HENRY COWELL, American musician and composer, born (d: 1965); an American composer, musical theorist, pianist, teacher, publisher and impresario. His contribution to the world of music was summed up by Virgil Thomson, writing in the early 1950s:
“Henry Cowell’s music covers a wider range in both expression and technique than that of any other living composer. His experiments begun three decades ago in rhythm, in harmony, and in instrumental sonorities were considered then by many to be wild. Today they are the Bible of the young and still, to the conservatives, “advanced.”… No other composer of our time has produced a body of works so radical and so normal, so penetrating and so comprehensive. Add to this massive production his long and influential career as a pedagogue, and Henry Cowell’s achievement becomes impressive indeed. There is no other quite like it. To be both fecund and right is given to few.”
A great admirer of Charles Ives long before that composer enjoyed any public recognition, Cowell’s experimented with new musical resources: In his piano compositions he introduced the tone cluster, played with the arm or the fist, and wrote pieces to be played directly on the piano strings. In the mid-1930s, Cowell’s career was interrupted by his imprisonment on “morals” charges, during which time, to his eternal shame, Charles Ives completely turned his back on the man who was to prove his sympathetic biographer.