Michael Byron (composer)

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Michael Byron

Michael Byron (born September 7, 1953) is an American composer and editor of contemporary music anthologies.


His website is *michaelbyron.org


Michael Byron (born September 7, 1953) is an American composer and editor of contemporary music anthologies.

The trajectory of Byron’s musical life accelerated in 1971, was enriched by his meeting the composer James Tenney in the autumn of that year. At around the same time, he met Peter Garland and Harold Budd (two lifelong musical friends), and soon thereafter Lou Harrison, Dane Rudhyar, Robert Ashley, and others active in the West Coast new-music scene. Byron’s subsequent teacher-student relationship with Tenney in particular, not to mention the personal friendship they shared from 1971 on, would become one of Byron’s most consequential and enriching musical encounters.


In addition to these key acquaintances, Byron’s compositional trajectory—what might be characterized in some circles as a “second-generation West Coast minimalist”—was shaped specifically by his association with the early experiments of the newly opened California Institute of the Arts (CalArts). Byron’s teachers included both Tenney, and Richard Teitelbaum. In particular, Tenney’s presence brought a focus on new American music, neglected by other university music department curricula.


In June 1973, Byron left CalArts with plans to continue his studies with Teitelbaum at the Art Institute of Chicago; instead he found himself in Toronto, Ontario, where Teitelbaum had taken a job at York University, in the Music Department headed by the Canadian musicologist Austin Clarkson. A lively new-music scene took root in Toronto and in the nearby town of Maple, where he, David Rosenboom, and Jackie Humbert lived. Eventually Tenney would also arrive to teach at York (and to live in Maple as well), and an avant-garde network grew to include George Manupelli, Cynthia Liddell, Barbara Mayfield, Larry Polansky, and many others during the mid-1970s. Byron taught at York for about two years and then, with encouragement from Lou Harrison, moved permanently to New York City. His friendship with composer Phillip Corner, especially, was a springboard into the downtown music scene. There, for a brief period, he worked on the periphery of the art rock/punk/noise works, and performed with his friend Rhys Chatham, for lower Manhattan’s club scene during the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the same time, he was frequently engaged as a copyist and editor on various projects for La Monte Young, Robert Ashley, Lucas Foss, and others, and became involved with new ventures like The Kitchen, where, in 1980, his chamber piece Tidal was premiered with the composer Julius Eastman conducting (Tidal was originally issued as an LP on Glenn Branca’s Neutral Records and later re-released on Cold Blue Records).


His music has been released on Cold Blue Music, Meridian Records, Poon Village Records, Neutral Records, Tellus, Koch Records, and New World Records. He was the publisher and editor of the legendary journal Pieces, and editor of the Journal of Experimental Aesthetics. His scores are available through Frog Peak Music.


Byron lives with his wife, the poet Anne Tardos, in New York City.

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