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David Tudor papers, 1800-1998, bulk 1940-1996

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Tudor (David) papers

Biographical/Historical Note

Born in Philadelphia, Pa. in 1926, David Tudor studied composition and analysis with Stefan Wolpe, organ and theory with H. William Hawke, and piano with Irma Wolpe Rademacher. He began his professional work at 17 as an organist, and in 1950 established himself as a formidable talent in avant-garde music when he gave the American premiere of the Second Piano Sonata by Pierre Boulez. Until the late 1960s, Tudor gave first or early performances of works by Earle Brown, Sylvano Bussotti, Morton Feldman, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Christian Wolff, Stefan Wolpe, and La Monte Young. His virtuosity and imagination inspired many of these composers to write pieces for him, involving complex graphic notations and performance problems which they felt only Tudor could solve.

During the 1950s, David Tudor held positions as Instructor and Pianist-in-Residence at Black Mountain College, North Carolina, and at the Internationale Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik, Darmstadt. He expanded his performance activity to include the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and John Cage's "Project of Music for Magnetic Tape."

In the late '60s, Tudor gradually ended his active career as a pianist. He had begun to experiment with the electronic modification of sound sources in the late 1950s, departing from the then common practice of fixing music on magnetic tape beforehand. By the end of the '60s, Tudor became fully involved in "live electronic music," producing his own compositions which introduced a new form of "sound art." Many of Tudor's electronic works were associated with collaborative visual forces: light systems, dance, television, theater, film or four-color laser projections. For example, Bandoneon!, composed in 1966 for the E.A.T. performance series 9 Evenings: Theatre & Engineering, called for lighting and audio circuitry, moving loudspeaker sculptures, and projected video images, all actuated by the bandoneon. As a core artist invited to collaborate on the design of the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion for Expo' 70 in Osaka, Tudor worked with two sculptors and an environmental artist, and conceived and performed new electronic pieces for the pavilion space. Tudor's sound installation Rainforest IV (1973) involved collaboration with the video artist Bill Viola, who credits Tudor with helping him develop his approach to sound in video.

Tudor had been affiliated with the Merce Cunningham Dance Company since its inception in the summer of 1953. When John Cage died in August 1992, Tudor succeeded him as Music Director. The company commissioned many works from Tudor, including Rainforest I (1968), Toneburst (1975), Forest Speech (1976), Weatherings (1978), Phonemes (1981), Sextet for Seven (1982), Fragments (1984), Webwork (1987), and Virtual Focus (1990). Tudor's electronic piece Soundings: Ocean Diary (1994) comprised the electronic portion of Cage's last composition, Ocean, a work for dancers and large orchestral forces positioned around the audience.

List of Compositions

1964 Fluorescent sound (for Robert Rauschenberg piece Elgin Tie), Moderna Museet, Stockholm, September 13
1966 Bandoneon! (with projected video images by Lowell Cross), 9 evenings: Theater & Engineering, New York, October 14 and 18
1968 Video III (with Lowell Cross), University of California, San Diego, May 10
Assemblage (with John Cage and Gordon Mumma), a production of KQED-TV film group, San Francisco, October-November
Reunion (with David Behrman, John Cage, Lowell Cross, Marcel Duchamp, Teeny Duchamp, and Gordon Mumma), Ryerson Polytechnical Institute, Toronto, March 5
Rainforest (for Merce Cunningham: RainForest, 2nd Buffalo Festival of the Arts Today, March 9
1969 Video/Laser I (with Lowell Cross), Mills College Tape Music Center, Oakland, California, May 9
1970 First week of June (John Cage and Gordon Mumma), Paris, France, June 5
Video/Laser II; (with Lowell Cross, Carson Jeffries), University of California, Berkeley, January-February; installed at the Pepsi Pavilion, Expo '70, Osaka, Japan
4 Pepsi Pieces: Pepsibird, Anima Pepsi, Pepscillator, Microphone (for the Pepsi Pavilion), Expo '70, Osaka, Japan, March/April
1972 Rainforest 3 (with John Cage: Mureau), Radio Bremen, Pro Musica Nova, Bremen, May 5
Melodics for Amplified Bandoneon (for Merce Cunningham: Events), February
Monobird (with John Cage: Birdcage), Musik/Film/Dia/Licht Festival, Munich, August 30
Untitled (with John Cage: Mesostics re merce Cunningham), Radio Bremen, Pro Musica Nova, May 8
1973 Laser Bird Center for new Performing Arts, University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 12-14
Microphone (1 to 9), research project in multitrack recording, Center for Contemporary Music, Mills College, May
Rainforest IV (group composition), New Music in New Hampshire, Chocorua, New Hampshire, July
Laser Rock Center for new Performing Arts, University of Iowa, Iowa City, June 12-14
Free Spectral Range II (with Lowell Cross), University of Iowa, Iowa City, June
Free Spectral Range I; (with Lowell Cross), Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Oberlin, Ohio, February 16
1974 Photocell Action with light composition by Anthony Martin (for Merce Cunningham: Event)
1975 Toneburst (commission for Merce Cunningham: Sounddance), Detroit, Michigan, March 8
1976 Free Spectral Range III (with Lowell Cross), 4th Cervantino Festival, Mexico City
Forest Speech (for Merce Cunningham: Event)
Pulsers, Festival d'Automne, Paris
1977 Free Spectral Range IV (with Lowell Cross), World Music Days, Bonn
Video Pulsers (collaboration with Viola Farber and Robert Rauschenberg: Brazos River), a production of KERA-TV, Dallas, Texas
1978 Pulsers 2, New York University, New York City
Forest Speech 2 (group work), The Kitchen, New York City
Weatherings (commission for Merce Cunningham: Exchange), New York City, September 27
1979 Laser Concert (with Lowell Cross), Xenon, New York City (This work evolved from Video/Laser III, first performed by Cross, William Hibbard and Carson Jeffries at Hancher Auditorium, University of Iowa, November 29, 1972)
Audio Laser (with Lowell Cross), videotape produced by Composers' Forum, New York City
1981 Phonemes (commission for Merce Cunningham: Channels/Inserts), New York City, January
1982 Sextet for Seven (commission for Merce Cunningham: Sextet), Paris, France, October 27 (N.B. in Cunningham chronology as Quartet)
Likeness to Voices/Dialectics (commissioned by the Gulbenkian Foundation and realized at the Metz Centre Europeen pour la Recherche Musicale) IRCAM, Paris
1983 Sea Tails (collaboration with Jackie Monnier and Molly Davies), three-channel video installation produced with a grant from the French government, June
1984 Dialects, Mills College Concert Hall, October 5
Fragments (for Merce Cunningham: Phrases), Angers, December 7
1985 Hedgehog, Mobius, Boston, September 28 and 29
Web, for John Cage, WDR, Cologne, April
1986 Electronics with talking shrimp, Clocktower, New York City, April 25
9 lines reflected (with Jackie Monnier), Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York City, September 17
Sea tails (sound totem version), Whitney Museum at Philip Morris, New York City, September 17
Line & cluster, Munich, November 17
1987 Web for John Cage II, Munich, October 17
Webwork (for Merce Cunningham), New York, March 4
Five stone (with John Cage), Berlin, June 16
1990 Virtual focus (for Merce Cunningham: Polarity), New York City, March 20
1991 Coefficient I
Coefficient: frictional percussion and electronics, S.E.M. Ensemble, Paula Cooper Gallery, February 26
1992 Neural network plus (for Merce Cunningham), November
1992-1994 Neural Synthesis nos. 1-9
1994 Untitled (1975/1994) (for Merce Cunningham, based on Toneburst, Lyons, France, November
Soundings: ocean diary (for Merce Cunningham), Bruxelles, Belgium, May 17
1996 Toneburst: maps and fragments (with Sophia Ogielska), Wesleyan University, September

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