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Spring 2005: 40 Years

robin laananen

Wayne Horvitz


B.A. Composition for New Music Improvisation, Porter College, 1977

Composer, pianist, and keyboardist Wayne Horvitz has performed on more than 100 albums and CDs over the past 25 years. He has written for theater, dance, and film, and collaborated on a mind-boggling variety of musical projects—in styles ranging from rhythm & blues and improvisational jazz, to classical minimalism and urban noise.

Since he graduated from UCSC in 1977, Horvitz has gone on to perform extensively throughout North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia. National Public Radio recently described his music as “a dazzling sonic playground full of some wild rides.” Added the New York Times in another accolade: “What makes Mr. Horvitz’s music so good is its ingenuity and variety of textures...one gets surging planes of sound and viscerally involving rhythms, and of that kind of music, Mr. Horvitz is some kind of master.”

Although he has acquired an international reputation as a cutting-edge composer/musician steeped in the avant-garde, Horvitz says he never deliberately sets out to shatter musical boundaries. “I’m not interested in innovation for innovation’s sake,” he explains. “I like beauty in music. I don’t want people just to be intellectually stimulated. I basically look for soulfulness in everything—whether it’s blues or classical music.”

Horvitz says that UCSC had a “tremendous impact” on his career, opening him up to a wide variety of musical formats, exposing him to a number of extraordinary musicians, and teaching him about the technical aspects of producing concerts and recordings. He also met his wife during his undergraduate days—UCSC alumna Robin Holcomb (B.A., individual major, Porter ’84)—who has herself gone on to record eight albums as a singer/songwriter. Together, they moved to New York City in the late 1970s to immerse themselves in a stimulating downtown music scene that also spawned the careers of people like David Byrne of the Talking Heads, revolutionary guitarist Bill Frisell, and saxophonist John Zorn.

Horvitz would eventually produce several CDs by Frisell and to date has helped create nearly 30 other recordings by a variety of artists. He has composed for a number of film, video, television, and multimedia projects, including three PBS specials and director Gus Van Sant’s film Psycho. He also has been involved with the New York dance community, collaborating with artists such as renowned choreographer Paul Taylor and with the White Oak Dance Project.

All the while, Horvitz has received dozens of commissions to compose works for the likes of the Kronos Quartet and the Seattle Chamber Players, as well as leading various ensembles such as the acclaimed jazz/funk group, Zony Mash, and his modern big band, the New York Composers Orchestra.

Although Horvitz already has a vast array of dynamic artistic projects under his belt, he always looks forward to experimenting with that next project—whatever it might be.

“It’s at the edges where things get interesting, and that’s where art should lie,” Horvitz observes. “You don’t need art the way you need food in the sense that you’ll expire if you don’t get it. But art is like love. It’s an essential experience beyond the mundane.”

—Scott Rappaport


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