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Richard Maxfield


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Richard Maxfield (February 2, 1927 – June 27, 1969) was a composer of instrumental, , and electronic music.

Born in Seattle, he most likely taught the first University-level course in electronic music in America at the New School for Social Research. As a student at Berkeley and in Europe in the 1950’s, he composed instrumental scores in a Neo-Classical style and then adopting 12-tone techniques, eventually studying at Princeton University with Milton Babbitt. Encounters with contemporary European innovations, the music of John Cage, and techniques for composing with magnetic tape would however prove decisive in the development of his mature compositions. Among his innovations with tape music were the simultaneous performance of improvised instrumental solos with tapes based upon samples of the same soloist, re-editing of tapes before each public performance so that the pieces were not fixed in a single form, and the use of the erase head of the tape machine as a sound source. He was also an active Fluxus participant and a friend of La Monte Young. Young now maintains the archive of Maxfield’s works.

In 1960, he, along with Young, co-curated the early concerts at Yoko Ono’s loft: the first Downtown concerts. Maxfield made a number of mesmerizing, though gritty, electronic minimalist pieces, a few of which have made it to commercial recording.


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