Essay on Henry Cowells Life

Submitted By pooble
Words: 492
Pages: 2

Henry Dixon Cowell was born on the 11th of March, 1897(Rischitelli, 2005). He began studying music with Charles Seeger in 1914, inspiring over a hundred compositions (Emanuel, 2005). Studying with Seeger placed him in direct contact with the experimentation of dissonance, and the search of ways in which it could be used. Cowell’s musical ideas reflected Seeger’s “use of tone clusters, unusual chord progressions and other experimentations within a traditional context.” (Pescatello, 1992) Cowell held his first public concert in 1914 and was widely criticised for the use of these techniques in his pieces, with critics claiming that he needed some disciplined training in the style of Mozart and Bach. After returning from the Julliard school in 1917, dissatisfied with its conservative attitudes, he joined a theosophical group run by an Irish poet named John Varian (Hicks, Bohemian, 2002). Varian, being solely devoted to Irish myths and his ‘harp-like’ instrument influenced and provided inspiration for many of Cowell’s works including The Banshee.
In the spring of 1923, Cowell, accompanied by his former piano teacher Richard Buhlig and another Buhlig student, on the journey of a lifetime to Europe. His first performance on tour created quite an uproar as “what [they] got to hear and see was, with the exception of two pieces in the first half, such meaningless strumming and such repulsive hacking at the keyboard not only with hands, but also even with fists, forearms and elbows, that one must call it a coarse obscenity – to put it mildly – to offer such a cacophony to the public, who in the end took it as a joke.” (Abendpost, 1923). His audience seemed to be divided into two main groups, one group who distasted his music and another who remained quiet, thus creating a brawl on the stage. Cowell had such success with his string-piano techniques later in Europe that more compositions, similar to The Banshee were composed.

Cowell continued his career as a performer and composer and for