Lou Cohen

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Lou Cohen Music


mailto: loucohen AT jolc DOT net



shape01 (mp3)
shape02 (mp3)
shape03 (mp3)
shape04 (mp3)
shape05: Homage To Cage 1 (mp3)
Homage To Cage 2 (mp3)
Harmonies (mp3)
Circles 2004


The improvisations were played in a single take each, using a Macintosh computer, a track ball as mouse input, stereo amplifier with speakers and a microphone for including live input. Software: MacCsound and Csound.

Improvisation, 30 May 2007, .mp4, 10:27
Improvisation, 27 May 2007, .mp4, 21:33
Improvisation, 27 April 2007, .mp4, 10:30

Recordings of live performances:

Improvisation, May 2009, .mp3
Improvisation, 26 March 2010, .mp3
2lous with Joe Burgio, .mp3


The links below are to individual clips. Please contact the composer for a DVD scripted for random sequencing of the clips.

Gesture 1
Gesture 2
Gesture 3
Gesture 4
Gesture 5
Gesture 6
Gesture 7
Gesture 8
Gesture 9
Gesture 10
Gesture 11
Gesture 12
Gesture 13
Gesture 14

Also, search Youtube for “loucohen”


Lou Cohen has composed music since age 12. He studied mathematics at MIT, and has studied music privately. Composition teachers include John Cage, Ernst Levy and Alan Kemler. He studied harpsichord and early music performance practice with John Gibbons. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

Readings that have influenced him a great deal: Joseph Schillinger’s “The Mathematical Basis of the Arts” and “The Schillinger System of Musical Composition”; and Iannis Xenakis’s “Formalized Music”

In the early 60s Cohen promoted new music in the Boston area by producing concerts in collaboration with Christian Wolff, in which the New York School was heavily represented. For a long time afterwards he composed in isolation. In April 2004 he produced his first concert in more than 40 years, in collaboration with the electro-acoustic group ONDA.

Since then he has appeared as a laptop improviser in numerous concerts in the Greater Boston area. His collaborations with video artist Bebe Beard, and his own computer animations have been shown in many galleries throughout the United States, and in film festivals around the world.

He is co-director of Opensound, a Greater Boston concert series featuring electro-acoustic improvisation. Opensound is sponsored in part by the Somerville Arts Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.

Software used

Csound, Java, Logic, Digital Performer, Motion, Final Cut Pro, DVD Studio Pro


Cohen is committed to serial and algorithmic techniques since learning about this approach from Cage in 1958. His early model was Webern. During the 60’s and 70’s computers were too expensive to be available to individuals; Cohen had to wait until 1980 to have access to his own computer.

Starting in 1980 he has developed his own software to implement serial and algorithmic compositional methods, and has composed many pieces in this way. His music makes use of mathematical techniques borrowed from group theory, probability theory, design of experiments, and a range of algebraic and geometrical methods.

For sound generation he mainly uses Csound. His current focus is on granular synthesis. In earlier pieces this technique was achieved by writing or to front-end software to create scores for Csound. Most recently (as in “shape01”) he uses Csound itself to generate the desired score events. He is also working on live, multi-media performances powered by Csound and other custom software.

Photo taken at a concert at Rhode Island College.

Notes for "Circles 2004"

License: Creative Commons: Attribution-Sharealike

In Csound, Cohen set up single “instrument” that produces sounds which depend on eight parameters. These parameters define an 8-dimensional “space” within which one might envision any number of 2-dimensional circles, oriented in a variety of ways, possibly touching each other.

The circumference of a circle defines a set of points in this space, and these points represent various values of the 8 parameters, corresponding to various sounds. If we traverse a circle and played each corresponding sound as we encountered it, we would hear a sequence of sounds, changing slightly from point to point on the circle, but evolving substantially once we were half-way around the circle. If we continue along the circle, we eventually get back to where we started, making a nice structural framework for a piece of music.

There is not just one circle in the piece; there are six. For the first 3 minutes we hear the music of two circles, tangent to each other, one assigned to each stereo channel. The paths along the circles start at the point of tangency with identical sounds, then diverge in different directions, one following each circle. After 3 minutes they come back to the starting point, and therefore we hear the same sound they both started with.

Next we hear two different circles, also tangent to the same point as the first two, but otherwise oriented differently in the 8-dimensional space. They take 6 minutes to traverse their paths, also starting on this same pivotal sound, but diverging differently than do the first pair of circles. After 6 minutes these paths have returned to the starting point, which is of course the starting point of the first two circles, fixed on .

Circles 2004


video, animation and sound
by Bebe Beard and Lou Cohen

“Gestures” are flourishes, formulas and ritual acts that ornament the language of conventional art. Visual gestures include the image of the outstretched hand, the bowed head, the upturned eyes. Musical gestures include the trill, the cadence, the refrain.

Viewers and listeners of art from the past expect and rely on gestures to interpret and appreciate the paintings, sculptures, sonatas and operas.

In “Gestures,” video artist Bebe Beard and composer Lou Cohen have created a set of visual and sonic flourishes and formulas suitable for the 21st century. The work consists of a collection of audio/video clips that are played from a DVD in random sequence. During any one performance, clips will be played once, a few times, or not at all.

Cohen’s audio springs from a simple pattern (the ‘gesture’) that morphs into complex textures, then returns to the starting pattern and (again, the familiar ‘gesture’.)

Beard’s imagery is developed from a variety of moving video capture devices. The visual material consists of video footage and still photographs of dozens of foam board assemblages filled with colored shapes. Movement quality as well as the assemblage itself constitute the ‘gesture’. In addition Beard exploits the qualities provided by capture devices including cameras and high resolution cameras.

Beard’s editing of this material, and Cohen’s animations of the same material, provides intimate commentary on Cohen’s sounds.

tags: experimental artist audio mp3 mp4 algorithmic csound video animation composer composition