The Arditti Quartet enjoys international acclaim for its spirited and technically refined interpretations of contemporary and earlier 20th-century music. Several hundred string quartets and other chamber works have been written for the ensemble since its foundation in 1974 by first violinist Irvine Arditti. These works have left a permanent mark on 20th-century repertoire and have given the Arditti Quartet a firm place in music history. World premieres of quartets by composers such as Birtwistle, Cage, Carter, Dillon, Ferneyhough, Gubaidulina, Harvey, Hosokawa, Kagel, Kurtag, Lachenmann, Ligeti, Nancarrow, Reynolds, Rihm, Scelsi, Stockhausen, and Xenakis show a vast range in the Arditti Quartet’s body of work.
The ensemble believes that close collaboration with composers is vital to the process of interpreting modern music and therefore attempts to work with every composer it plays. The quartet’s master classes and workshops for young performers and composers all over the world also exhibit its commitment to education. From 1982 to 1996, the members were resident string tutors at the Darmstadt International Summer Courses for New Music.
The Arditti Quartet’s extensive discography features more than 150 CDs. Forty-two discs, released on the French label Naïve Montaigne, are part of a series presenting numerous contemporary composer features, as well as the first digital recordings of the complete Second Viennese School’s string quartet music. In addition to many composer portraits recorded in their presence, the complete quartets of Luciano Berio were recorded shortly before his death. Other releases include music by Ades, Frith, and Paredes, among many others.
Over the past 25 years, the ensemble has received numerous prizes for its work, including the Deutsche Schallplatten Preis—won several times—and the Gramophone Award for the best recording of contemporary music in 1999 and 2002. The members were awarded the prestigious Ernst von Siemens Music Prize in 1999 for lifetime achievement in music.
Fred Frith is a songwriter, composer, improviser, and multi-instrumentalist best known for the reinvention of the electric guitar that began with Guitar Solos in 1974. He learned his craft as both improviser and composer playing in rock bands and creating music in the recording studio. Much of his compositional output has been commissioned by choreographers and filmmakers, which led to a 2007 Career Award from the Music on Film-Film on Music Festival in Prague.
Frith’s work has also been performed by Ensemble Modern, Hieronymus Firebrain, the Arditti Quartet, Ground Zero, Robert Wyatt, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Concerto Köln, and the Rova Sax Quartet, among many others. He continues to perform internationally, most recently with Evelyn Glennie; Chris Cutler; John Zorn; Eye to Ear, a septet performing selections of his film music; and Cosa Brava.
Frith is the subject of Nicolas Humbert and Werner Penzel’s award-winning documentary Step Across the Border, named one of the 100 most important films in movie history by Cahiers du cinéma. In 2008, Frith was awarded the Demetrio Stratos Prize for lifetime achievement in experimental music. He has taught improvisation and composition at Mills College since 1999.
Iannis Xenakis, one of the most influential composers of the 20th century, was a true Renaissance figure: a mathematician, experimental engineer and architect, theoretician, educator, and author. His works span every media and approach—from electronic to acoustic, and from orchestral to electroacoustic to multimedia.
Beginning his work in electronic music in Le Groupe de Recherches Musicales of Pierre Schaeffer, his early compositions from the late '50s and early '60s—such as Diamorphoses, Concret PH, Bohor, and Orient-Occident—involved recorded and processed acoustic sounds like jet engines, car crashes, earthquake shocks, jewelry, boxes and bells, and burning charcoal. Xenakis was famous for his application of statistics and probabilities to musical composition, focusing on the movement of shifting sound masses and densities. These principles were elaborated in his book Formalized Music, one of the most important theoretical works of 20th-century music, and are at the foundation of instrumental works such as Metastasis.
His interest in graphical interfaces led him to invent the Unite Polyagogique Informatique du CEMAMu (UPIC), a computer that draws shapes which are used to control musical parameters, used by numerous composers, including Jean-Claude Risset, Cort Lippe, and Joji Yuasa. The UPIC was a project of the Centre d'Etudes de Mathematiques et Automatiques Musicales near Paris, which Xenakis founded in 1972. Also a protégé of architect Le Corbusier, he designed, among other projects, the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World's Fair in 1958, at which Edgar Varese's pioneering work, Poem electronique, was performed.
Xenakis was among the distinguished composers who have held the Darius Milhaud Chair at Mills College and boasted numerous recordings, including Electronic Music, La legende d’Eer, Chamber Music 1955–1990, Ensemble Music 1 and 2, and Kraanerg. He taught at City University London, the Sorbonne University in Paris, and Indiana University in Bloomington, where he founded the Center for Electronic and Computer Music.
Hilda Paredes, one of the leading Mexican composers of her generation, is the recipient of significant fellowships, including a J.S. Guggenheim Fellowship and fellowship for composers from the Arts Council of Great Britain, as well as awards from the Rockefeller Fund and Sistema Nacional de Creadores in Mexico.
Her second chamber opera, El palacio imaginado—commissioned by Musik der Jahrhunderte, the English National Opera, and the International Festival of Arts & Ideas—premiered with much acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. An active participant at Dartington Summer School, Paredes studied with Peter Maxwell Davies and Richard Rodney Bennett and also attended the Guildhall School of Music & Drama, City University London, and the University of Manchester, where she completed her PHD In 1988, her collaboration with choreographers earned her the Music for Dance Award from the Arts Council of Great Britain.
She has taught and lectured at UC San Diego; the University of Manchester; and in Mexico, Spain, and France; and has collaborated with the Orquesta de Baja California, arranging traditional Spanish and Mexican songs.
Paredes has been commissioned by soloists, ensembles, and orchestras worldwide, and her music has been performed by prominent ensembles, including the Arditti Quartet, Lontano, London Sinfonietta, and Neue Vocalsolisten. Her performances have stretched the globe, including appearances at the Huddersfield Festival in Britain, Wien Modern in Austria, the Akiyoshidai and Takefu International Music Festivals in Japan, Warsaw Autumn in Poland, and the Alicante Summer Festival in Spain, among others.
The composer, who lives in London, was the Darius Milhaud Visiting Professor at Mills College in 2007.
Democratic, irreverent, and experimental, Alvin Curran travels in a computerized covered wagon between the Golden Gate and the Tiber River and makes music for every occasion: a volatile mix of lyricism and chaos, structure and indeterminacy, fog horns, fiddles, and fiddle heads. Curran, the Darius Milhaud Professor of Composition at Mills College from 1991 to 2006, is dedicated to the restoration of dignity to the profession of noncommercial music making as part of a search for social, political, and spiritual forms.
Curran's music making embraces all contradictions—composed and improvised, tonal and atonal, maximal and minimal—in a serene, dialectical encounter. His more than 150 works feature taped and sampled natural sounds, piano, synthesizers, computers, violin, percussion, shofar, ship horns, accordion, and chorus. Whether in the form of his well-known solo performances, pure chamber music, experimental radio works, or large-scale, site-specific sound environments and installations, each forge a very personal language through dedicated research and recombinant invention.
Chris Brown’s music has evolved at the intersections of diverse styles and traditions. Following early training as a classical pianist, he was influenced by Indonesian, Indian, Afro-American, and Cuban music, eventually taking a cue from the American experimentalists by inventing and building his own electronic instruments. Starting from the basis of amplified acoustic devices, Brown built analog circuits to modify their sounds, and computer systems that interactively transformed them. More recently, he has extended this fascination with instrument building to the design of computer network systems that allow both electronic and acoustic performers to interact via the Internet.
From the mid-eighties to mid-nineties, Brown explored composition, improvisation, and electronics as a member of Room, with percussionist William Winant, saxophonist Larry Ochs, and electronic musician Scot Gresham-Lancaster. During the same period, he performed with legendary computer network music ensemble The Hub, whose sound arises from the interdependency of multiple computer music systems. The Hub worked with such composers as Pauline Oliveros, Alvin Curran, and Ramon Sender, and participated in many media projects, including a live, video-generated realization of John Cage's chance-operations score Variations II. His more recent works extend the electronic music experience to the audience. Performed throughout North America, Transmission, acollaboration with Mexican composer Guillermo Galindo, uses FM radio transmitters to interact with audience members carrying portable radios.
Brown’s commissioners include the Rova Sax Quartet, the Abel-Steinberg-Winant Trio, and the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra. As an improviser, he has collaborated with Anthony Braxton, Marilyn Crispell, Barry Guy, Butch Morris, Wadada Leo Smith, John Zorn, and many others. His piano performances span the free-jazz tradition—with the Glenn Spearman Double Trio, for example—and the music of composers as diverse as John Coltrane, Henry Cowell, Terry Riley, and James Tenney. Future projects will continue to pursue the interaction between musician, computer, and software and the integration of, and responsiveness between, electronic media and acoustic instruments. The aim is to create extensions of human intelligence within networked social and visual environments.
Brown is professor of music and the co-director of the Center for Contemporary Music at Mills College, where he teaches electronic music, composition, world music, and contemporary performance practice.