Earle Brown was born in Lunenburg, Massachusetts, on December 26, 1926. He studied mathematics and engineering at Northeastern University, and attended the Schillinger House School of Music for techniques of composition and orchestration. Mr. Brown has been a major force in contemporary music since the early 1950's. His work at that time with new notations, scoring methods, and performance attitudes led to his development of graphic, improvisational...
Since that time he has continued to develop his "open-form" concepts and performance techniques in new ways. Directly influenced by the visual arts in many ways, in particular by the works of Alexander Calder and Jackson Pollock, Mr. Brown's music is also related to the work of Robert Rauschenberg in its conception and formulation, for example in its use of collage and junxtaposition. In the past, Mr. Brown has organized "sonic events" and performances of his own and other new music in galleries and museums in the United States and Europe, making clear through these performances some of the relationships between contemporary music and visual art. In addition to his work as a composer, Brown produced 18 LPs from 1960-1973 under the title "Contemporary Sound Series" for Time-Mainstream Records . These discs, each beautifully packaged and often with photographs taken by Brown himself, introduced American audiences to the diverse work of 49 composers from 18 nations- some discs were geographically themed, while most were shared between two or three composers with contrasting aesthetics and concerns. These included premier recordings of works by Berio, Stockhausen, Kagel, Wolff, Nono, Musica Electronica Viva, AMM, Sonic Arts Union, among many others. These records represent the depth of Brown's relationship to and support of the international music community and his committment to supporting adventurous work regardless of where it was to be found. These records are all currently out-of-print. A complete discography for the series is available in the online archive.
Brown has been composer-in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts, the University of California at Berkeley, the Peabody Conservatory of Music (which awarded him an honorary Doctorate of Music in 1970), Rotterdam Kunstichting, the Basel Conservatory of Music, Yale University, Indiana University, Bloomington, and at the American Academy in Rome (1987), among other institutions. He has received numerous awards and commissions both in this country and abroad. Some of these are a Guggenheim Fellowship and an American Academy and National Institute of Arts and Letter Awards, the Brandeis Creative Arts Award, grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, and commissions from Darmstadt, Paris, Zagreb, London, Rome, Saarbrucken and Venice, among others. Mr. Brown has also been guest composer-in-residence at the Tanglewood and Aspen music festivals, at D.A.A.D. Berlin (70'-71'), served as panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts Inter-Arts Program, and was a director of the Fromm Foundation at Harvard and has been the president of the American Music Center.
Recent works include a new work for piano SUMMER SUITE, for a concert with the BBC, London, and for a C.D. of his complete piano works. Other works include TRACKING PIERROT (1992) and FOLIO II (1970-93). Recent C.D. recordings include, HODOGRAPH I, FOUR SYSTEMS, OCTET I, FOLIO II, MUSIC FOR CELLO AND PIANO (all on "hat NOW" Records; Switzerland), STRING QUARTET (1965) (VOX BOX CDX 5143), and CORROBOREE (Mode Records). In 1994 Mr. Brown was a guest composer at the "Wien Modern" festival in Vienna (3 orchestra works) and featured guest composer at the "Formlos!(?)" festival in Leipzig in January 1995 (9 works performed). Mr. Brown was composer-in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts in October 1995. In 1996, he was awarded the "Letter of Distinction" by The American Music Center, and he was the 1998 recipient of the "John Cage Award for Music", from the Foundation for Contemporary Performance Arts in New York. In 1999, Brown was elected a member of "The Bavarian Academy of Fine Arts", Munich.
In 1999, Brown conducted his works in Halle, Stuttgart, Paris, Hannover, and London. The concert in London featured four works of Earle Brown in the series Dal Niente 2, produced and directed by David Ryan. His newest work SPECIAL EVENTS for cello and piano was premiered February 5th,1999 in Stuttgart. Brown's CROSS SECTIONS AND COLOR FIELDS (1975), was performed in Miami in April, 2000 by Michael Tilson Thomas and The New World Symphony Orchestra, and was played as part of the MAVERICKS series in San Francisco on June 20th, 2000. Also in April, a new Composers Recordings, Inc. (CRI) C.D. was released in the AMERICAN MASTERS SERIES. It contains 10 collected early works, including TIMES FIVE (1963), OCTET I (1953), MUSIC FOR CELLO AND PIANO (1955) and NINE RARE BITS (1965), for two harpsichords. The C.D. features David Tudor, Michael Daugherty, Dorothea von Albrecht and conductor, Earle Brown. On May 22, 2000, in Alice Tully Hall in New York City, the S.E.M. Orchestra organized a tribute concert to Earle Brown, featuring orchestral and chamber works. On October 6, 2000, the Electronic Music Foundation sponsored a concert at Engine 27 in N.Y.C., where two works by Mr. Brown were performed; OCTET I, for eight loudspeakers surrounding the audience and TIMES FIVE, for four channels of tape and five live instruments.
Earle Brown died at his home in Rye, NY on July 2 of 2002. Before his death, Brown determined the program for a memorial concert that was held at MoMa QNS in November of that year. Since 2002 there have been performances by Ensemble Intercontemporain, the S.E.M Ensemble, London Sinfonietta, Kairos Quartet, MusikFabrik, Seattle Chamber Players, and many others. In February of 2005 a session on Brown's work was held at the Society for American Music in Eugene, Oregon.