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

InterAct Theatre Company is committed to producing socially and politically relevant work for theater.

The Mann Center for the Performing Arts presents a diverse range of programming in a beautiful park setting.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Jenifer Papararo was appointed Director of Artistic Programs at the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg, Canada in November 2014. Papararo served as a Pew Fellowships panelist in 2015.

As part of its Then and Now: Jazz Cubano series, Montgomery County Community College’s Lively Arts Series hosts the Omar Sosa Afri-Lectric Experience.

Grants & Grantees

Built on a foundation of public dialogue and interaction, the Re-Place-ing Philadelphia project will use art as a lens for viewing the city and its history.

Grants & Grantees

Nathalie Anderson is a poet and a 1993 Pew Fellow.

In 2001, saxophonist and Pew Fellow Bobby Zankel founded the Warriors of the Wonderful Sound, a big band to perform his compositions and arrangements.

Using the arts as a catalyst for community dialogue and engagement around race and class in Philadelphia’s diverse Germantown neighborhood, this multi-part project joins artists such as Benjamin Volta and poet Sonia Sanchez, and historians from across the US to create public art installations, educational programs, and community events.

This month in Fellows Friday news: King Britt is named a 2014 SPACES resident at the Village of Arts & Humanities, Marshall Allen celebrates Sun Ra’s 100th Birthday, and much more.

Visual artist and Pew Fellow Caroline Lathan-Stiefel on creating large-scale installations from ordinary objects, work-life balance, and more.

Grants & Grantees

Two of India’s preeminent artists, Carnatic vocalist T.M. Krishna and bharata natyam dancer Priyadarsini Govind, will fuse classical South Indian music and dance in a world premiere that is the culmination of a two-year artistic collaboration, and is inspired by themes of liberty and freedom drawn from Philadelphia’s history.

Filmmaker and Pew Fellow Rea Tajiri on documenting the aging process, her affinity for storytelling, and her most treasured possession.