Harrison, Lou Silver,1917–2003, American composer, b. Portland, Oreg. He studied composition in California with Henry CowellCowell, Henry Dixon
, 1897–1965, American composer and pianist, b. Menlo Park, Calif., largely self-educated, studied musicology in Berlin (1931–32). Cowell experimented with new musical resources; in his piano compositions he introduced the tone cluster, played with
..... Click the link for more information. and Arnold SchoenbergSchoenberg, Arnold
, 1874–1951, Austrian composer, b. Vienna. Before he became a U.S. citizen in 1941 he spelled his name Schönberg. He revolutionized modern music by abandoning tonality and developing a twelve-tone, "serial" technique of composition (see serial
..... Click the link for more information. . His early work stresses percussion while combining Western, Asian, African, and Latin American rhythms and often using unorthodox "found" instruments. In this period he also collaborated with John CageCage, John,
1912–92, American composer, b. Los Angeles. A leading figure in the musical avant-garde from the late 1930s, he attended Pomona College and later studied with Arnold Schoenberg, Adolph Weiss, and Henry Cowell.
..... Click the link for more information. . Moving to New York in 1943, Harrison became a music critic, part of Virgil ThomsonThomson, Virgil,
1896–1989, American composer, critic, and organist, b. Kansas City, Mo. Thomson studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Until about 1926 he wrote in a dissonant, neoclassic style, but after his 16-minute quintet Sonata da chiesa
..... Click the link for more information. 's circle, and a friend of Charles IvesIves, Charles
, 1874–1954, American composer and organist, b. Danbury, Conn., grad. Yale, 1898; pupil of Dudley Buck and Horatio Parker. He was an organist (1893–1904) in churches in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York.
..... Click the link for more information. , whose music he championed. All these composers influenced Harrison's extremely varied oeuvre. In 1953 he moved to California, where he lived for the rest of his life.
Harrison had an ongoing interest in Balinese musicBalinese music
represents, to a large extent, a survival of the pre-Islamic music of Java. It was taken to Bali by Hindu Javanese in the 15th cent. and uses the tonal systems of Javanese music, of which pelog is by far the more important in Bali.
..... Click the link for more information. and is considered the founder of the American gamelan (a mainly percussion Indonesian orchestra) movement. He built gamelan instruments and composed several works incorporating gamelan, e.g., the choral Pacifica Rondo (1963) and La Koro Sutro (1972) and a double concerto (1982). He also had a deep knowledge of Chinese and Korean music. Versatile and prolific, Harrison wrote four symphonies, concerti, an opera (1952), songs, chamber music, piano pieces, dances, and other compositions. While his usually spare and frequently exuberant works encompass many styles, systems, harmonies, and tunings, they are united by an imaginative joining of traditions and frequently by a blending of East and West. Harrison was also a college teacher, poet, essayist, painter, and longtime gay activist.
See P. Garland, ed., A Lou Harrison Reader (1987); biography by B. Alves and B. Campbell (2017); H. Von Gunden, The Music of Lou Harrison (1995); L. E. Miller and F. Lieberman, Lou Harrison: Composing a World (1998); E. Soltes, dir., Lou Harrison: A World of Music (documentary, 2011).