Henry Cowell (1897-1965) was a radical American composer whose inventive techniques changed American music and influenced a generation of composers including his former student John Cage. His extrovert playing, which involved bashing clusters of notes with his fists and arms, or plucking the piano strings, enthralled audiences and appalled many critics. He also had a life-long interest in world music which he shared with his wife, ethnomusicologist Sidney Robertson Cowell. Pianist Guy Livingston explores the influence of Ireland and Irish music on the work of Henry Cowell, with contributions from biographer Joel Sachs, American pianist Sarah Cahill, Irish traditional music researcher Deirdre Ní Conghaile, and American mezzo soprano Aylish Kerrigan. The programme contains archive recordings of Cowell talking about his music and approach to composition. We also hear some of the rare recordings which Sidney made in the Aran Islands in the 1950s, and even rarer recordings made by Henry Cowell in 1934, including what is believed to be the earliest recording ever made of keening.
Archive is courtesy of the Henry Cowell Foundation, the Library of Congress, and the New York Public Library.
Presenter: Guy Livingston
Producers: Claire Cunningham and Guy Cowell
Sound supervision: Tinpot Productions
A Rockfinch production for RTÉ lyric fm funded by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland with the Television Licence Fee.
RTÉ lyric fm, Sunday 21st January, 6pm-7pm