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Wuorinen, Charles Peter

Wuorinen, Charles Peter wûr´ĭnən [key], 1938–2020, American composer, conductor, and pianist, b. New York City. Wuorinen studied at Columbia (B.A., 1961; M.A., 1963) and taught there, at the Manhattan School of Music, and at Rutgers and other universities. In 1962 he was one of the founders of the influential Group for Contemporary Music. Composer in residence at the San Francisco Symphony (1985–89) and a guest piano soloist and conductor with many orchestras worldwide, Wuorinen was the recipient of many awards, including Guggenheim (1968, 1972) and MacArthur (1986) fellowships.

In his innovative compositions he explored and expanded electronic music and serial music. Wuorinen explained his approach in the treatise Simple Composition (1979, repr. 1994); he maintained that the tonal system in serious music was dead, replaced by the 12-tone system. Wuorinen wrote more than 250 compositions—including works for electronic media alone and with traditional instruments—for orchestra, chamber group, ballet, opera, chorus, and soloists. Among his best known pieces are Time's Encomium (1969), an electronic piece that won him the Pulitzer Prize; Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky (1975), based on Stravinsky's last sketches; Bamboula Squared (1984), for orchestra and computer-generated sound; the Dante Trilogy (1993–96), six orchestral scores written for the New York City Ballet; and the operas Haroun and the Sea of Stories (2005), adapted from the novel by Salman Rushdie, and Brokeback Mountain (2014), based on a short story by E. Annie Proulx, who also wrote the libretto. His last completed work was his Second Percussion Synphony (2019).

See bio-bibliography by R. D. Burbank (1993).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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