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Philip Corner

Philip Corner

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Philip Corner (born April 10, 1933; name sometimes given as Phil Corner) is an American composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

, action musician, trombone/alphornist, sometime vocalist, pianist-improvisor, theorist-educator, graphic score designer, and visual artist, collage&assembleur, calligrapher.


After The High School of Music & Art
The High School of Music & Art
The High School of Music & Art, informally known as "Music & Art", was a public alternative high school at 443-465 West 135th Street, New York, New York, USA that existed from 1936 through 1984, and then merged into the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing...

 in New York City, Philip Corner received his BA (1955) at CCNY, where his most important teacher was Fritz Jahoda; and an MA (1959) from Columbia University where his composition teachers were Otto Luening
Otto Luening
Otto Clarence Luening was a German-American composer and conductor, and an early pioneer of tape music and electronic music....

 and Henry Cowell
Henry Cowell
Henry Cowell was an American composer, music theorist, pianist, teacher, publisher, and impresario. His contribution to the world of music was summed up by Virgil Thomson, writing in the early 1950s:...

, The two years in between (1955-7) were spent in Paris at the Conservatoire Nat'l de Musique, following the class "Philosophie Musicale" of Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex ; harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations...

. Equally important was his friendship with the Canadian painter Paul-Emile Borduas
Paul-Émile Borduas
Paul-Émile Borduas was a Canadian painter known for his abstract paintings. He was also an activist for the separation of church and state, especially for art, in Quebec.- Biography :...

, who introduced him to "la grande aventure nord-américaine", to which he returned and became part of the group around John Cage
John Cage
John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer, music theorist, writer, philosopher and artist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde...

. At the same time he resumed his studies of the piano with Dorothy Taubman
Dorothy Taubman
Dorothy Taubman , is an American music teacher, lecturer and founder of the Taubman Institute of New York, who developed the "Taubman Approach" to piano playing. Her approach to piano technique is based on an analysis of the motions needed for virtuosity and musical expression, but at first earned...

, which was to have a significant role in his compositional as well as performing life. He taught Modern Music at the New School
The New School
The New School is a university in New York City, located mostly in Greenwich Village. From its founding in 1919 by progressive New York academics, and for most of its history, the university was known as the New School for Social Research. Between 1997 and 2005 it was known as New School University...

 for Social Research from 1967-1970, inheriting the class founded by John Cage at double remove after Richard Maxfield
Richard Maxfield
Richard Maxfield was a composer of instrumental, electro-acoustic, and electronic music.Born in Seattle, he most likely taught the first University-level course in electronic music in America at the New School for Social Research...

, with whom he was teaching assistant, and Malcolm Goldstein
Malcolm Goldstein
Malcolm Goldstein is a composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s. He received an M.A. in music composition from Columbia University in 1960, having studied with Otto Luening...

. His teaching career started at a New York City High School and continued at the New Lincoln School where he helped develop the music department and introduced innovative courses (1966-1972). During this period he was married to the astrologer and trance medium Julie Winter who was also a minister in the Church of Religious Science, with which he too was associated, composing music to be sung at meditation sessions. From 1972-1992 he continued as professor at the newly established Livingston College
Livingston College
From 1969 to 2007 Livingston College was one of the residential colleges that comprised Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey's undergraduate liberal arts programs. It was located on Livingston Campus in Piscataway, NJ. In the Fall of 2007 the New Brunswick-area liberal arts undergraduate...

, a part of Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, soon to be absorbed into the Mason Gross School of the Arts
Mason Gross School of the Arts
Mason Gross School of the Arts is the arts conservatory at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It is named for Mason W. Gross, the sixteenth president of Rutgers...

. He then took early retirement and moved to Reggio Emilia
Reggio Emilia
Reggio Emilia is an affluent city in northern Italy, in the Emilia-Romagna region. It has about 170,000 inhabitants and is the main comune of the Province of Reggio Emilia....

, Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

 where he had previous contact through the Pari e Dispari "Arte Club Internazionale". An early friend, the dancer and choreographer Phoebe Neville, joined him there and became his wife and performance partner.

He was a founding participant of Fluxus
Fluxus—a name taken from a Latin word meaning "to flow"—is an international network of artists, composers and designers noted for blending different artistic media and disciplines in the 1960s. They have been active in Neo-Dada noise music and visual art as well as literature, urban planning,...

 since 1961, was a resident composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and musician
A musician is an artist who plays a musical instrument. It may or may not be the person's profession. Musicians can be classified by their roles in performing music and writing music.Also....* A person who makes music a profession....

 with the Judson Dance Theatre from 1962-1964 and later with the Experimental Intermedia Foundation upon the invitation of Elaine Summers, for whose dance company he served as musician. He co-founded with Malcolm Goldstein
Malcolm Goldstein
Malcolm Goldstein is a composer, violinist and improviser who has been active in the presentation of new music and dance since the early 1960s. He received an M.A. in music composition from Columbia University in 1960, having studied with Otto Luening...

 and James Tenney
James Tenney
James Tenney was an American composer and influential music theorist.-Biography:Tenney was born in Silver City, New Mexico, and grew up in Arizona and Colorado. He attended the University of Denver, the Juilliard School of Music, Bennington College and the University of Illinois...

 the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble in 1963 (active until 1970), with Julie Winter Sounds Out of Silent Spaces in 1972 (active until 1979) and with Barbara Benary
Barbara Benary
Barbara Benary is an American composer and ethnomusicologist specializing in Indonesian and Indian music.In 1976 she co-founded Gamelan Son of Lion with Philip Corner and Daniel Goode; she also constructed most of the group's instruments...

 and Daniel Goode
Daniel Goode
Daniel Goode is an American composer and clarinetist.Daniel Goode was born in New York City. After graduating in 1957 from Oberlin College, he studied composition at Columbia University with Henry Cowell and Otto Luening, receiving an MA 1962...

, Gamelan Son of Lion
Gamelan Son of Lion
Gamelan Son of Lion is a new-music American gamelan ensemble based in New York City. The group was founded in 1976 by Barbara Benary , Philip Corner, and Daniel Goode. It is a composers' collective as well as repertory ensemble...

 in 1976 (still active).


Corner became interested in calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

 during military service in Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

 in 1960-1961 and studied it with Ki-sung Kim; it is often incorporated into his score
Sheet music
Sheet music is a hand-written or printed form of music notation that uses modern musical symbols; like its analogs—books, pamphlets, etc.—the medium of sheet music typically is paper , although the access to musical notation in recent years includes also presentation on computer screens...

s. While there he became enamored with Korean traditional music, particularly the jeongak
Jeongak is that category of Korean music which is considered classical, as distinct from minsogak which is folk music. The category has traditionally been associated with the upper classes....

composition Sujecheon
Sujecheon is an ancient Korean musical composition in four movements. It is the most representative piece in the jeongak repertoire. It is performed by an ensemble composed primarily of wind instruments, including the piri and daegeum. It originally had a vocal part, but today is performed...

, which he describes as "the most beautiful piece of music in the history of the world."http://www.hungryghost.net/mb/corner.htm Many of his scores are open-ended in that some elements are specified, but others are left partially or entirely to the discretion of the performers. Some employ standard notation
Musical notation
Music notation or musical notation is any system that represents aurally perceived music, through the use of written symbols.-History:...

, whereas others are graphic score
Graphic notation
Graphic notation is the representation of music through the use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. Graphic notation evolved in the 1950s, and it is often used in combination with traditional music notation...

s, text scores, etc. His music also frequently explores unintentional sound, chance activities
Aleatoricism is the incorporation of chance into the process of creation, especially the creation of art or media. The word derives from the Latin word alea, the rolling of dice...

, minimalism, and non-Western instruments and tuning
Musical tuning
In music, there are two common meanings for tuning:* Tuning practice, the act of tuning an instrument or voice.* Tuning systems, the various systems of pitches used to tune an instrument, and their theoretical bases.-Tuning practice:...

 systems. Improvisation is important, though not exclusive; some "performance proposals" lead to a kind of ecstatic semi-trance. Contact with artists in other media
Media (arts)
In the arts, a media or medium is a material used by an artist or designer to create a work.-Architecture:In the art and science of architecture, the design and construction of buildings and interiors, infrastructure and other physical structures are created...

, especially dance
Dance is an art form that generally refers to movement of the body, usually rhythmic and to music, used as a form of expression, social interaction or presented in a spiritual or performance setting....

 and the visual arts
Visual arts
The visual arts are art forms that create works which are primarily visual in nature, such as ceramics, drawing, painting, sculpture, printmaking, design, crafts, and often modern visual arts and architecture...

, as well as a long-standing interest in Eastern religion
Eastern religion
This article is about far east and Indian religions. For other eastern religions see: Eastern_world#Eastern_cultureEastern religions refers to religions originating in the Eastern world —India, China, Japan and Southeast Asia —and thus having dissimilarities with Western religions...

s such as Buddhism (Zen) and study of the music of composers from the Baroque
The Baroque is a period and the style that used exaggerated motion and clear, easily interpreted detail to produce drama, tension, exuberance, and grandeur in sculpture, painting, literature, dance, and music...

 and Pre-Baroque eras has likewise impacted his music.

Representative works include the ensemble pieces Passionate Expanse of the Law, Sang-teh/Situations and Through the Mysterious Barricade, among many others. Also in his incredibly large oeuvre are piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 pieces (perfect, Pictures of Pictures from Pictures of Pictures), choral works (Peace, be still), electronic music (the war cantata Oracle), and more than 400 works in the Gamelan
A gamelan is a musical ensemble from Indonesia, typically from the islands of Bali or Java, featuring a variety of instruments such as metallophones, xylophones, drums and gongs; bamboo flutes, bowed and plucked strings. Vocalists may also be included....

series, to mention only some of his catalogue. He divides his output into five periods, each one reflective of his attitudes at the time:
  1. Culture
    Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

    , 1950s
  2. The World
    World is a common name for the whole of human civilization, specifically human experience, history, or the human condition in general, worldwide, i.e. anywhere on Earth....

    , 1960s and 1970s
  3. Mind
    The concept of mind is understood in many different ways by many different traditions, ranging from panpsychism and animism to traditional and organized religious views, as well as secular and materialist philosophies. Most agree that minds are constituted by conscious experience and intelligent...

    , 1970s and 1980s
  4. Body
    With regard to living things, a body is the physical body of an individual. "Body" often is used in connection with appearance, health issues and death...

    , 1980s and 1990s
  5. Spirit
    The English word spirit has many differing meanings and connotations, most of them relating to a non-corporeal substance contrasted with the material body.The spirit of a living thing usually refers to or explains its consciousness.The notions of a person's "spirit" and "soul" often also overlap,...

    ; Soul
    A soul in certain spiritual, philosophical, and psychological traditions is the incorporeal essence of a person or living thing or object. Many philosophical and spiritual systems teach that humans have souls, and others teach that all living things and even inanimate objects have souls. The...

    , 1999 - present

Frog Peak Music, a Composer's Collective, has undertaken to make as much as possible of his opera omnia available by on-order photocopy publication.

Non-musical activities

In addition to his work as a composer and musician, he has created numerous assemblage
Assemblage (art)
Assemblage is an artistic process. In the visual arts, it consists of making three-dimensional or two-dimensional artistic compositions by putting together found objects...

s, calligraphy
Calligraphy is a type of visual art. It is often called the art of fancy lettering . A contemporary definition of calligraphic practice is "the art of giving form to signs in an expressive, harmonious and skillful manner"...

, collage
A collage is a work of formal art, primarily in the visual arts, made from an assemblage of different forms, thus creating a new whole....

s, drawing
Drawing is a form of visual art that makes use of any number of drawing instruments to mark a two-dimensional medium. Common instruments include graphite pencils, pen and ink, inked brushes, wax color pencils, crayons, charcoal, chalk, pastels, markers, styluses, and various metals .An artist who...

s, and painting
Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface . The application of the medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush but other objects can be used. In art, the term painting describes both the act and the result of the action. However, painting is...

s, many of which have been exhibited internationally. He has also written much poetry
Poetry is a form of literary art in which language is used for its aesthetic and evocative qualities in addition to, or in lieu of, its apparent meaning...

, which like some of his music, has occasionally appeared under his Korean
Korean language
Korean is the official language of the country Korea, in both South and North. It is also one of the two official languages in the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture in People's Republic of China. There are about 78 million Korean speakers worldwide. In the 15th century, a national writing...

A pseudonym is a name that a person assumes for a particular purpose and that differs from his or her original orthonym...

 Gwan Pok, meaning "Contemplating Waterfall
A waterfall is a place where flowing water rapidly drops in elevation as it flows over a steep region or a cliff.-Formation:Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens...

Editions in silk-screen have been brought out by the Archivio F. Conz, Verona, and Pari e Dispari Agency in Reggio Emilia, among others.
Works are regularly exhibited in galleries, mostly in Europe, and are in notable museum collections.
His principle gallery is UnimediaModern in Genova, whose director Caterina Gualco maintains a large collection. Other important collectors are Hermann Braun in Germany (deceased 2009) and Luigi Bonotto in Bassano who maintains an extensive documentation.

During "Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964" and for some of the following year, Corner was a civil rights volunteer and Freedom School teacher in Meridian, Miss. "Mark Levy Collection. Queens College/CUNY Rosenthal Library Civil Rights Archive." In 1968, Corner signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.


  • "Gong(cymbal)/Ear in the desert". Innova 227 (2009).
  • Philip Corner: Extreme Positions (2007). New World Records 80659-2 (2 CDs). The Barton Workshop (James Fulkerson, director)
  • 40 Years and One: Philip Corner Plays the Piano (2000). XI 125. Performed by composer, recorded 1998.
  • More from the Judson Years, early 60s, Volume Two Alga Marghen 056CD (includes "Everything Max Has," "Big Trombone," "Homage to Revere," "Punkt," "Passionate Expanse of the Law" and "Expressions in Parallel").
  • More from the Judson Years, early 60s, Volume One Alga Marghen 055CD (includes "Passionate Expanse of the Law," "Air Effect," "OM Emerging," "As Pure to Begin," "Music, reserved until now," and "Composition with or without Beverly").
  • Gong + Alga Marghen 042CD (includes "Metal Meditations with Listening Center," "Gong!" and "Pulse Polyphony").
  • Three Pieces for Gamelan Ensemble Alga Marghen 034CD (includes "Gamelan," The Barcelona Cathderal" and "Belum").
  • On Tape from the Judson Days Alga Marghen 019CD (includes "Lucinda's Pastime," Memories:Performances," "From Thaïs," "Oracle, a Cantata on Images of War," "Flares" and "Circus Tape").
  • Word-Voices Alga Marghen 4 VOC SON 010 (lp - includes "Vox," "Vocalise" and "Air Effect").
  • Metal Meditations Alga Marghen (lp).

in production as of 2009 are recordings from die Schachtel, Pogus, A Silent Place, Locust
Locusts are the swarming phase of short-horned grasshoppers of the family Acrididae. These are species that can breed rapidly under suitable conditions and subsequently become gregarious and migratory...

, and more from Alga Marghen.


  • Fulkerson, James "Philip Corner - Extreme Positions". Liner notes. New World Records
    New World Records
    New World Records is a record label based in New York City specialising in American music. The label was established in 1975 through a Rockefeller Foundation grant to produce a 100 disc anthology covering 200 years of American music....


External links