“You don’t have to be born in Kyoto to play the Koto, or in Benares to play the sitar.” (video clip) Harrison is now considered one of the great composers of the 20th century. (video clip) “New Yorker Magazine,” in a feature article about Harrison, referred to him as: “...creating America’s first important body of ‘multicultural’ music.”

Born in Portland, Oregon in 1917, (photo) Harrison’s earliest musical training took place in San Francisco during the 1920s, where early on he learned the beauties of Chinese music. (photo) During the 1930s, Harrison’s teacher and mentor Henry Cowell introduced him to John Cage, and encouraged their early collaboration. (photo) Forming a life-long friendship, Harrison relocated to New York in the 1940s, joining Cage, Merce Cunningham, Henry Cowell and others. (video clip)

After a turbulent decade that saw Harrison achieve success as a conductor, composer, and music critic under the wing of Virgil Thomson (photo), Harrison retreated to the legendary Black Mountain College of North Carolina. In 1953 Harrison relocated permanently to the coastal town of Aptos, California, where he isolated himself from the pressures of having a career in music.

Inspired by the writings of Harry Partch, Harrison experimented freely with different tuning systems. (photo) The world’s music became Harrison’s big red apple. The hauntingly beautiful Indonesian gamelan led him to create, with his life-partner William Colvig, "An American Gamelan," a custom-built collection of tuned percussion instruments. (video clip) These instruments are now considered historic treasures. (video clip) Harrison has also composed for a great lineage of choreographers (video clip), beginning in the 1930s at Mills College in Oakland (photo), and continuing through to the present. At the age of eighty-four, Lou Harrison continues to have as much fun as possible. His music is performed in the world’s most prominent venues (video clip), and he recently completed a wildly innovative straw bale house in Joshua Tree, California, for retreat, recreation and play. (video clip) Lou Harrison is a figure who amazes and inspires. (video clip)