Composer and pianist Michael Harrison occupies a unique place in the world of music. His works are a blend of European musical traditions and those of North Indian classical music, forging an entirely new approach to composition through tunings and methodologies that employ and extend the ancient concept of “just intonation.”
Harrison earned international recognition when Revelation, his 75-minute work for piano in his own “just intonation” tuning, was selected as one of the Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New York Times, The Boston Globe and TimeOut New York, and when Time Loops, with cellist Maya Beiser, was selected in NPR’s Top 10 Classical Albums of 2012.
Equally at home writing for voices (Roomful of Teeth), chamber orchestra (Alarm Will Sound), and Indian classical musicians, his music defies classification; yet many composers and critics confer that he is one of the most innovative artists of his generation, including Philip Glass, who called him an “American Maverick.” Inspired by both the Beatles and Bach, post-modern and jazz, Harrison blends Renaissance beauty with minimalist methodology, Eastern aesthetics with modern technology. The result is a body of concert music, interdisciplinary collaborations, and acclaimed solo albums.
Harrison's music was transformed by discovering La Monte Young’s The Well-Tuned Piano, a work which he spent years learning, performing and perfecting the tuning. He also performs Indian classical music, having studied extensively in India and the U.S. with Pandit Pran Nath, Mashkoor Ali Khan, and Terry Riley. Harrison not only mixes styles and traditions, but also works on interdisciplinary and multimedia collaborations that use whole number proportions to illustrate universal structure.
Harrison invented the "harmonic piano" which plays 24 notes per octave. He lives in New York and is the recipient of a 2018 Guggenheim Fellowship and 2019 NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship.
Photo credit: Chris Edwards and McColl Center