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Born in 1883
Inducted in 1999
Edgard Varese was born in Paris, in 1883. As a child he had lessons in music and composition, and when he returned to Paris as a student he entered the Schola Cantorum, where he studied composition, counterpoint and conduction. In 1907, Varese moved to Berlin. He sought out the great composer and pianist Ferruccio Busoni. Busoni had a profound influence on Varese’s thinking and composing. Upon his return to Paris his search for new sounds was stimulated by acquaintance with the Italian futurist Luigi Russolo and with Jean Bertrand and his electric instrument, the “dynaphone.” But in 1915, Varese emigrated to the United States. In 1921 he and harpist-composer, Carlos Salzedo, founded the International Composers’ Guild. Then in 1928 Varese founded the Pan American Association of Composers, which promoted experimental music in the United States, Latin America, and Europe. During the late 1930s he taught composition and orchestration in Santa Fe and went to Los Angeles to explore his sound theories to the film industry. Later, in New York City, he also founded the Greater New York Chorus. And then in 1953, he received an Ampex tape recorder that enabled him to go forward. He set to work collecting sounds for his new composition “Deserts,” a composition already in progress. During his final years Varese gained respect through his recordings and performances. In 1995 he was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters and in 1962 to the Royal Swedish Academy. Brandeis University presented him with its Creative Arts Award in 1962, and a year later he received the first Koussevitzky International Recording Award. He revised and finished the “Deserts’” tapes and the ending of “Arcana” at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center, and he was working on Nocturnal at the time of his death, in 1965.