Tuesday, November 13, 2007
Dane Rudhyar - music and mysticism
This week's John Foulds moment has uncovered a hidden appetite for obscure and mystical early twentieth century music with Theosophical connections. Which pretty well sums up the music of Dane Rudhyar.
Rudhyar was born Daniel Chenneviere in Paris in 1895, and changed his name when he emigrated to America in 1916. During his first two decades in the US he wrote extraordinary piano music. It uses Scriabin and Debussy as a launchpad into a unique post-Romantic musical universe that embraces dissonant counterpoint. Rudhyar's music is little known today, and was not a major influence on other twentieth-century composers. But his work outside music had considerable influence.
In the 1920s Rudhyar was a central figure in the Halcyon Theosophical community in Southern California. Among those influenced by the community was Henry Cowell, who went on to teach John Cage. After 1934 Rudhyar stopped composing and became a leading advocate of astrology. He wrote more than thirty books on the subject. The Astrology of Personality (1936) is the best known, and remains in print today. In 1976 Rudhyar returned to composing, and his late output included two string quartets.
You can sample Dane Rudhyar's music played by pianist, and sometime composer, Steffen Schleiermacher on an excellent Hat Hut CD. The exemplary sleeve notes are by Kyle Gann, and have been used as one of the sources for this short article. Visit the Dane Rudhyar archival project here.
Now read about what has been described as the best music of any late-twentieth century composer.
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