Hear Alvin Here

20 September 2023 – 17 March 2024
#Chamber Music

On the occasion of his first institutional retrospective, American musician and composer Alvin Curran (Providence, Rhode Island, 1938) traces more than fifty years of his music and collaborations, while also recounting his relationship with the city of Rome where he has lived and worked since 1965. Curran’s Roman history extends from Musica Elettronica Viva (1966), Fabio Sargentini’s Attico Gallery (1967), and the Beat ‘72 (1973) to Renato Nicolini, Mario Pieroni and Dora Stiefelmeier’s Radio Arte Mobile, and Hou Hanru’s MAXXI.

Through a new sound work—a mixtape comprising of fragments from numerous works—Curran leads the audience on an autobiographical listening journey from his early career in the late 1950s to his most recent work. From free improvisation to Fluxus, from compositions for shiphorns to music for orchestra and piano, to artificial intelligence and the compositions for Maria Monti and Memè Perlini, Hear Alvin Here offers an overview that allows us to trace in detail many of the central nodes of experimental music since the second half of the 20th century.


In this new piece Curran looks back at his own work, freely mixing different styles, periods, and languages, referencing multiplicitous elements of his production and playing with the infinite possible combinations offered by his vast repertoire of compositions and sounds. In the world he evokes, everything can coexist, from popular music to free improvisation, often punctuated by the continual presence of the piano, his instrument of choice since early childhood.


After his musical training in the United States, Curran’s relocation to Rome represents a pivotal moment in his life, giving rise to a series of formative encounters and collaborations. Here in the spring of ‘66, together with Frederic Rzewski and Richard Teitelbaum, he founded Musica Elettronica Viva, an experimental collective devoted to acoustic and electronic improvisation. In the early 1970s Curran began his work as a solo performer. This was an incredibly prolific period that included such seminal solo works as Canti E Vedute Del Giardino Magnetico (1973), Fiori Chiari, Fiori Oscuri (1974), Canti Illuminati (1975), and The Works (1980), all first performed at major venues of the Rome avant-garde. In the following decades Curran has worked tirelessly as a composer, performer, teacher, improviser, and sound artist, making use of the most diverse types of sound sources, including traditional instruments, electronically generated sounds, and field recordings. Over the years his projects have become ever more diverse, ranging from solo performances, music for dance and theater, chamber and orchestra music, and radio works, to vast pieces of musical choreography and site-specific installations, while a desire to take music outside of designated listening spaces became central to his work. Curran’s practice has always been dedicated to “the restoration of dignity to the profession of making non-commercial music as part of a personal search for future social, political and spiritual forms.”


With his irreverent and “traditionally experimental” approach, Curran has tested new forms of composition, performance, and unprecedented interaction with audiences, while collaborating with artists of all disciplines and playing in unconventional venues. Hear Alvin Here is thus a tribute to the long career of this often-elusive figure who has become central to the history of music as well as to contemporary culture writ large.



ALVIN CURRAN (Providence, Rhode Island, 1938) has lived and worked in Rome since 1965. He studied with Ron Nelson, Elliott Carter, and Mel Powell. In 1966 with Frederic Rzewski and Richard Teitelbaum he co-founded the collective Musica Elettronica Viva. Curran has taught at Rome’s National Academy of Theater Arts (1975–1980), Mills College (1991–2006), and the Mainz Hochschule für Musik (2011), among others. He has published extensively on music, his own music, and that of other artists; he has staged thousands of live performances, and his discography includes more than thirty solo and sixty collaborative recordings; his sound art works have been exhibited in various international institutions. A book about his work, Alvin Curran: Live in Roma, was edited by Daniela Tortora (Die Schachtel, 2010), and The Alvin Curran Fakebook, an illustrated compendium of notated pieces was published in 2015. 



Cover image: Alvin Curran, Rome, 1980. Photo: Adriano Mordenti.



Curator: Luca Lo Pinto
Curatorial Coordinator: Vasco Forconi
Production Coordinator: Giulia Caruso
Art Handlers: Fabio Pennacchia, Matteo Pompili

The exhibition is promoted by Assessorato alla Cultura di Roma Capitale and Azienda Speciale Palaexpo.