Newt Hinton Pages: Contents

Summary
Biographie (en français)
Vilnius Café : A program note
Biography (in English)
Chronology
The Newt Hinton Ensemble
Contacts

Summary

The American composer Newt Hinton was born near Detroit in 1944, and died in Buenos Aires on March 3rd, 1994. Inspired greatly by Cocteau, Richard Serra, and Dali, he created "Dangerous Music" for classical and contemporary performers.

His documented works include:

  • Maybe Tomorrow, for piano and firework(s) - 1:30
  • The Venus and Apollo Monument, orchestral work, lost. - 50:00?
  • Trois Haiku Japponaises, piano and cloches - 5:00
  • Rinse and Spit, for piano and dental drills - 1:37
  • Piece of Cake (Vilnius Café), for pianist in handcuffs - 3:15
  • Another Anchor, cello and harmonica - 10:00
  • First Symphony, med. ens. - 6:00

Newt Hinton Biographie

Compositeur et musicologue
(English biography follows)
3 mars 1940 - 3 mars 1994

Né près de Détroit, où son père tenait un magasin de chaussures, Newt Eugene Hinton va à l'école publique et étudie la musique dès son plus jeune âge avec sa mère, violoniste amateur émigrée de Lituanie. Le jeune Newt étudie par la suite la trompette et prend des cours d'harmonica avec Anthony "Ray" Mindle, un ami d'enfance de son père.

Après avoir quitté l'Université, il se met à voyager plus que de raison et devient un expert des musiques du Canada et des états baltes, préférant ce climat plus rude, il passe beaucoup de temps à collectionner les chants folkloriques des tribus du Nord Québec, avant de partir pour Paris en 1963. Sa connaissance et sa perspicacité en tant qu' anthropologue musical est alors à son sommet. Mais ses idées non conventionnelles étaient en avance sur leur temps, et aucun de ses livres ne fut jamais publié. The Other Didjeridoo une théorie radicale, surprenante et avant-gardiste des mélodies australiennes fut publiée sous forme de feuilletons dans un journal musical suédois, mais la revue déposa son bilan l'année suivante. Les six derniers chapitres sont perdus.

A la suite de ce revers de fortune, Hinton quitta Paris pour Madagascar, où à nouveau ses idées et son talent allaient être superbement ignorés. Paris était en proie à des révoltes étudiantes quand il y retourna en été 68. C'est dans cette chaude atmosphère que Newt commence à composer ses premières pièces, essentiellement basées sur des improvisations à caractère politique et destinées à être jouées dans les rues. Mais après deux mois, sa femme Gumi A disparut pendant les évennements, Hinton retourne dans sa famille et loue une chambre dans les environs d'Inkster (Michigan).

Les années qui suivirent furent les plus productives : Notamment la première de ses huit symphonies, la sonate pour violoncelle et harmonica, ainsi que plusieurs oeuvres mineures mais d'avant-garde.

En 1972 The midnight shadow ouverture était refusée par l'Orchestre Scratch. Hinton s'empressa alors d'achever le Venus and Apollo Monument (1974) une immense pièce orchestrale et théâtrale d'extérieur pour 2 grands choeurs et orchestre, cor des Alpes et matériel de construction. Son travail fut tourné en dérision et Hinton finit par brûler la partition, ainsi que la plupart des parties en 1976. L'oeuvre ne fut jamais jouée et Hinton s'arrêta de composer. Après une courte période dans le commerce de la chaussure, Hinton se mit à vendre des cosmétiques au porte à porte. Durant cette période il se replia sur lui même et écrivit des milliers de Haikus alors qu'il sillonnait l'ouest américain.

En 1992, Newt refit soudainement surface, retourna à Paris, et loua un minuscule appartement dans le onzième arrondissement. Il édita le recueil de Haikus avec l'aide d'un romancier suédois et les publia à compte d'auteur sous le titre de Gumi A.

Désespérément sans argent après le triste échec de son livre, Hinton commença à écrire pour des magazines parmi lesquels Le Paris New Music Review, et composa 24 pièces miniatures pour piano solo, basées sur les études de Chopin. La plus connue reste Maybe tomorrow (1994) pour piano et feux d'artifice.
Plusieurs de ces pièces furent publiées rapidement par les Editions Bruteleg.

Il meurt soudainement durant ses vacances à Buenos Aires en 1994. Il avait exactement 54 ans.

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A Program Note

Program note for Vilnius Café premiere... Pianist Guy Livingston gave the official world premiere on Saturday, October 28th at the IJsbreker in Amsterdam. The French premiere was at the American Embassy in Paris on November 16, 1995. U.S. Ambassador Pamela Harriman sent a short note to the Newt Hinton Foundation on that occasion expressing her ongoing support of American artists and artistic freedom.
The American composer Newton “Newt” Hinton was born in 1944 in Detroit, Michigan, and died in March of 1994. He was much influenced by a chance meeting with John Cage in New York in 1968. His short life was fraught with controversy, and most of his works were never performed. Hinton became chiefly known as a musicolgist, especially through his research on Australian Aboriginal music, and also South African native music.

“Vilnius Café,” originally entitled “Dinner at the Vilnius Café,” was sketched out in 1993, but was never performed. The work, in which the pianist performs an Etude of Chopin in handcuffs, may be an ironic reference to Stravinsky’s dictum, “Great art likes chains.”

The text for Vilnius Café is from Italo Calvino’s short story “La Nuvola di Smog” (the Cloud of Smog). [1958, Giulio Einaudi, Ed. Torino]

That was a time when I didn’t give a damn about anything, the period when I came to settle in this city. Settle is the wrong term. I had no desire to be settled in any sense; I wanted everything around me to remain flowing, temporary, because I felt it was the only was to save my inner stabilty, though what that consisted of, I couldn’t have said.
(end of program note)

Swedish musicologist Anders Jallen writes of Hinton's Scandinavian and Baltic trips during the winters of '59 and '65: “These were hard and dark winters. There are two main currents prevailing in his musical production, results of these visits in the far-north European countries: A constant search for new geographical direction, and a fascination with Scandinavian mythology and numerology, which would in turn be the basis for his “Elk-Haiku” series in the early 70’s.”
Hinton’s experiences were particularly unusual for an American, as he had ventured so far off the beaten path. Though later he would become fond of Paris (living there during the early 90's) he described himself in an interview before his death... "I'm a loner; you know; I never really knew if I was doing the right thing, and I could tell other people didn't know either, so I just wanted to be as far away from them as possible."
--quoted from the American Music Center's New Music Box Magazine, Summer 2001.

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Newt Hinton Biography

composer and musicologist
March 3rd, 1940 - March 3rd, 1994

Born near Detroit, where his father owned a shoe store, Newton Eugene Hinton went to a local public school, and studied music from an early age with his mother, an amateur violinist who had emigrated from Lithuania. The young Newt later studied trumpet, and took harmonica lessons with Anthony “Ray” Mindle, one of his father’s schoolfriends.

After dropping out of high school, he began to travel widely and became an expert on the musics of Canada and the Baltic states, preferring these colder climates, and spending large amounts of time collecting folksongs from the native tribes of Northern Québeq, before moving to Paris in 1963. His knowledge and insight as a musical-anthropologist was outstanding.

But his unconventional ideas were well ahead of his time, and none of his books were ever published. “The Other Didjeridoo,” an early and surprisingly radical theory of Australian Songlines, was serialized and issued in installments by a Swedish musical journal in 1964, but when the journal folded the subsequent year, the remaining six chapters were lost.

At this setback, Hinton left Paris for Madagascar, where again his insights were to be virtually unrecognized. Paris was in the throes of the student riots when he returned via Moscow in the spring of 68. It was in this heady atmosphere that Hinton began composing his first music: mostly politically charged improvisations to be performed in the streets. But after a few months, Hinton returned to his family, and rented a room in nearby Inkster, Michigan.

That summer he met Cage in Canada. Cage encouraged Hinton to pursue composing, and Newt returned to Michigan with new-found enthusiasm. The years that followed were his most productive: Notably the 1st through 8th symphonies, the cello and harmonica sonata, and several minor but vanguard works.

Cornelius Cardew arranged one of the only performances of a large-scale work of Hinton’s, when “The Midnight Shadow Overture,” was played in London by his Scratch Orchestra. Hinton then raced to complete the “Venus and Apollo Monument,” (1974) an enormous outdoor orchestral-theatrical work for 2 large choruses, orchestra, alphorn choir, and construction equipment. But the work was ridiculed and Hinton later burned the score and most of the parts in 1976 or 77. The work was never performed and Hinton stopped composing. After a brief period in the shoe business, Hinton began selling cosmetics door-to-door. During this period he turned inward, writing haiku poetry as he travelled the American Midwest.

In 1992, Newt suddenly resurfaced, returned to Paris, and rented a tiny apartment in the 11th arrondissement. He edited the haikus with the help of a Swedish novelist, and published them privately under the title “Gumi A.”

Desperate for money after the failure of the book, Hinton began writing for magazines, and composed a series of 24 miniature pieces for solo piano, based on the Chopin Etudes. The most well-known of these is “Maybe Tomorrow” (1994) for piano and firework(s).
Several of these works were published by his impromptu Bruteleg Press.

He died suddenly while on vacation in Buenos Aires in 1994. He was exactly 54 years old.

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Chronology
1940 Born in Detroit
1957 Quits high school
1960 Northern Québeq
1963 Moves to Paris
1965? Finland?
1965 Madagascar
1968 Studies in Moscow, briefly returns to Paris
First compositions
1968-76 Michigan; Symphonies 1-8
1969 “Another Anchor”
1972 “Midnight Shadow Overture”
1974 “Venus and Apollo Monument”
1976 Burns scores, quits composing
1976-91 Travelling salesman
1992 Returns to France; resumes composing
1993 Publishes “Gumi A.” (book); “Trois Haiku Japonaises”
“Dinner at the Vilnius Café”
“Three Dangerous Pieces”
1994 Dies in Buenos Aires

Newt Hinton Foundation

The Newt Hinton Ensemble