NAME: Arthur Russell

1951, Oskaloosa, Iowa

April 4, 1992, New York, New York

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    Composer, Cellist, Rock Musician, DJ

    In the early 1970's Arthur Russell moved to California and studied Indian music at the Ali Akbar Khan School in San Francisco. He met Allen Ginsberg, with whom he began to work, accompanying him on the cello while Ginsberg sang or read his poetry.

    In the mid 1970's Russell moved to New York, where he studied at The Manhattan School of Music. He began to present his own songs and compositions at such places as Syboczek's, The Kitchen and The Lower Manhattan Ocean Club. He also performed in the Mabou Mines production of Cascando, playing cello music composed for him by Philip Glass. He gave the premières of various works by Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Christian Wolff and Peter Zummo. During this period, he formed a group called The Flying Hearts, with Ernie Brooks, Larry Saltzman and David Van Tiegham. With this group, he created some memorable pop/rock tunes, which were recorded in studio sessions under the guidance of the legendary John Hammond. The sessions took place in the late 1970's, and included a remarkable group of musicians who continued to work together as they pursued their own individual projects. Contributing to The Flying Hearts in studio work, and occasionally in performance, were David Byrne, Rhys Chatham, Jon Gibson, Peter Gordon, Jerry Harrison, Garret List, Andy Paley, Lenny Pickett and Peter Zummo. From 1975 to 1979 this ensemble, together with Glenn Iamaro, Bill Ruyle and Jon Sholle, performed and recorded Russell's orchestral composition Instrumentals (Crepescule, 1984). Also around this time Russell began an association with The Kitchen, presenting a variety of artists not generally associated with the downtown New York music scene. This reflected his own interest in exploring connections between pop, dance and classical genres.

    In 1979 Russell wrote and produced "Kiss Me Again," under the name Dinosaur. It was the first disco single to be released by Sire Records, and the first of his many innovative dance tunes. This was followed by "Is It All Over My Face" by Loose Joints, released in 1980 (and still heard in dance clubs in 1993!). In 1982 Russell and Will Socolov founded Sleeping Bag Records and their first release was his 24-24 Music. The number "Go Bang," which originated from this album, was re-mixed as a single by Francois Kervorkian. It became a club hit and exerted a strong influence on the production and mixes of many later recordings. 24-24 Music incorporated Russell's ideas about the use of the recording studio as a factor in musical composition.

    In 1983, the album Tower of Meaning (Chatham Square) was released. This compelling and meditative recording, conducted by Julius Eastman, represents just a fragment of a much larger composition, which includes voices along with its instrumentation. At the same time, Russell continued to release dance singles such as "Tell You Today" (4th and Broadway, 1983), an upbeat dance groove featuring the vocals of Joyce Bowden. Additional dance tunes included "Wax The Van" (Jump Street, 1985) with Lola Blank, "Treehouse/Schoolbell" (Sleeping Bag, 1986) and "Let's Go Swimming" (Rough Trade, 1986).

    During the mid 1980's Russell gave many performances, either accompanying himself on cello with a myriad of effects, or working with a small ensemble consisting of Mustafa Ahmed, Steven Hall, Elodie Lauten and Peter Zummo. At this time, the influence of classical Indian music was very noticeable in his vocal and cello techniques. The poetry of his lyrics became more abstract as he blended voice with instrument. He presented his very personal singing and cello style at the Experimental Intermedia Foundation, Roulette, The Kitchen, Walker Arts Center and Boston's ICA. This music culminated in the release of World of Echo (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986), which incorporated many of his ideas for pop, dance and classical music for both solo and cello format. This critically acclaimed album was included in Melody Maker's "Top Thirty Releases of 1986."

    Russell also collaborated with a number of choreographers, including John Bernd, Diane Madden, Alison Salzinger and Stephanie Woodard.

    When Arthur Russell died of AIDS on April 4, 1992 at the age of 40, he left behind an enormous amount of professionally recorded material. To assemble the first posthumous Arthur Russell album for POINT Music, Mikel Rouse and Don Christensen catalogued some 500 reels. This resulted in the CD release Another Thought which focuses on Russell's solo songs written during the late 80's. In the obituary for Arthur Russell in the Village Voice, Kyle Gann wrote, "his songs were so personal that it seems as though he simply vanished into his music."

    —excerpted from:

    see Discography

    Approximately 700 reel-to-reel tapes exist in the collection of Tom Lee.




    Kiss Me Again (Sire Records, 1979)

    Is It All Over My Face (Loose Joints, 1980)

    Go Bang (Sleeping Bag Records, 1982)

    Tell You Today (4th and Broadway, 1983)

    Wax the Van (Jump Street, 1985)
    produced by: Bob & Lola Blank
    keyboards by: Arthur Russell, Kenny Blank
        A1. Kenny's Club Version (5:33)
        A2. Chery's Club (5:43)
        B1. Radio Edit (4:05)
        B2. Jon's Dub (7:11)

    Treehouse/Schoolbell (Sleeping Bag Records, 1986)

    Let's Go Swimming (Rough Trade, 1986)


    24-24 Music (Sleeping Bag Records, 1982)
        Go Bang

    Tower of Meaning (Chatham Square, 1983)

    Instrumentals (Crepuscule, 1984)

    World of Echo (Upside/Rough Trade, 1986)
        Place I know
        Kid Like You


    Arthur Russell: Another Thought (POINT Music, 1994)
    performed by: Arthur Russell, vocals & cello
        Another Thought
        A Little Lost
        Home Away From Home
        Lucky Cloud
        This Is How We Walk On The Moon
        Hollow Tree
        See Through Love
        Keeping Up
        In The Light Of The Miracle
        Lucky Cloud (return)
        Just A Blip
        Me For Real
        Losing My Taste For The Night Life
        My Tiger, My Timing
        A Sudden Chill
    Producer: Don Christensen
    Executive Producers: Philip Glass, Kurt Munkacsi, Rory Johnston


    • Obituary by Kyle Gann, Village Voice (date?)




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    Tom Lee (companion)
    437 East 12th Street
    New York, NY 10009
    (212) 477-3444


    Approximately 700 archival recordings in the possession of Tom Lee


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