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Christian Wolff turns ninety years old today and celebrates tomorrow with a concert and the world premiere of “What If”.

Christian Wolff, the last living representative of the so-called New York School of composition, which included John Cage, Morton Feldman, Earle Brown and David Tudor, among others, turns 90 today. And to celebrate it, the American pianist and composer – born in the French city of Nice and son of German parents – will give a concert tomorrow, Saturday, at 19:00, at the Judson Memorial Church in Greenwich Village, New York. During the concert, Wolff and a series of guest musicians from various generations – including David Behrman (electronics/violin), Laura Cocks (flute), David Cossin (percussion), Felix Fan (cello), John King (viola), Joseph Kubera (piano), Ikue Mori (electronics), Marilyn Nonken (piano), Kevin Ramsay (daxophone/electronics), Lucie Vítková (accordion/harmonica) and the chamber ensemble String Noise Sounds – will perform chamber works spanning from 1950 to the present day, including the world premiere of one of Wolff’s latest compositions, entitled What If.

The concert has been organised by String Noise Sounds – the chamber ensemble created by the violinist couple Conrad Harris and Pauline Kim Harris, expanded for the occasion by percussionist Jessie Cox and pianist Samuel Yulsman – in collaboration with Issue Project Room, Brooklyn’s experimental arts venue.

With a planned duration of three hours, the concert will consist of two blocks. The first will feature a historical selection of Christian Wolff’s works, including his proto-minimalist Violin Duo from 1950. The second block, starting at 21:00, will feature, in addition to Burdocks, one of Wolff’s seminal works, and the premiere of What If, composed earlier this year, world premieres by other composers: Cold Spring by Steven Swartz, Ghost Swifts composed by String Noise Sounds, and CW90 by another Wolff co-religionist, the veteran computer music pioneer David Behrman, as well as an improvisation by Wolff himself and Ikue Mori.

Settling in 1941 in New York with his parents, the boyhood pupil of the New York School went on to collaborate with Frederic Rzewski and Cornelius Cardew, and with Merce Cunningham and his dance company. As an improviser, he has played with the British group AMM (Keith Rowe, Lou Gare and Eddie Prévost), Christian Marclay, Takehisa Kosugi or Steve Lacy, Larry Polansky and Kui Dong, as well as becoming one of the most influential figures for the avant-garde that emerged in New York in the late seventies and early eighties: Sonic Youth included two of his compositions -Edges and Burdocks-on their 1999 album SYR4: Goodbye 20th Century, which also included pieces by John Cage, Yoko Ono, Steve Reich or James Tenney.

© Photograph of Christian Wolff downloaded from the website of Dartmouth University, where he is Professor Emeritus.