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

Grants & Grantees

As a presenting arts organization, the Painted Bride offers a wide range of work in music, dance, spoken word, and theater.

In 2016, our Pew Fellows brought an abundance of new projects to fruition, as they performed and exhibited their works across the nation and around the globe.

Choral Arts Philadelphia presents the final installment of its concert series, 1734–1735: A Season in the Life of J.S. Bach.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Dr. Leslie King-Hammond is an artist, curator, and graduate dean emeritus and founding director of the Center for Race and Culture at the
Maryland Institute College of Art.

Theater artist and Pew Fellow Jennifer Kidwell on how she became an artist, the role of humor in her work, Philadelphia’s arts scene, and more.

Excerpts from the new opera Breaking the Waves will be presented at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum as part of the Works & Process series.

Grants & Grantees

Annabeth Rosen is a ceramist and a 1992 Pew Fellow.

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This month in Fellows Friday news: Uri Caine receives rave reviews for his Philadelphia Freedom Festival commission, Nadia Hironaka and Matthew Suib’s exhibition at Locks Gallery is a Critics’ Pick on Artforum, and much more.

Grants & Grantees

Bowerbird presented this festival in 10-day arcs that each focused on one of John Cage’s major musical compositions, providing a concentrated look at Cage’s compositional styles.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Pieranna Cavalchini is the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum’s Curator of Contemporary Art, where she has organized over 20 exhibitions.

The William Way LGBT Community Center presents OutBeat: America’s First Queer Jazz Festival. The four-day festival will highlight intersections between sexual orientation, gender identity, and jazz history and culture.