lived there all his life. He has a BA from Hunter
College where he studied for his music degree with Donald Lybbert, Herbert Inch, H. Wiley Hitchcock,
and Sherman van Solkema. His compositions include works for chamber ensembles, symphony orchestra,
and electronic resources. Over the years he has performed with the Tone Roads Ensemble, Fluxus, SEM
Ensemble, SEM Orchestra, and MEV. He has written and performed music for many dance companies
including the Nancy Meehan Dance Company, James Waring, Elaine Summers, the Judson Memorial
Dance Series, and the Grand Union Dance Co. As a recording artist he can be heard on Opus One,
Wergo, Pablo Records, and Sean Fine Arts Editions, among others.
Ivan Vandor, born in Hungary in 1932, moved to Rome in 1938. In 1959 he graduated in composition
with Goffredo Petrassi at the Santa Cecilia Conservatory of Music in Rome. The following year he studied
in Paris with Max Deutsch. In 1971 he earned his Master’s Degree in Ethnomusicology at the University of
California in Los Angeles, followed by research in the Himalaya regions on the music of Tibetan
Buddhism. He succeeded Alain Danielou as Chair of the International Institute for Comparative Music
Studies of Berlin, remaining in charge until 1983, then taking over the Scuola Interculturale di Musica in
Venice. He is the author of the book La Musique du Bouddhisme Tibetain. Since 1983 he has taught
composition at the conservatories G. B Martini of Bologna and Santa Cecilia of Rome.
Spacecraft/Unified Patchwork Theory. Alga Marghen Plana-M 15NMN.038.
The Sound Pool. Spalax CD 14969.
Animal Behavior. Alvin Curran, sampler, piano; Annie Sprinkle, voice; Roy Malan, violin; Donald Haas,
accordion; Peter Wahrhaftig, tuba; William Winant, percussion. Tzadik TZ 7001.
Canti Illuminati. Fringes Archives 02.
Crystal Psalms. New Albion NA 067.
Electric Rags II. ROVA Saxophone Quartet. New Albion NA 027.
For Cornelius, The Last Acts of Julian Beck, Shtetl Variations. Yvar Mikhashoff, piano. Mode 49.
Inner Cities. Daan Vandewalle, piano. Long Distance Records 560304 (4CDs).
Maritime Rites. Featuring the foghorns and other maritime sounds of the U.S. Eastern Seaboard and solo
improvisations by John Cage, Joseph Celli, Clark Coolidge, Alvin Curran, Jon Gibson, Malcolm Goldstein,
Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Pauline Oliveros, and Leo Smith. New World Records 80625-2 (2CDs).
Schtyx. Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio. New World Records/CRI NWCR 668.
Songs and Views from the Magnetic Garden. Catalyst 09026-61823-2.
Strum City. Seth Josel, electric guitar. New World Records 80661-2.
A Decade: Zeitgeist Plays Rzewski. Includes Spots, Wails, The Lost Melody, and Crusoe. Zeitgeist.
Antigone-Legend and Jefferson. Carol Plantamura, soprano; Frederic Rzewski, piano. New World/CRI
Main Drag. Includes Attica and Coming Together. Alter Ego. Stradivarius 33631.
Moonrise with Memories. David Taylor, bass trombone. New World Records 80494-2.
The People United Will Never Be Defeated. Ursula Oppens, piano. Vanguard Classics 8056.
Rzewski Plays Rzewski: Piano Works 1975–1999. Includes The People United Will Never Be Defeated,
North American Ballads for Piano, Mayn Yingele, Fantasia for Piano, Sonata for Piano, The Road, De
Profundis, and Fougues. Nonesuch 79623 (7CDs).
Rzewski Plays Rzewski: The People United Will Never Be Defeated. VAI 4440. (DVD)
Scratch Symphony. SWF-Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Michael Gielen, conductor. Col
Legno WWE 3CD 20026.
Blends. Katsuya Yokoyama, shakuhachi; Richard Teitelbaum, synthesizer, computer, keyboards; Trilok
Gurtu, tabla; Mark Dresser, double bass; Gerry Hemingway, drums. New Albion 118.
Concerto Grosso. Anthony Braxton, reeds; George Lewis, trombone, computer; Richard Teitelbaum,
keyboards, Pianocorders, computers. Hat Art CD 6004.
Cyberband. Carlos Zingaro, violin, electronics; Tom Cora, amplified cello, electronics; Fred Frith, guitar,
prepared guitar, electronics; George Lewis, trombone, electronics, computer; Richard Teitelbaum,
synthesizer/sampler keyboard, Disklavier, computer; Michel Waisvisz, The Hands, synthesizers, computer;
Otomo Yoshihide, turntables, CD-player. Moers Music 03000. (Mini Disc)
Double Clutch. Andrew Cyrille, percussion, Richard Teitelbaum, PolyMoog and MicroMoog synthesizers,
microcomputer. Silkheart SHCD 146.
Duet: Live at Merkin Hall. Anthony Braxton, reeds; Richard Teitelbaum, Kurzweil keyboard
sampler/synthesizer, computer. Music and Arts CD 4949.
Golem. David Moss, voice, electronics, percussion; Carlos Zingaro, violin, electronics; Shelley Hirsch,
voice; Richard Teitelbaum, sampler, synthesizer, computer; George Lewis, computer, trombone,
electronics. Tzadik 7105.
Run Some By You. On Computer Music Currents 8. Richard Teitelbaum, piano with Digital Piano System.
Wergo WER 2028-2.
The Sea Between. Richard Teitelbaum, keyboards, sampler, computer; Carlos Zingaro, violin, electronics.
Victo CD 03.
Times Zones. Richard Teitelbaum, Moog synthesizers; Anthony Braxton, winds. Freedom 32JDF–194.
Bernstein, David W. “An American in Rome: Conversations with Alvin Curran.” Forthcoming in a book
celebrating the composer’s 70th birthday, edited by Daniela Margoni-Tortora, and published by Gangemi,
Department of Contemporary Art and Music University “La Sapienza,” Rome.
Bryant, Allan; Alvin Curran, Jon Phetteplace, Frederic Rzewski, and Richard Teitelbaum. “Musica
Elettronica Viva.” Source: Music of the Avant Garde 3 (1968): 24–27.
Curran, Alvin. “On Spontaneous Music.” Contemporary Music Review 25
(October/December, 2006): 483–90.
——. “A Guided Tour Through Twelve Years of American Music in Rome.” <http://www.alvincurran.com>
(September 24, 2008).
——. “Last Thoughts on Soup: A Recipe.” http://www.alvincurran.com
(September 24, 2008).
——. “From the Bottom of the Sound Pool.”
<http://www.alvincurran.com> (September 24, 2008).
Rzewski, Frederic. Nonsequiturs: Writings and Lectures on Improvisation, Composition, and
Interpretation. Cologne: Edition MusikTexte, 2007.
Seeber, Martin. “Interview mit Alvin Curran, November 2007.”
<http://www.geraeuschen.de/3.html> (September, 24, 2008).
Teitelbaum, Richard. “Improvisation, Computers, and the Unconscious Mind.” Contemporary Music
Review 25 (October/December, 2006): 497–508.
——. “In Tune: Some Early Experiments in Biofeedback Music.” In Biofeedback in the Arts: Results of
Early Experiments, edited by David Rosenboom. Vancouver, British Columbia: Aesthetic Research Centre
of Canada, 1976.
© 1967 Allan Bryant, Alvin Curran, Carol Plantamura, Frederic Rzewski, Richard Teitelbaum, Ivan
Stop the War
© 1972 Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Curran, Garrett List, Gregory Reeve, Richard Teitelbaum, Karl Berger
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, Pts. 1 & 2
© 1982 Steve Lacy, Garrett List, Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum, Frederic Rzewski
© 1990 Garrett List, Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum, Frederic Rzewski
New Music America Festival
© 1989 Steve Lacy, Garrett List, Richard Teitelbaum, Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski
© 2002 Steve Lacy, George Lewis, Garrett List, Alvin Curran, Richard Teitelbaum, Frederic Rzewski
© 2007 Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski, Richard Teitelbaum
Produced by Alvin Curran, Frederic Rzewski, and Richard Teitelbaum
Engineers: Tim Martyn (Tanglewood)
Digital mastering: Paul Zinman, SoundByte Productions, Inc., NYC
Design: Bob Defrin Design, Inc., NYC
This recording was made possible by grants from The Aaron Copland
Fund for Music and the Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trust.
Special thanks to the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
FOR NEW WORLD RECORDS:
Herman E. Krawitz, President; Lisa Kahlden, Vice-President; Paul M. Tai, Director of Artists and
Repertory; Mojisola Oké, Bookkeeper; Anthony DiGregorio, Production Associate.
ANTHOLOGY OF RECORDED MUSIC, INC., BOARD OF TRUSTEES:
Richard Aspinwall; Milton Babbitt; Jean Bowen; Thomas Teige Carroll; Emanuel Gerard; David Hamilton;
Rita Hauser; Lisa Kahlden; Herman E. Krawitz; Fred Lerdahl; Robert Marx; Arthur Moorhead; Elizabeth
Ostrow; Cynthia Parker; Larry Polansky; Don Roberts; Marilyn Shapiro; Patrick Smith; Paul M. Tai; Blair
Francis Goelet (1926–1998), Chairman
For a complete catalog, including liner notes, visit our Web site: www.newworldrecords.org.
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