Charles Wuorinen (b. 1938)

Pista Gyerek

New member
I always feel like I'm beating a dead horse whenever I mention Charles Wuorinen. He's an American composer who gained notoriety in the Sixties for formal experimentation and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1970 for his electronic composition Time's Encomium.

He's frequently dismissed out of hand for his commitment to serialism, and his artistic aims are certainly anachronistic in this post-everything world. His constant pronouncements against musical compromise and the flattening of the artistic landscape are easy to lampoon, but they seem like a very welcome oasis of musical principle in a desert of cheap novelty. Though commissioned and performed by world-class orchestras, it's nearly impossible to experience any of his voluminous orchestral work. However, his virtuosic chamber compositions are well-represented on CD (thanks to Naxos), demonstrating Wuorinen's "maximalist" perspective and his facility for creating works full of energy, drama, intelligence, and musical comprehensibility.

I imagine members of Magle International would be interested in hearing Natural Fantasy, Wuorinen's 1985 work for solo organ. I'm afraid I couldn't find a link to a recording, but you can hear it on the On Alligators CD.

I urge any listener capable of appreciating creativity, craftsmanship, and eccentricity to check out Wuorinen's body of work.


New member
I have one Wuorinen disc, entitled "Lepton", which I think is on John Zorn's Tzadik label (not positive). But it has "Time's Encomium" and a few chamber works: "New York Notes", "Lepton", and "Epithalamium". I like the whole disc, though I favor the pieces played by humans. It took me some time to warm up to the disc, but after getting to know the chamber works on it, it has been easier to just dive in to the sound world and not get so caught up in worrying about the compositional devices. I tend, with music like this, to get a little too concerned with trying to "figure out" what's going on instead of just enjoying the sounds.