Charles Cohen

2011 Pew Fellow

Charles Cohen, 2011 Pew Fellow. Photo by Colin Lenton.

“In improvisation I try to think less and experience more. The primary experience for me is listening. Then, I want to respond quickly, honestly, playfully, and intuitively.”

Charles Cohen (b. 1945) has been characterized as a “special and singular musician” with a highly developed and refined voice. His music is entirely improvisational, produced solely on a vintage Buchla Music Easel synthesizer, a rare analog instrument designed in the early 1970s. Cohen has been playing his self-described “beeps and boops” since he first acquired a Buchla Music Easel in 1976, one of only 25 ever produced, and remains committed to exploring its unique qualities. He has studied with musical mavericks such as accordionist and electronic composer Pauline Oliveros and jazz pianist Cecil Taylor, and is dedicated to the art of abstract improvisation, seeking out collaborations with fellow musicians who share his love of spontaneous creation during live performance. “In improvisation I try to think less and experience more,” says Cohen. “I consider each performance as an instance of my collaborative improvisation practice, which has spanned over 30 years.”

Cohen has performed regularly in Philadelphia for nearly four decades. For most of his career he has eschewed distributing recordings of his music in order to focus deeply on live performance. However, after receiving the Pew Fellowship, Cohen was invited by Morphine Records in Berlin to work on a complete retrospective of his recordings from the 1970s through the ’90s, in vinyl and CD formats, with biographical information, pictures, and liner notes. This retrospective was released in late 2013.


References

Collaborators & Colleagues

Composer and vocalist Lisa Bielawa is a 2009 Rome Prize winner in musical composition. She began touring with the Philip Glass Ensemble in 1992, and in 1997, she co-founded the MATA Festival.

Five Pew Fellows have been awarded artist residencies in 2014, part of the ongoing partnership between The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, the Alliance of Artists Communities, and four North American artist residency programs.

The Liberian Women’s Chorus for Change will perform as part of the Liberian Independence Day Celebration in Trevose, Pennsylvania.

Ceramist and Pew Fellow Lauren Mabry on her creative development, embracing the unexpected, and more.

Born in Venezuela, Kotain works with various Philadelphia-area nonprofit cultural organizations to teach others about his Arab and Latin musical traditions.

The PRISM Quartet presents new works composed and performed by Tim Ries and Miguel Zenón.

Grants & Grantees

Gerald Levinson (Pew Fellow, 2007) has been increasingly recognized as one of the major composers of his generation.

For the first time in 40 years, the Philadelphia Museum of Art will reinstall and reinterpret its eight galleries of South Asian art, which include nearly 3,000 works spanning over 2,500 years.

Lee is the publisher at Corollary Press and author of the poetry collections Underground National, That Gorgeous Feeling, and Solar Maximum, forthcoming from Futurepoem Press.

Grants & Grantees

Bowerbird is a presenting organization that showcases over 70 events annually, with a focus on raising awareness of “provocative and divergent musical traditions.”

Grants & Grantees

Becky Birtha is a writer and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

Grants & Grantees

Ars Nova Workshop, a free jazz and experimental music presenter, has programmed nearly 500 events since 2000, often in atypical settings.