A music; that it might be…: remembering Barney Childs

Barney Childs in TorontoBarney Childs died of Parkinson’s disease ten years ago in Redlands, California. Although an important figure in contemporary music, Barney was in no way a self-promoter. I don’t remember hearing any of his music at concerts of the Redlands New Music Society, which he ran. At a weekend series of concerts later that same January (a series that had been organized long before his death), I was amazed at the variety and depth of his musical imagination. It was quite literally revelatory. Even people who had known Barney for many years reported hearing music that weekend that they’d never heard before.

Barney’s music is still not performed often enough, nor are there many recordings, even though he could easily be considered one of the leading American experimental composers of the twentieth century. He was, however, without a doubt an inspiring teacher and colleague. The roster of his friends and students includes many luminaries of contemporary music.

Over the next year or so, Asymmetry Music Magazine will be publishing a series of reminiscences of Barney by some of the people who knew him best. I hope they will be as enjoyable and as inspiring to read as they were for me to collect. And, as this is an on-going project, if anyone who sees this has reminiscences of their own about Barney Childs, please get in touch with me at michaelkarman@asymmetrymusicmagazine.com.

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Photograph of Barney Childs by Canada Jack, 1979

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