Richard Maxfield  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Richard Maxfield (February 2, 1927 – June 27, 1969) was a composer of instrumental, electro-acoustic, 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 University of California, Berkeley, and in Europe in the 1950s, he composed instrumental scores in a neoclassical style and then adopting 12-tone techniques, eventually studying at Princeton University with Milton Babbitt. He also studied for a summer with Ernst Krenek. 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 and Young co-curated the early Fluxus 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.

Maxfield committed suicide by jumping out of a window on June 27, 1969, at the age of 42.

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