Wuorinen, Charles

Wuorinen, Charles

(wûr`ĭnən), 1938–, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. New York City. Wuorinen studied at Columbia Univ. (B.A., 1961; M.A., 1963) and taught there, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at Rutgers Univ. In 1962 he was one of the founders of the influential Group for Contemporary Music. Composer in residence at the San Francisco Symphony (1985–89) and a guest piano soloist and conductor with many orchestras worldwide, Wuorinen has been the recipient of many awards, including Guggenheim (1968, 1972) and MacArthur (1986–91) fellowships.

In his innovative compositions he has explored and expanded electronic musicelectronic music
or electro-acoustic music,
term for compositions that utilize the capacities of electronic media for creating and altering sounds.

Initially, a distinction must be made between the technological development of electronic instruments and the
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 and serial musicserial music,
the body of compositions whose fundamental syntactical reference is a particular ordering (called series or row) of the twelve pitch classes—C, C#, D, D#, E, F, F#, G, G#, A, A#, B—that constitute the equal-tempered scale.
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; Wuorinen explains his approach in the treatise Simple Composition (1979, repr. 1994). He has written more than 200 compositions—including works for electronic media alone and with traditional instruments—for orchestra, chamber group, ballet, opera, chorus, and soloists. Among his best known pieces are Time's Encomium (1969), an electronic piece that won him the Pulitzer Prize; Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky (1975), based on Stravinsky's last sketches; Bamboula Squared (1984), for orchestra and computer-generated sound; the Dante Trilogy (1993–96), orchestral scores written for the New York City Ballet; and the operas Haroun and the Sea of Stories (2005), adapted from the novel by Salman RushdieRushdie, Sir Salman
, 1947–, British novelist, b. Bombay (now Mumbai, India). He is known for the allusive richness of his language and the wide variety of Eastern and Western characters and cultures he explores.
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, and Brokeback Mountain (2014), based on a short story by E. Annie ProulxProulx, E. Annie
(Edna Annie Proulx) , 1935–, American writer, b. Norwich, Conn., grad. Univ. of Vermont (B.A., 1969), Sir George Williams (now Concordia) Univ., Montreal (M.A., 1973).
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, who also wrote the libretto.


See bio-bibliography by R. D. Burbank (1993).

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Wuorinen, Charles

(1938–  ) composer; born in New York City. He began composing in childhood and studied at Columbia University, later teaching there and at the Manhattan School. He was a prolific, well-known, sometimes controversial exponent of the serial compositional technique.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.