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

Over its 18-year history, Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) Lively Arts Series has engaged local and national artists to share their work with the college and surrounding Blue Bell community.

Grants & Grantees

The Kimmel Center, Inc., best known as a presenting organization and home of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Opera Philadelphia, and the Pennsylvania Ballet, is one of the most well-attended cultural venues in Philadelphia.

Questions of Practice

American Impresario explores the careers and contributions of leading music curators throughout the country whose creative works have profoundly influenced the field.

In this month’s Pew Fellows news highlights, The Philadelphia Inquirer celebrates ten years of Martha Graham Cracker, the alter ego of theater artist Dito van Reigersberg. Poet Major Jackson has published a new book with W.W. Norton & Company, and visual artist Gabriel Martinez opens a solo show at The Print Center this fall. DJ King Britt and performance artist Kate Watson-Wallace will co-curate a new music series as part of the 2015 Fringe Festival in September.

2014 Pew Fellow and poet Thomas Devaney considers poetry an act of exploration. He answers our questions on collaboration, daydreaming, and more.

Grants & Grantees

David Scott Kessler’s (Pew Fellow, 2015) work combines film, installation, writing, performance, and drawing in a constantly-shifting exploration of place.

Grants & Grantees

In 1998 the Center awarded Pew Fellowships to 12 Philadelphia-based artists, and grants to 52 dance, music, theater, and visual arts organizations in the greater Philadelphia region.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 1982, the Chemical Heritage Foundation fosters an understanding of chemistry’s impact on society.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Molly Sheridan is a writer, editor, and producer specializing in classical and experimental music, with a focus on multimedia content designed for the web.

Grants & Grantees

Tina Morton (Pew Fellow, 2010) left a career as an X-ray technician to pursue documentary filmmaking.

PRISM Quartet’s Color Theory features a series of performances, lectures, and workshops that investigate the concept of “musical color,” including a Composers Forum.

Grants & Grantees

Montgomery County Community College presented a series of concerts and programs focusing on the Afro-Cuban influence in jazz.