Lou Cohen, born 1937, has composed music since age 11. He studied
mathematics at MIT, and has studied music privately.
Composition teachers include John Cage, Ernst Levy and Alan
Kemler. He studied harpsichord and early music performance
practice with John Gibbons. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA.
Readings that have influenced him a great deal: Joseph Schillinger's The Mathematical Basis of the Arts and The Schillinger System of Musical Composition; and Iannis Xenakis's Formalized Music.
In the early 1960s Cohen promoted new music in the Boston area by producing concerts in collaboration with Christian Wolff, in which the New York School was heavily represented. For a long time afterwards while working as a software engineer and product development consultant he composed in isolation. In April 2004 he produced his first concert in more than 40 years, in collaboration with the electro-acoustic group ONDA.
Since then he has appeared as a laptop improviser in numerous concerts in the Greater Boston area. The laptop software created by Cohen responds to movements of wiimote game controllers, and uses Csound to create sounds. Over the years he has performed with many fine musicians, including John Cage, Merce Cunningham, Christian Wolff, Ken Ueno, Tim Feeney, James Coleman, Lou Bunk, Joshua Jefferson, Andrew Eisenberg, Vic Rawlings, David Tudor, Jack Wright, Katt Hernandez, Forbes Graham, Paul Hoskin, Andrea Pensado and many others.
His collaborations with video artist Bebe Beard, and his own computer animations have been shown in many galleries and film festivals around the world.
Cohen's compositions from 1960 to 1990 were written for a range of instrumental ensembles, and generally algorithmically employed 12-tone and serial techniques. A few of these pieces used open score and chance processes as well.
Starting around 1990, Cohen switched to composing using computer-generated sounds and software-computed structures. The programmable synthesizer Csound has been the primary tool for this work along with software of his own design. Most of these pieces were composed by means of algorithmic and stochastic processes, with emphasis on granular synthesis.
Cohen has written only one piece for acoustic instruments since about 1990: Open Sounds, for any number of any instruments. This piece was performed in October 2010; a video of this performance can be seen here. It was performed again in November 2011; the recording is on the same page.
He is co-director of Opensound, a Greater Boston concert series featuring electro-acoustic improvisation.
Also see: All About Jazz interview