Richard Maxfield

Composition Types

Concertos (1)

Biography

Born: February 2, 1927 Died: June 27, 1969
Groundbreaking electronic composer Richard Maxfield was born in Seattle in 1927. As a child he studied piano and played clarinet, even writing a symphony while still in high school. During the late '40s, he studied under composer Roger Sessions and, after graduation, befriended the likes of Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen while travelling in Europe. After spending 1958 in New York studying under John Cage, he assumed Cage's teaching duties and tapped LaMonte Young as his assistant; instructing his students in the art of creating music from exclusively electronic sources, he is widely believed to be the first true teacher of electronic music in America.

Also in 1959, Maxfield completed his first major electronic piece, "Sine Music (A Swarm of Butterflies Encountered Over the Ocean)." Over the next five years he created many new works, primarily via a cut-and-paste method assembled from randomly-chosen pieces of tape spliced together with blank passages of assorted duration, often creating what he dubbed inter-masters -- i.e., multiple tape reels played simultaneously to generate a new master recording. Maxfield was likely the first American to generate electronic music by means of building his own equipment, and may also have been the first outside of European circles to compose pure electronic music removed from the principles of musique concrète.

Maxfield's visibility in the New York art underground was raised considerably by his standing as a member of the Fluxus movement, with performances at the famous concert series mounted by LaMonte Young at Yoko Ono's loft during 1960-61. During the mid-'60s, Maxfield taught at San Francisco State College for two years. While there, he released his best-known work, a 1967 recording titled simply Electronic Music that featured both tape constructions and ensemble performance pieces. In 1968, Maxfield relocated to Los Angeles, though he tragically committed suicide the following year.

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Composition Types

Concertos (1)

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CD