Alvin Curran (1938- ) is one of the finest of that maverick band of composers who came of age in the 1960s as expatriates in Italy. Along with musicians like Frederic Rzewski, Carol Plantamura, Richard Teitelbaum, and Allan Bryant among others they formed the world’s first live electronic improvisation ensemble, “Music Elletronica Viva” in 1966. In this time electronic synthesizers were not generally available and most of their equipment was hand made. All the musicians have since all gone their own very creative ways but in many ways this ensemble has been their touchstone which continues to underlie their work.
Curran told this writer that it was around this time that he began working on a huge series of compositions of (at least initially) an improvisational nature which he collected under the general title of “Fake Book”. Musicians will be familiar with the term which is roughly analogous to a cheat sheet enabling musicians easy access to many chord progressions, songs, and other pieces at their fingertips to please a wide range of tastes in their audiences.
Curran’s Fake Book is a huge collection of scores, digital samples (no doubt he began with analog samples) and sketches. He recently published a hefty selection of this material available on Amazon and is well worth both your time and your money for the insight it provides to this unusual composer. The composer’s web site is an extremely useful reference but nothing can match hearing and seeing this spirited, kinetic shaman of a performer. His creativity and sheer joy of music making is infectious and the music he makes is akin to reading diary excerpts, a musical analogy of sorts to the likes of Anais Nin, the famed mega-diarist of a previous generation.
Curran is, at 80, an energetic and endlessly creative musician, a humanist with deep convictions and quite simply an experience not to be missed. Here is the announcement of this concert which, though this writer is unable to attend, is not to be missed.