Philip Corner, Fluxus Free Speech, 2006, Silkscreen on cloth, 152 × 119 cm, Edition of 18
Courtesy of Archivio Conz, Berlin
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  • Silkscreen on cloth
  • 152 × 119 cm
    (59 ⅞ × 46 ⅞ inches)
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  • Philip (Lionel) Corner is an American interdisciplinary composer, artist, and writer. As a performer of New Music, he made multifaceted use of classical instruments of Western cultures as well as those peculiar to the Balinese-Javanese Gamelan tradition. He studied composition at the City College of New York and later at Columbia University in New York City, following the teachings of the pioneering composer Otto Luening and graduating in 1959. Between 1955 and 1957, he lived in Paris, studying piano privately and taking Olivier Messiaen’s course at the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse. In addition, the time spent in Korea during his military service added unique traits to Corner’s background. He became fascinated with the harmonies of traditional Korean music and studied calligraphy with Kim Ki-sung, later inspiring his renowned calligraphic scores. Back in New York, he met George Maciunas and, from 1961 onwards, participated in numerous Fluxus concerts, exhibitions, and festivals. Corner is the author of the score for Piano Activities, the legendary premiere of which was presented at the Fluxus Internationale Festspiele Neuester Musik Festival in Wiesbaden in 1962. Among the very first outrageous Fluxus pieces presented in Europe, the composition was played in the absence of Corner with a remarkably free interpretation by George Maciunas, Dick Higgins, Ben Patterson, Alison Knowles, Wolf Vostell, and Emmett Williams. In the tradition of John Cage, Corner’s original score was unrestricted but coherent, providing for the manipulation of the instrument and its strings. Nevertheless, the performers interpreted the instructions with acclaimed exaggeration, tearing apart the grand piano with rough noises of destruction and subsequently auctioning off the pieces to the audience. Concurrently with his countless appearances with Fluxus, Corner was a resident musician of the Judson Dance Theater in New York from 1962 to 1964 and the originator of several ensembles. Together with Malcolm Goldstein and James Tenney, he founded the Tone Roads Chamber Ensemble, performing until 1970. In 1976, together with Barbara Benary and Daniel Goode, he established the Gamelan Son of Lion, a New Music ensemble based in New York City. Corner also taught experimental composition at different universities, including The New School for Social Research in New York and, for nearly two decades, Livingston College in New Brunswick, New Jersey (until 1992). Through Alison Knowles, Corner met Francesco Conz in Asolo, initiating a prolific, lasting partnership. Such collaborations with Conz and Pari & Dispari motivated Corner’s retirement from his professorship, after which he relocated to Reggio Emilia, Italy with his present wife, the choreographer Phoebe Neville. In addition to performing internationally and having an extensive discography, his scores and poetic works are part of international collections, including those of The Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the Virtual Museum of Avant-Garde based in Zagreb, Croatia.

Artworks (18)