Peter Zummo

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Peter Zummo
Background information
OriginCleveland, Ohio, United States
Occupation(s)Musician, composer

Peter Zummo (born 1948) is an American composer and trombonist.[1][2] He has been described as "an important exponent of the American contemporary classical tradition." Meanwhile, he has been quoted as describing his own work as "minimalism and a whole lot more."[3]

Since 1967, Zummo's compositions exploring the rock, jazz, new- and electronic-music, disco, punk, and world-music idioms have been presented in venues including the Brooklyn Academy of Music, New York City Center, Experimental Intermedia Foundation, Dance Theater Workshop, and La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club, among many others in New York City, as well as in numerous additional spaces worldwide.[3] The website of the music magazine Pitchfork called Zummo's music “the sound of sublimity…that sends shivers down the nervous system,” and in an interview with The Quietus, Scottish deejay JD Twitch (Keith McIvor) characterized Zummo's work as “sheer bliss.”[4][5]

Composing and performing career[edit]

Writing in the British culture blog "The Ransom Note," Tim Wilson commented that some of Zummo's "most familiar" music was created with cellist Arthur Russell.[6] Zummo played on most of Russell's recordings and produced several of them.[7][4] Their collaborations in multiple musical styles included Russell's disco single, “Kiss Me Again.” In it, according to a review in The New Yorker, “phrases emerge and wrap around each other: Peter Zummo’s gorgeous trombone motif, Russell’s pizzicato cello theme, and a growing drone of loud, dissonant guitars…When the smoke clears, genre is just a memory.”[8] In 2014, Zummo and longtime collaborators, bass player Ernie Brooks and percussionist Bill Ruyle, recorded Russell's This Love Is Crying with New Zealand musician and composer Liam Finn.[9][10]

Russell, in turn, played often for Zummo, notably on the Bessie Award–winning composition Lateral Pass, created for a dance by choreographer Trisha Brown, with a stage set by artist Nancy Graves.[11] In 2014, Foom Music, in London, released an original recording of this 1985 piece. According to Piccadilly Records, the CD demonstrated that “Zummo’s signature trombone style, renowned for its rich and soothing tone, has become one of the most beloved features of Russell’s celebrated sound."[12]

Peter Zummo, Arthur’s Landing at the New Museum, 2009

In the fall of 2014, Mikhail Barishnikov's Baryshnikov Arts Center, in New York City, awarded a residency for the creation of new work to Zummo and Brooks.[13] Additional support over the years has come from the National Endowment for the Arts, the New York State Council on the Arts, Meet the Composer, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and other funders.[3]

Zummo appears as himself in Jonathan Demme's Accumulation with Talking Plus Water Motor, a film featuring Trisha Brown,[14] and in Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell, a documentary by Matt Wolf.[15] Zummo contributed to the score of Tramas, Italian director Augusto Contento's cinematic portrait of São Paulo, Brazil, worked with artist Donald Judd to realize Trisha Brown's Newark, and played for Andrei Șerban–Liz Swados collaborations, including Fragments of a Greek Trilogy.[16][17][18]

Performing for other bandleaders, Zummo has appeared in the Lounge Lizards, Gods and Monsters, Stephen Gaboury’s B-Twist Orchestra for the dance company Ballets with a Twist, Go: Organic Orchestra, Tilt Brass, Downtown Ensemble, Flexible Orchestra, The Necessaries, and Dinosaur L. He has also played in units put together by composers David Behrman, Philip Corner, Guy De Bievre, Tom Hamilton, William Hellerman, Annea Lockwood, Jackson MacLow, Ben Neill, Phill Niblock, Pauline Oliveros, Vernon Reid, Steve Swell, Yasunao Tone, Lise Vachon, Yoshi Wada, and others.[3][1][19] Zummo performed on Teo Macero’s Fusion, which featured both the Lounge Lizards and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.[20]

Education and training[edit]

After Zummo's early classical-music education in his hometown, Cleveland, Ohio, he earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in music and composition at Wesleyan University, in Middletown, Connecticut.[21][22] There he studied with John Cage, Alvin Lucier, Ken McIntyre, Clifford Thornton, Daoud Haroon, Dick Griffin, and Sam Rivers, among others.[3][1] After leaving Wesleyan, Zummo moved to New York City, where he continued trombone studies with Carmine Caruso and Roswell Rudd and sought out the influences of James Fulkerson and Stuart Dempster.[3][19]

In New York City, Zummo developed extended techniques for the trombone and other instruments and created many works, including several with his wife, then-choreographer and dancer Stephanie Woodard. For several years, he wrote music and performance reviews in the SoHo Weekly News.[6] For a 2006 article by “Blue” Gene Tyranny in Dram, Zummo described his compositional approach as being about “persons not instruments,” elaborating that he provides “material for musicians and sufficient instructions, so they don’t make arbitrary but rather logical or heartfelt decisions.” His work, Zummo continued, thus “engenders a social situation reflecting modern society.”[3]

Academic and other positions[edit]

Zummo was senior faculty advisor with the New York Arts Program, a New York City-based project of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Great Lakes Colleges Association, and artistic director of The Loris Bend Foundation, a nonprofit presenter of music, dance, and media.[23][3]


Peter Zummo, Arthur’s Landing at the New Museum, 2009

Selected works:[24][3]


  • Lateral Pass (CD from Foom Music), 2014
  • Zummo with an X (LP from Optimo Music), 2012
  • Zummo with an X (CD), 2006
  • Fast Dream on The Downtown Ensemble's Downtown Only, 2002
  • Slybersonic Tromosome, with Tom Hamilton, 2000
  • Experimenting with Household Chemicals (CD), 1995
  • Zummo with an X (LP), 1985
  • Travelers Through Days and Days on Sunship's Into the Sun, 1974
  • (the) Who Stole the Polka? on Guy Klucevsek's Ain’t Nothin’ But A Polka Band, 1991; and on Polka From The Fringe, 2012


  • Arthur Russell's Arthur’s Landing, 2010
  • Arthur Russell's World Of Echo (CD + DVD), 2005
  • Arthur Russell's World Of Echo (LP), 2005
  • Yvette Perez's H*E*R, 2002
  • Arthur Russell's Disco Not Disco (CD), 2000
  • Arthur Russell's Tree House/School Bell, 1986


  • Mitra Sumara's “Tahdig,” 2018
  • Red Hot Organization's Master Mix: Red Hot + Arthur Russell, 2014
  • Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra, Sonic Mandala, 2013
  • Adam Rudolph's Go: Organic Orchestra, Can You Imagine…The Sound of a Dream, 2011
  • Steve Swell/The Nation of We's The Business of Here, 2012
  • Heroes of Toolik's Winter Moon, 2012
  • Kid Creole and the Coconuts’ I Wake Up Screaming, 2010
  • Yvette Perez's H.E.R. – Songs About the Mysteries of Housework and Nature, 2007
  • Arthur Russell's First Thought Best Thought, 2006
  • Lise Vachon's Vocalise, 2006
  • David Behrman's My Dear Siegfried, 2005
  • Guy De Bievre's Bending the Tonic (twice), 2005
  • Arthur Russell's Calling Out Of Context, 2004
  • Yvette Perez's I Fly, 2004
  • The Feetwarmers’ Centrifugal Swing, 2000
  • Tom Hamilton's Off-Hour Wait State, 1996
  • Arthur Russell's Another Thought, 1994
  • Annea Lockwood's Thousand Year Dreaming, 1993
  • Nicolas Collins's 100 of the World’s Most Beautiful Melodies, 1989
  • Peter Gordon's Brooklyn, 1987
  • Peter Gordon's Innocent, 1986
  • Arthur Russell's Instrumentals, 1984
  • The Lounge Lizards's Live From the Drunken Boat, 1983
  • Arthur Russell/Dinosaur L's 24–24 Music, 1981
  • The Necessaries’ Big Sky, 1981
  • Love of Life Orchestra's Star Jaws, 1977


  1. ^ a b c “Composer Profiles: Peter Zummo”. Kalvos and Damian. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  2. ^ All Music Guide: The Definitive Guide to Popular Music (4th ed.). San Francisco, California: Backbeat Books. 2001. ISBN 9780879306274.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i “Blue” Gene Tyranny. “Peter Zummo: Zummo With An X”. Dram. September 10, 2006. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  4. ^ a b Andy Beta. “Arthur Russell/Peter Zummo: Zummo With An X”. Pitchfork. June 12, 2012. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  5. ^ “Peter Zummo & Arthur Russell Reissued”. The Quietus. May 8, 2011. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  6. ^ a b Tim Wilson. “Peter Zummo Talks + Listen to Influences Tapes”. The Ransom Note. April 17, 2014. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  7. ^ Robert Barry. “Late Night City Sonics: An Interview with Peter Zummo”. The Quietus. July 30, 2012. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  8. ^ Frere-Jones, Sasha "Let's Go Swimming", The New Yorker, March 8, 2004. Web. September 14, 2014
  9. ^ Liam Finn. “From the Desk of Liam Finn: Arthur Russell”. Magnet. May 6, 2014. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  10. ^ Evan Minsker. “Sufjan Stevens, Robyn, Hot Chip, Blood Orange, Phosphorescent on Arthur Russell Tribute”. Pitchfork. July 15, 2014. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  11. ^ “Dancers and Performers Receive Bessie Awards”. The New York Times. September 19, 1986. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  12. ^ “Peter Zummo Feat. Arthur Russell/Lateral Pass”. Piccadilly Records. April 28, 2014. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  13. ^ Barishnikov Arts Center. Residencies: Peter Zummo + Ernie Brooks. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  14. ^ Jack Anderson. “Thinking Aloud About Movement: All the Rest Is Talk”. The New York Times. February 9, 2001. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  15. ^ Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  16. ^ Tramas: Full Cast and Crew. IMDb. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  17. ^ Anna Kisselgoff. “The Trisha Brown Company in ‘Newark’”. The New York Times. September 16, 1987. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  18. ^ Andrei Șerban. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  19. ^ a b Dr Rob. “20 Questions/006/Peter Zummo”. Test Pressing. July 2, 2012. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  20. ^ “Teo Macero Conducts the London Philharmonic Orchestra, Featuring the Lounge Lizards—Fusion”. Discogs. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  21. ^ Wesleyan University: Senior Honors Theses in Music. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  22. ^ Wesleyan University: M.A. Theses in Ethnomusicology and Composition. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.
  23. ^ New York Arts Program: Peter Zummo. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014. Archived January 30, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  24. ^ “Peter Zummo”. Discogs. Web. Retrieved September 2, 2014.