Richard Maxfield (1927 – 1969) was born in Seattle, Washington. His musical aptitude was revealed at a young age, playing
both piano and clarinet as a child, the latter in the Seattle All-Youth Orchestra. He also began composing in high school,
largely exploring neoclassical and twelve-tone serialism. After a year in the Navy, he enrolled at Stanford University for
one year (where reportedly campus station KZSU played his music) but transferred in 1947 to U.C. Berkeley to study with Roger
Sessions after having heard his work on the radio. Graduating in 1951, Maxfield traveled to Europe on a scholarship, where
he met Boulez, Stockhausen, and Nono, and was introduced to the electronic tape music which would guide his work from
then on. Maxfield also studied with Krenek, Babbitt, Copland, Maderna, and Dallapiccola, but was ultimately influenced the
most by the work of John Cage, whom he met through Christian Wolff in 1958. Maxfield would employ chance as a compositional
tool, at times drawing strips of tape from a glass bowl, not unlike a bingo game.
Richard Maxfield’s music was presented at Fluxus events, the Living Theatre, and other loft performances beginning in the
late 1950s. He composed music for dance, and was musical director of the James Waring Dance Company. Maxfield was friend
and mentor to Lamonte Young, who performed his works extensively beginning in the early 1960s. Young’s MELA Foundation is
custodian for Maxfield’s archive.
Outside of composing, Maxfield wrote essays, produced a film (“An Introduction to New Music”), and worked as freelance audio
engineer (one regular client was Westminster Records from 1960-1962), but he was far more involved with music education.
In fact, New Grove's Dictionary of Music calls him "the first teacher of electronic music techniques in the United States."
Maxfield taught at the New School in New York City in 1959 (taking over a class taught by Cage) and later at San Francisco
State in 1966 and 1967. He moved to Los Angeles the following year. On June 27, 1969, Richard Maxfield, then 42 years old,
jumped out of a window of the Figueroa Hotel.
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