Oakland, California's Mills College, a small liberal arts women's college with an all-gender grad program, announced that it will close its doors in the next few years due to financial challenges. This marks the end of this institution of higher learning but also the silencing of an incredibly-influential experimental music scene that really defined the genre over the last 60+ years. After all, Mills College's music program and Center for Contemporary Music was a fertile creative playground for the likes of former Center director Pauline Oliveros (photo above), Steve Reich, Terry Riley, current Center director Maggi Payne (photo below), William Winant, Marielle Jakobsons (Date Palms), Anthony Braxton, Lou Harrison, Laetitia Sonami, Robert Ashley, Sarah Davachi, and so many others. Yes, they were all there at one time or another. Amazing. Here's Geeta Dayal writing in the New York Times:
As the personal computer revolution was taking hold in the nearby Silicon Valley, experiments with home-brew electronics and microcomputers, like those of David Behrman, were common at Mills, where technology had long been at home through the Center for Contemporary Music. Serendipitous moments abounded: As a student in the '70s, John Bischoff remembers running into David Tudor, renowned as a collaborator with John Cage, in the hallway and being asked to assist with recording Tudor's work "Microphone." William Winant said he found an original instrument built by the composer and inveterate inventor Harry Partch hidden under the stage in the concert hall.
"It felt like utopia: an environment where students are encouraged, and given the support they need, to pursue any and all ideas that came to mind, free from the stifling pressures of capitalism," said Seth Horvitz, an electronic composer who records under the name Rrose.
Students built their own instruments and sound installations, exhilarated by the freedom to do what they wanted. "We commandeered every square inch of the music studio and surrounding areas," said the composer Ben Bracken, "putting up rogue installations in the courtyards, hallways and hidden rooms, inviting friends to perform in inflatable bubbles, screening Kenneth Anger films in the amphitheater with live studio accompaniments, Moog studio late nights that bled into morning."
"Is the Music Over at Mills College?" (New York Times)
top photo of Oliveros: David Bernstein/Mills College