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A memoir and manifesto by a pivotal figure at the junction of rock, the avant-garde, and an ever-widening spiral of art, theater, film, and dance.
For over five decades, Elliott Sharp has been engaged in a quest at once quixotic and down to earth: to take the music he hears in his inner ear and bring it to life in the real world. In this vivid memoir and manifesto, Sharp takes us along on that quest, through some of the most rugged, anarchically fertile cultural terrain of our time. Sharp, a mainstay of the New York Downtown scene beginning in the 1980s, has been a pivotal gure at the junction of rock, experimental music, and an ever-widening spiral of art, theater, lm, and dance. Rooted in blues, rock, jazz, and the twentieth-century avant-garde, Sharp’s innovative music has encom- passed fractal geometry, chaos theory, algorithms, genetic metaphors, and new strategies for graphic notation.
In IrRational Music, Sharp dodges fake cowboys’ real bullets by the side of a highway near Colby, Kansas; is called on the carpet (“Improvisation. . . I don’t buy it”) by a prickly, pompadoured Morton Feldman; segues from Zen tea to single malt with an elfin John Cage; conjures an extraterrestrial opera from a group of high-school students in Munich; and—back in his own high-school days—looks up from strumming Van Morrison’s “Gloria” in Manny’s Music on 48th Street to see Jimi Hendrix smiling benignly upon him. A mix of tales from the road with thoughts on music, art, politics, technology, and the process of thinking itself, IrRational Music is a glimpse inside the mind of one of our most exacting, exciting creative artists.
Elliott Sharp is a composer and multi-instrumentalist. He was awarded the Berlin Prize in Music in 2015 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2014. His composition “Storm of the Eye” for violinist Hilary Hahn appeared on her Grammy-winning album In 27 Pieces.
“Elliott Sharp’s writing, like his music, recombines the scrupulously discursive with the deeply humane and reflective. What a joy it is to be informed by this remarkable account of the coming-of-age of his psyche, his curiosity, and his methodology. . . .The reader joins Sharp in the step-by-step reinvigoration of intentional sound itself—sound as culture, as science, as art—a process that can never be finished.”
REVIEWS ARE COMING IN!
“This has been Sharp's path, as revealed in his graceful and insightful first book—digging deep into these varied genres has been the path of a musician searching for and making the music he loves, not constrained by any one idea or purpose, dipping into everything that means something to him…. making music is the way he understands his own place in the world.”
–George Grella, Brooklyn Rail
“The IrRational Music of the title is the music Sharp hears in his inner ear or in his mind (his rational ear, so to speak), and his inner ear becomes a character in the book, forever buzzing, encouraging him and prodding him. The ear is ever hungry, comsuming and digesting jazz, Burundi drumming, hip and techno, all seasoned with new technologies, new collaborators, and science fiction.”
–Kurt Gottschalk, The Wire
“Sharp’s memoir recalls a life of wall-to-wall creativity by a man of superior intellect, with the fearless soul of an adventurer. He pioneered the use of personal computers and guitar-triggered sampling in live performance. His experimental compositions have been inspired by algorithms, Fibonacci numbers, fractal science, philosophy, and literature... IrRational Music is a must-read for any guitarist operating outside the mainstream… The story of his life as a man dedicated to the pursuit of an artistic vision, come hell or high water, will provide much needed inspiration.”
–Michael Ross, Guitar Moderne