Christian Wolff

. September 2012. 144p. 978-0-25203-706-1.
This first biographical treatment of Christian Wolff, the experimentalist composer whom John Cage cited as an essential influence, is a worthy companion to Stephen Chase and Philip Thomas’s 2010 Changing the System: The Music of Christian Wolff, itself primarily a musicological analysis. In treating their subject biographically, Hicks (music, Brigham Young Univ.; Sixties Rock: Garage, Psychedelic, and Other Satisfactions) and Asplund (composer-in-residence, Brigham Young Univ.) set the composer’s experiments with form and notation in the context of his childhood experience, musical training, and dual interest in music and the classical world. His studies in Europe and associations with other composers of the New York School are detailed, though his relationship with Cage takes its due prominence. The discography is thin—the authors refer readers to Changing the System for a more in-depth treatment—but one senses that the two books are best read as a pair anyway.
VERDICT Musicologists, historians of 20th-century music, experimentalist composers and listeners, and music students are all served by this work.

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