David Tudor

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David Eugene Tudor (January 20, 1926 – August 13, 1996) was an American pianist and composer of experimental music.

Contents

Biography

Tudor was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He studied piano with Irma Wolpe and composition with Stefan Wolpe and became known as one of the leading performers of avant garde piano music. He gave the first American performance of the Piano Sonata No. 2 by Pierre Boulez in 1950, and a European tour in 1954 greatly enhanced his reputation. Karlheinz Stockhausen dedicated his Klavierstück VI (1955) to Tudor. Tudor also gave early performances of works by Morton Feldman and La Monte Young.

The composer with which Tudor is particularly associated is John Cage. He gave the premiere of Cage's Music of Changes, Concerto For Piano and Orchestra and the notorious 4' 33". Cage said that many of his pieces were written either specifically for Tudor to perform or with him in mind, once stating "what you had to do was to make a situation that would interest him. That was the role he played.”[1] The two worked closely together on many of Cage's pieces, both works for piano and electronic pieces, including for the Smithsonian Folkways album: Indeterminacy: New Aspect of Form in Instrumental and Electronic Music (1992).

After a stint teaching at Darmstadt from 1956 to 1961, Tudor began to wind up his activities as a pianist to concentrate on composing. He wrote mostly electronic works, many commissioned by Cage's partner, choreographer Merce Cunningham. His homemade musical circuits are considered landmarks in live electronic music and electrical instrument building as a form of composition. One piece, Reunion (1968), written jointly with Lowell Cross features a chess game, where each move triggers a lighting effect or projection. At the premiere, the game was played between John Cage and Marcel Duchamp.

Upon Cage's death in 1992, Tudor took over as music director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company. Among many works created for the company, Tudor composed Soundings: Ocean Diary (1994), the electronic component of Ocean, which was conceived by John Cage and Merce Cunningham, with choreography by Merce Cunningham, orchestral music by Andrew Culver, and design by Marsha Skinner.

Tudor died in Tomkins Cove, New York at the age of 70.

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