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Christian Wolff

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Christian Wolff (born March 8, 1934) is an American composer of experimental classical music.

Wolff was born in Nice in France of German parentage. His family moved to the United States in 1941, and he became an American citizen in 1946. He studied classics at Harvard University (he is a specialist in the work of Euripides) and upon graduating took up a teaching post there which he kept until 1970 when he began to teach classics, comparative literature, and music at Dartmouth College until his retirement in 1999.

His early work includes a lot of silence and was based initially on complicated rhythmic schema, and later on a system of aural cues. Wolff innovated unique notational methods in his early scores and found creative ways of dealing with improvisation within his written music. Later pieces also often give a degree of freedom to the performers such as the sequence of pieces entitled Exercises (1973-). Some works, such as Changing the System (1973), Braverman Music (1978, after Harry Braverman), and the series of pieces entitled Peace March (1983-2005) have an explicit political dimension responding to contemporary world events and broader political ideals.

At the age of sixteen Wolff was sent by his piano teacher Grete Sultan for lessons in composition with the composer John Cage and quickly became a close associate of Cage and his artistic circle which included composers Earle Brown and Morton Feldman, pianist David Tudor, and dancer and choreographer Merce Cunningham.

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