Remembering David Tudor:
A 75th Anniversary Memoir

by Lowell Cross

“It’s hard to do a piece any more that lasts for less than an hour."
David Tudor, Iowa City, Iowa, 16 October 1974

David Eugene Tudor was born in Philadelphia on 20 January 1926 and died at his home in Tomkins Cove, New York on 13 August 1996. In 2001—the 75th anniversary of his birth—it is appropriate for us to recall aspects of his music–making, his commitment to his own work, his far–flung travels, and the wide–ranging manifestations of his complex personality.

This memoir documents certain events in the lives of David Tudor (1926–1996), John Cage (1912–1992), Carson D. Jeffries (1922–1995), and Lowell Cross (1938–) from 1963 to 1980.

David Tudor was the leading avant–garde pianist of the second half of the 20th Century, even though he greatly limited his pianistic activities after the mid–1960s to concentrate on electronic music composition and performance. He joined Lowell Cross and Carson D. Jeffries in the development of video and laser art forms generated by music, including the presentation of the first laser light shows.

John Cage was one of the most influential composers and intellectuals of the 20th Century. He was a pioneer in percussion music, in his invention of the “prepared piano,” in “tape” and “live electronic” musics, and especially, in his use of chance operations (“indeterminacy”) to separate his personality from his art. Later in his life he composed acrostics and other text–pieces, played chess with Marcel Duchamp, and engaged in the production of visual works.

Carson D. Jeffries was an internationally renowned physicist at the University of California, Berkeley. His highly acclaimed first photographs of electrons in the form of a liquid droplet inside a supercooled crystal wafer (“Electricity photographed in its purest form,” 1972) were featured on the NBC–TV Evening News and on the cover of Science. Professor Jeffries was also a gifted and innovative kinetic sculptor. He built all of his artistic works with his own hands and oversaw their exhibition and performance on the Berkeley campus, at Mills College, and elsewhere in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Information about Lowell Cross may be found within the following text and at the end of this article.