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LOU HARRISON, (1917-2003), for fifty years, was in the vanguard of American composers. An innovator of musical composition and performance that transcended cultural boundaries, Harrison’s highly acclaimed work juxtaposes and synthesizes musical dialects from virtually every corner of the world.

Lou was born in Portland, Oregon, and raised in the culturally diverse San Francisco Bay Area, where he was influenced by Cantonese Opera, Gregorian chants and the music of California’s Spanish and Mexican cultures. As a young man, Lou worked as a dancer and a dance accompanist, while studying composition and World Music with Henry Cowell. Lou met John Cage through Cowell and the two students created a wealth of percussion music that freely mingled junkyard-items with percussion instruments indigenous of Asia, Africa and the Americas.

In 1941 Lou began a year of study with Arnold Schoenberg in Los Angeles, followed by nearly a decade in New York, during which time he wrote music reviews for the Herald Tribune under the editorship of Virgil Thomson. In addition to reviewing, Lou composed prolifically, built instruments, and continued his editing of Charles Ives’ music, a responsibility of Harrison’s since 1935, when Ives sent him box loads of scores. In 1946 Lou conducted the premiere of Ives’ Third Symphony, which won the composer a Pulitzer Prize.

Lou returned to the West Coast in 1953, to a cabin in the mountains of Aptos, California. During his 50 years in Aptos, Lou composed 138 works, many that reflect his deep fondness for Asian cultures and tunings.