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Udo Kasemets: Biography

Udo Kasemets
1919 - 2014
Region: Ontario

Udo Kasemets

UDO KASEMETS was born November 16, 1919 in Tallinn, Estonia. His academic music training took place at the Tallinn Conservatory and Stuttgart Academy of Music. In 1950 he attended the Kranichstein Institute for New Music in Darmstadt and was exposed to teachings by Ernst Krenek, Edgard Varèse and Hermann Scherchen. A year later he immigrated to Canada and in 1957 became a Canadian citizen.

During the 1950's Kasemets was active in Toronto and Hamilton as composer, conductor, pianist, teacher, lecturer and writer. He composed in conventional styles, first strictly tonally, then using more dissonant attitudes and finally adopting the dodecaphonic system, working within it throughout the 1950's. Around 1960 he totally abandoned the above concepts and moved toward open forms, special notations, mixed media, audio-visual interactions, sound texts and electroacoustics.

In 1962-63 Kasemets organized Toronto's first new music series: Men, Minds and Music and followed it up in 1965 with the establishment of the Isaacs Gallery Mixed Media Concerts. He continued in 1968 by planning and directing the first Toronto Festival of Arts and Technology entitled SightSoundSystems and during the late 1960's he founded and edited a new music publication series, Canavangard, while travelling, performing and lecturing in Canada and the United States.

Kasemets, in 1971, joined the Faculty of the Department of Experimental Art at the Ontario College of Art where he taught until retiring in 1987, after which he was appointed Visiting Lecturer Emeritus. In the late 1970's and through the 1980's Kasemets continued to organize such celebrations and festivals as John Cage's 65th and 75th birthday, Marcel Duchamp's centennial as well as Counterbomb Renga, a continent-wide chain of poetry and music writing against nuclear weaponry.

For Kasemets the most significant influences came from diverse sources which include composers, writers, thinkers, inventors, and visual artists. The I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, plays a major role in the structuring of most of his more recent works. Today, Kasemets continues as a free-lance composer and mover.


PROCAN, Canadian League of Composers


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