Resurrecting Lou Harrison's Lost Electronic Music
Last year, I was handed a score for an electronic composition by American composer Lou Harrison. There were two peculiar things about this; 1. I had never heard of the piece (I am very familiar with Harrison’s work) and 2. Harrison famously hated electronics. After speaking to Larry Polansky, the composer who unearthed the score, I found that there is no record of it having ever been performed. The work requires that an acoustic ensemble perform the score, while electronic musicians record, and then play back these recordings at certain speeds that are specified in the score, as the acoustic instruments continue to play.
I eventually contacted Daniel Steffey about performing the work with our trio Ctrl-Z. Dan, who has performed many of Harrison’s works before, examined the orchestration and found that there was only one collection of Harrison’s instruments capable of properly reproducing the piece. Amazingly, Dan is a member of an ensemble that has access to these instruments; The William Winant Percussion Group. After speaking with Mr. Winant, he agreed to perform the work as long as we could pay the performers in his group a minimal fee.
The Harrison estate, has given us the rights to perform and record the work. We have a performance scheduled in Manhattan, NY, and are in talks with Bay Area colleges for local events. The only thing that is stopping us is a lack of funds. While I will be working on this project for free, this can only happen if we have concerts available and funds for the musicians. The centennial is our only chance to perform this work on a wide variety of concerts of Harrison's music and will allow us to offset some of the costs. We feel that the impact will be much greater as part of a retrospective of Harrison's work and this can only happen if we receive funding for this project now. Preparations for the concert will take at least a month, and if we are to make the deadline for our first concert, we need to start preparing in January.
Funded by San Francisco, CA (January 2017)