Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovsky;Pyotr Ilyich Chaikovskii;Pyotr Ilyich Tschaikowsky

1840 (Votkinsk, Russia) – 1893 (St. Petersburg)

Tchaikovsky was initially influenced by the ideas of Rimsky-Korsakov, Mussorgsky, Borodin and Balakirev (who offered him useful criticism), but kept a certain distance while staying cordial. He met his revered Berlioz when Berlioz visited Russia, and on tours of western Europe met Brahms and Grieg (taking to both on the spot), Gounod, and Dvořák (who maintained a warm correspondence, though they kept on just missing each other afterwards). He met Liszt in Bayreuth, but was snubbed by Wagner. He met the 13-year-old Rachmaninoff at his friend Zverev’s, and enthusiastically encouraged him as a composer.

Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky knew…

Thelonious Monk

Thelonious Sphere Monk

1917 (Rocky Mount, N.C.) – 1982 (Englewood, N.J.)

Monk, with his angular dissonant lyricism, was one of jazz’s great idiosyncratic talents. He knew Johnson — an early influence — as a teenager. Hawkins gave him his first recording work. Gillespie and Parker were important colleagues. At Minton’s Playhouse (one of bebop’s nurseries), Clarke, Christian and Eldridge were among his fellow-players (Williams, who first met him aged eighteen, said he was never properly credited for his influence on his colleagues). Parker and Davis proved wary bosses. Smith taped and photographed Monk, who took the rap for his close friend Powell’s narcotics bust, and told the young Dylan “We all play folk music.”

Thelonious Monk knew…

  • Miles Davis
  • Dizzy Gillespie
  • Charlie Parker
  • Allen Ginsberg
  • Coleman Hawkins
  • John Coltrane
  • Roy Eldridge
  • Charlie Christian
  • Bud Powell
  • Sonny Rollins
  • Art Blakey
  • Max Roach
  • Dave Brubeck
  • Johnny Hodges
  • Charles Mingus
  • Horace Silver
  • Bob Dylan
  • James P. Johnson
  • Kenny Clarke
  • Mary Lou Williams
  • Clark Terry
  • Lou Donaldson
  • Hot Lips Page
  • Pee Wee Russell
  • W. Eugene Smith

Tom Waits

1949 (Pomona, Calif.) –

Gravelly, uncompromising, oddball: Waits is a one-off. He said he knelt at the altar of Ray Charles for years, and once shook his hand at an airport. Richards, proposed as a dream collaborator, became a friend and played on several tracks. Bryars said an afternoon spent recording with him was as beautiful a musical experience as he could remember. Jarmusch, Coppola (a long-time friend) and Altman all cast him in films. He called Gilliam a man you’d want in the boat at the end of the world. Waits worked on three pieces with Wilson (one with Burroughs), and said nobody had affected him as much as an artist.

Vladimir Ussachevsky

Vladimir Alexeevich Ussachevsky

1911 (Hailar, Manchuria) – 1990 (New York)

Ussachevsky was a pioneer of electronic music, an influential enthusiast and educator. Luening supervised his PhD then became his great collaborator; they founded the Columbia/Princeton electronic music studios, Babbitt (a great friend) and Sessions joining them. Ussachevsky and Luening spent an intensive fortnight at Cowell’s (another close friend), and met Schaeffer, Henry, Eimert and Stockhausen (who forbade them to look over his shoulder) on a trip to Europe. Ussachevsky collaborated with Brakhage and Zukofsky, helped out Varèse, provided sound-effects for Welles, and was Moog’s third customer. Harrison ecstatically wrote to him about frogs. Oliveros called him a wonderful man.

Vladimir Ussachevsky knew…

Witold Lutosławski

1913 (Warsaw) – 1994 (Warsaw)''

Lutosławski, one of the major 20th C composers, also worked selflessly on behalf of cultural life in Poland. He only met Szymanowski, a seminal influence, once. Panufnik and Lutosławski, former students together, played piano duos in occupied Warsaw. Copland invited Lutosławski to the U.S., where he also met Babbitt and one of his heroes, Varèse. Rostropovich commissioned a cello concerto, and invited him along with Berio, Xenakis and Dutilleux (a fellow composer-in-residence) to help judge a prize. Britten was a long-standing friend. Lutosławski met Khachaturian in Moscow and Messiaën in Warsaw, and defended Cage against Nono.

Witold Lutosławski knew…

Karlheinz Stockhausen

1928 (Mödrath, Germany) – 2007 (Kürten)

Stockhausen was one of the most influential composers of the generation following WWII. He studied with Martin in Germany, and (following a crucial meeting in Darmstadt with Goeyvaerts) with Milhaud, who disappointed him, and Messiaën in France (where he also met Boulez and Xenakis and worked in Schaeffer’s studio). He wrote to Hesse as a father-figure, credited Nono with setting him on course to be a composer, and assisted and succeeded Eimert. Paik, Kagel and Ligeti were fellow-members of the Köln avant-garde scene, while Cardew, Lachenmann, Volans, Young and Eötvös were among his many students.

Karlheinz Stockhausen knew…

La Monte Young

1935 (Bern, Idaho) –

As a young man, the gifted saxophonist Young played with Coleman, Dolphy, Cherry and Higgins. Oliveiros and Riley were fellow-students in California. Babbitt tried to tempt him to Princeton. While studying with Stockhausen in Germany, Young became close to his assistant Cardew; discovering Cage’s ideas, he corresponded with him, and became one of his students in New York. Maciunas fed him when he couldn’t afford to eat, and came through the snow to fix his heater. Warhol asked him to join a rock band. Riley and Cale were members of his group of musicians. He brought his guru Nath to the U.S.

La Monte Young knew…

John Lennon

1940 (Liverpool) – 1980 (New York)

Lennon’s significance derived from the potent mix of his singing and songwriting and his forceful character, on and off stage. He and McCartney met as teenagers (their famous partnership was increasingly full of tensions). Dylan — each influenced the other — allegedly introduced him to cannabis. Jagger, Richards (both mates on the London scene) and Bowie were among his occasional collaborators; Richards said Lennon felt he had to party even harder than himself, an uphill challenge. Lester directed two films, tapping his sardonic humour, while Spector helped produce, complete with loaded pistol. Ono’s offbeat art intrigued him; they married.

George Brecht

1926 (New York) – 2008 (Köln)

Brecht was a leading member of Fluxus, from its inception to Maciunas’s death; his modes of operation remain influential on a range of artists and composers. With his colleague Robert Watts, he met regularly at lunchtime with Kaprow. He called Cage his liberator (he and Kaprow often drove together to Cage’s class, where Higgins was another regular). His friend Segal’s farm was the venue for several events. Vautier heard about him from Maciunas, and flew to New York to meet him (they reconnected in France). He told Nyman about his father’s drastic flute-disassembly, and became close to Cardew when living in England.

George Antheil

1900 (Trenton, N.J.) – 1959 (New York)

Antheil was an ambitiously avant-garde composer whose Ballet Mécanique scores, composed for Léger’s film, have entered the modernist canon. Stravinsky, met in Berlin, was his hero (though Antheil’s abuse of their friendship cut it short). In Paris, Picasso, Yeats and Joyce championed him, and especially Pound (even though he understood nothing of Antheil’s music), both Pound and Joyce (a good musician) planning various collaborations with him. Eliot and Werfel helped him with a crime novel. He dined with Satie and Cocteau, corresponded widely, and really did patent an advanced torpedo guidance system with Lamarr.