Christian Wolff

Christian Wolff (born 1934 in Nice, France, living in the United States since 1941) holds a doctorate in classics from Harvard, where he taught until 1970. Between 1970 and 2000, Wolff was the Strauss Professor of Music at Dartmouth College where he also taught classics. As a composer he is basically self-taught, although his association in the early 1950s with John Cage, David Tudor and Morton Feldman provided a music background unmatched by any formal education. He has received a number of commissions, was "Ford Composer" at Mills College and was composer/lecturer at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik in Darmstadt. He has written for numerous music periodicals, and has organized and performed in concerts in Europe and the U.S.A.

Wolff's work has concerned itself principally with the introduction of various new modes notation and freedom of the musical event, both for the composer and performer as well as the listener. Wolff described his current concerns in the following manner: "To turn the making of music into a collaborative and transforming activity (performer into composer into listener into composer into performer, etc.), the cooperative character of the activity to the exact source of the music. To stir up, through the production of the music, a sense of social conditions in which we live and of how these might be changed."

In 1995 Petr Kotik commissioned Wolff to compose Spring, which was performed by The Orchestra of the S.E.M. Ensemble in New York and Europe. After a performance at Prague Spring 1999, where Kotik conducted a program featuring Gruppen by Karlheinz Stockhausen, Diamonds by Alvin Lucier (commissioned by SEM), and Modules I, II, III by Earle Brown, Kotik began creating a repertoire for three orchestras. In 2000, Wolff composed Ordinary Matter for an ensemble of 80 musicians, divided into three orchestras. Ordinary Matter was premiered at the Ostrava Days Festival in 2001 and a version with a reduced ensemble was performed last December by SEM at the Paula Cooper Gallery.

About his new piece Peace March 8, the composer writes: "The title, Peace March 8, is meant to remind of what is, I believe, always the better choice, which must be declared ('March'). And especially when the other choice is about acquiring (yet more) power, because of, say, oil, which is despicable, at massive cost, not least of human life, not to mention humanity. Formally the music is partly for the orchestra as a whole and partly for soloists (and a pair of duets), the latter overlapping sometimes with the orchestra and each other. Various peace songs are drawn on for material. The last orchestral section is a variation on a four voice round, "Song for Peace," by Hanns Eisler.

Presently Wolff lives as an independent composer in New England, commuting between Hanover, New Hampshire and Royalton, Vermont and he will be a lector-composer at Ostrava Days 2003 Institute and Festival.