Author Topic: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)  (Read 8500 times)

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Offline Dundonnell

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Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« on: May 26, 2008, 04:52:12 PM »
I recently purchased a Nimbus CD coupling of Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No.2 'Magic Mountain' and Lou Harrison's Symphony No.2 'Elegiac'.

Harrison was previously just a name to me. I had never heard a note of his music. I was aware that he was an American West Coast composer with a reputation for extreme eclecticism, drawing influences from Eastern music as well as 12-tone techniques, incorporating unusual instruments in his orchestration, for his radical political views and for taking many, many years over particular compositions.

I was astonished however to find that his Symphony No.2 was such a movingly beautiful work-certainly as good, if not better, than the much more well known Hovhaness.

I am surprised to find that there has not been very much written about Harrison on this forum and would be extremely interested to hear from others with more knowledge about Harrison's other compositions. Although not much appears to be on CD he certainly sounds to be a composer of substance!

Offline Dundonnell

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #1 on: May 26, 2008, 04:56:02 PM »
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lou_Harrison


For more info' if anyone needs it!

Offline J.Z. Herrenberg

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2008, 01:00:29 AM »
I hadn't heard of him, either. On eMusic there is a lot of his music, though. You can listen to snippets...

http://www.emusic.com/browse/c/b/-dbm/a/0-0/1610564883/0.html
Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything. -- Plato

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2008, 01:11:10 AM »
I recently purchased a Nimbus CD coupling of Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No.2 'Magic Mountain' and Lou Harrison's Symphony No.2 'Elegiac'.

Harrison was previously just a name to me. I had never heard a note of his music. I was aware that he was an American West Coast composer with a reputation for extreme eclecticism, drawing influences from Eastern music as well as 12-tone techniques, incorporating unusual instruments in his orchestration, for his radical political views and for taking many, many years over particular compositions.

I was astonished however to find that his Symphony No.2 was such a movingly beautiful work-certainly as good, if not better, than the much more well known Hovhaness.

I am surprised to find that there has not been very much written about Harrison on this forum and would be extremely interested to hear from others with more knowledge about Harrison's other compositions. Although not much appears to be on CD he certainly sounds to be a composer of substance!


I have this CD too but in an older manifestation. The Harrison is a deeply moving score in places, with darkly reflective music alternating with louder (and less effective in my view) material. I have symphonies 3 (excellent) and 4 (interesting but weird) too. A very worthwhile composer.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

Harry

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2008, 02:08:31 AM »
Sounds good, so I will dig myself a bit in his output, 79 hits on Amazon!

gomro

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2008, 06:20:20 AM »
I recently purchased a Nimbus CD coupling of Alan Hovhaness's Symphony No.2 'Magic Mountain' and Lou Harrison's Symphony No.2 'Elegiac'.

Harrison was previously just a name to me. I had never heard a note of his music. I was aware that he was an American West Coast composer with a reputation for extreme eclecticism, drawing influences from Eastern music as well as 12-tone techniques, incorporating unusual instruments in his orchestration, for his radical political views and for taking many, many years over particular compositions.

I was astonished however to find that his Symphony No.2 was such a movingly beautiful work-certainly as good, if not better, than the much more well known Hovhaness.

I am surprised to find that there has not been very much written about Harrison on this forum and would be extremely interested to hear from others with more knowledge about Harrison's other compositions. Although not much appears to be on CD he certainly sounds to be a composer of substance!


I have these performances on an antique Musicmasters cd; unlike yourself I bought it for the Harrison (though the Hovhaness performance proved superior to the one I already had).  Another excellent and very different Harrison album is this one, on New Albion:

http://www.amazon.com/Koro-Sutro-Lou-Harrison/dp/B000000R2D/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1211901470&sr=8-3


I'm in a hurry and can't write much,  but I highly recommend this album as your next followup.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #6 on: August 05, 2009, 07:26:53 AM »
As I mentioned Lou Harrison on another thread it encouraged me to listen again to his beautiful and very moving 'Elegiac' Symphony (No 2) - so I thought I'd bump up Colin's thread and encourage anyone to search out this lovely score. The new Nimbus reissue also contains 'Mysterious Mountain' by Alan Hovhaness - perhaps his finest score - although rather derivative of Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia.  All-in-all a great CD.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

karlhenning

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Re: Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
« Reply #7 on: August 05, 2009, 07:54:37 AM »
. . . also contains 'Mysterious Mountain' by Alan Hovhaness - perhaps his finest score - although rather derivative of Vaughan Williams's Tallis Fantasia.

Oh, I don't know, Jeffrey.  The two works are roughly similar sound-worlds, and Vaughan Williams's source was a modal hymn-tune, where much of Hovhaness's music drew deep draughts of Armenian liturgical music (i.e., also modal).  I think they're more like musical neighbors, than that Hovhanness's piece is "derivative" of the RVW score.

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lou Harrison (1917-2003)
« Reply #8 on: August 05, 2009, 09:12:15 AM »
Oh, I don't know, Jeffrey.  The two works are roughly similar sound-worlds, and Vaughan Williams's source was a modal hymn-tune, where much of Hovhaness's music drew deep draughts of Armenian liturgical music (i.e., also modal).  I think they're more like musical neighbors, than that Hovhanness's piece is "derivative" of the RVW score.

Point taken Karl :)
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

snyprrr

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2009, 05:59:33 PM »
There must be another Harrison thread around here. I just know I've waxed poetic on Harrison, but...

That MusicMasters/Nimbus cd is a shockingly great introduction to Harrison, but beware if you expect much more of the same. After hearing that piece I searched Harrison further and found that if you like the sound of the ElegiacSymphony, you have to be careful, but stick with the works from the 1940s. Harrison's Mass to Saint Anthony is a perfect answer to the symphony. You MUST get that!

Offline vandermolen

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #10 on: August 05, 2009, 10:29:45 PM »
There must be another Harrison thread around here. I just know I've waxed poetic on Harrison, but...

That MusicMasters/Nimbus cd is a shockingly great introduction to Harrison, but beware if you expect much more of the same. After hearing that piece I searched Harrison further and found that if you like the sound of the ElegiacSymphony, you have to be careful, but stick with the works from the 1940s. Harrison's Mass to Saint Anthony is a perfect answer to the symphony. You MUST get that!

Thanks for that I'll search out the Mass.  Symphony No 3 is also in the same spirit as the Elegiac I think.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

'The test of a work of art is, in the end, our affection for it, not our ability to explain why it is good' (Stanley Kubrick).

snyprrr

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #11 on: August 09, 2009, 10:18:56 AM »
Thanks for that I'll search out the Mass.  Symphony No 3 is also in the same spirit as the Elegiac I think.

As I recall, the 1st mvmt of Symphony No.3, and the 1st mvmt of the 1985 Piano Concerto do indeed have that 1940s "Harrison sound." I just think that both those pieces also contain other mvmts that dilute the impact of those great 1st mvmts.

Is there anyone here who can confirm that Harrison's Symphony on G (1965) is the worst piece of Schoenberg inspired dreck I have ever heard? This music actually makes me mad when I hear it (on CRI w/Ruggles).

Harrison had a few different styles, like Cowell, and I find much of his music exasperatingly uneven. I dooooo like his "classical" style, but I think all the pieces in that style have now been mentioned on this thread. Symphony No.4 even has Al Jarreau in the last mvmt, oy!, what a stinker.

I also have the CRI chamber disc with some nice percussion music, and a very surprisingly attractive SQ played by the Kronos. I think it is the best representation of Harrison's country/folk/ethnic style. At 40mins, it's quite leisurely, with similarities to Cowell's Hym&Fuguing Tunes.

Harrison also has quite a few cds of interestingly tuned guitar music (on NewAlbion).

Harrison is one of those composers that can be appealing "when he wants to be," but does also have a streak in him that I find to be some of the worst hippie music I've ever heard. Choose your Harrison wisely!

Offline The new erato

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2010, 01:16:13 AM »


New release including the 3rd!  :D

CD1

Seven Pastorales (1952)
New First Suite for Strings
Vestiunt Silve for Mezzo, Flute, 2 Viole and Harp (1951/1994)
Gending Chelsea for Gamelan (Thomson/Diamond)
Sanctus for Contralto and Piano (1940)
Suite from the ‘Marriage at the Eiffel Tower’

CD2 - Gamelan Music

Philemon and Baukis
Cornish Lancaran
Gending Alexander
Homage to Pacifica
Bubaran Robert

CD3

Suite from the ballet ‘Solstice’ (1949)
Ariadne (1987) (for flute and percussion)
A Summerfield Set (1987; rev. 1988) (for solo piano)
Canticle No.3 (1941; revised 1989)
 
CD4

Third Symphony (Commissioned by Cabrilio Music Festival, 1982)
Grand Duo for Violin and Piano (Commissioned by Cabrilio Music Festival, 1988)

Any takers?

Offline mjwal

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2010, 06:11:22 AM »
Apart from that MusicMasters CD with the Elegiac Symphony, which I love, I have and delight in the New Albion disc recommended by Gomro - and by me, plus a CD on HatArt called Labrynth (sic) played by the Maelstrom percussion Ens., with works from the late 30s and early 40s: enormous fun, like Cage but trippier. Also like Cage, Harrison often wrote music for the Living Theater, and Judith Malina's diaries, one of the great books of and about the American 20th century, often mention him. While I am on the LT: when Julian Beck died, a longish piece was written in his honour by Alvin Curran, of the whole of which there is unfortunately no CD (it was a German radio commission): you can hear 5'20 deeply moving minutes of it on Deutscher Musikrat_Musik In Deutschland 1950-2000: Das Studio akustische Kunst des WDR (RCA) if you shop around (inc. pieces/excs by Kriwet, Kagel, Fontana, Henry, Mon, Rühm, Schafer and Cage. You could get it for a few Euros not so long ago, but that particular lode seems to be exhausted, at least on Amazon.de.
PS. Just read a short memoir of Harrison by Ned Rorem on http://www.otherminds.org/shtml/Irememberlou.shtml     
"Lou Harrison sixty years ago was concocting raga-type ostinatos identical to those today of Glass or Reich, with the notable difference that while all three men prepare canvases that are nonpareil, only Harrison super-imposes a drawing–a melody upon the canvas which gives it a reason for being." An arguable point, but one I tend to agree with.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2010, 08:07:18 AM by mjwal »
The Violin's Obstinacy

It needs to return to this one note,
not a tune and not a key
but the sound of self it must depart from,
a journey lengthily to go
in a vein it knows will cripple it.
...
Peter Porter

snyprrr

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #14 on: September 10, 2010, 08:42:45 AM »


New release including the 3rd!  :D

CD1

Seven Pastorales (1952)
New First Suite for Strings
Vestiunt Silve for Mezzo, Flute, 2 Viole and Harp (1951/1994)
Gending Chelsea for Gamelan (Thomson/Diamond)
Sanctus for Contralto and Piano (1940)
Suite from the ‘Marriage at the Eiffel Tower’

CD2 - Gamelan Music

Philemon and Baukis
Cornish Lancaran
Gending Alexander
Homage to Pacifica
Bubaran Robert

CD3

Suite from the ballet ‘Solstice’ (1949)
Ariadne (1987) (for flute and percussion)
A Summerfield Set (1987; rev. 1988) (for solo piano)
Canticle No.3 (1941; revised 1989)
 
CD4

Third Symphony (Commissioned by Cabrilio Music Festival, 1982)
Grand Duo for Violin and Piano (Commissioned by Cabrilio Music Festival, 1988)

Any takers?

I'll take a promo of that please! That's almost the poster child for the word "enterprising", no? Actual recording quality could play a major part, but, it is Nimbus after all.



I also wanted to mention that Crystal disc with the Organ Concerto (?) with gamelan (?), I believe (you know the disc). Yea, that Organ Concerto,...mmm :(,...not so much. Actually, the more Harrison I don't like, the happier my wallet is!

I will give a shout out to that classic CRI disc with Concerto in Slendro (with the SQ I mentioned earlier). It also has the Carlos Chavez "memorial" piece, which is great. And the cd of microtonal music (called "Chamber", and incl. Scelsi and Xenakis and Ives) has the Ives "memorial" piece, which is also great.



another point: between Cowell and Harrison, I think they overdid the "potpourri" style just a little. ::) There's more tracks on some of their cds than a dozen Kurtag's, haha! :-*

Offline Dax

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #15 on: September 10, 2010, 07:01:11 PM »
It seems that Harrison is still one of the relatively unsung heroes of American music. Something which seems difficult to understand as far as I'm concerned.

That Grand Duo for starters.

zorzynek

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #16 on: April 28, 2011, 01:59:19 AM »
Recently I came across this record.



And just when I thought I've got Harrison all figured out his early toy Marriage At The Eiffel Tower made me fall in love with his music once again.

He seriously needs more attention, guys.

snyprrr

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #17 on: February 02, 2013, 10:15:37 AM »
Mass to St. Anthony (Koch)

Elegiac Symphony (MusicMasters)
Symphony on G

3rd Symphony (MM)
Piano Concerto NewWorld)
4th Symphony

Suite for Symphonic Strings

Concerto for Violin and percussion (1959)
Concerto in Slendro (1961)
Music for Violin and Various Instruments (1969)
Suite for Violin and American Gamelan (1974)
Suite for Violin and String Orchestra (arr. of 'Suite';1993)

Concerto for Organ and Percussion
Double Concerto for Violin and Cello

Concerto for Flute and Percussion

Ariadne
Solstice
« Last Edit: February 02, 2013, 10:31:36 AM by snyprrr »

snyprrr

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #18 on: February 02, 2013, 10:30:00 AM »
String Quartet Set

Piano Trio

Suite for Cello and Piano
Suite for Cello and Harp


Piano Music (early)

Grand Duo

Varied Trio
Suite for Guitar and Percussion
1st Concerto for Flute and Percussion*

Harp/Guitar/Harpsichord Music

NEW ALBION SERIES:
Rapunzel
La Koro Sutra
The Perilous Chapel
Serenado
Rhymes with Silver
« Last Edit: February 02, 2013, 10:32:00 AM by snyprrr »

Offline 7/4

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Re: Lou Harrison(1917-2003)
« Reply #19 on: May 26, 2013, 12:35:35 PM »
Harrison also has quite a few cds of interestingly tuned guitar music (on NewAlbion).

Lou Harrison is a notable American microtonalist.