Richard Maxfield (1927-1969) was an American composer of electro-acoustic and electronic music. Maxfield was born in Seattle and wrote his first symphony when he was still in high school. After having served in the US Navy for a year he attended Stanford University but soon switched to the University of California, where he studied with Roger Sessions from 1947 to 1951. After his graduation he was awarded the Hertz Prize, which allowed him to study with Ernst Krenek in Los Angeles and travel through Europe. There he met Pierre Boulez and Karlheinz Stockhausen and got in touch with electronic music. From 1953 to 1955 he studied in the US with Aaron Copland, Roger Sessions and Milton Babbitt until a Fulbright Scholarship enabled him to return to Europe, where he studied with Luigi Dallapiccola and Bruno Maderna and met John Cage. Back in the US in 1958 he attended Cage’s courses at the New School in NYC and a year later he replaced Cage, becoming the first American to teach purely electronic music. From 1960 to 1961 La Monte Young studied electronic music with Maxfield and soon became his teaching assistant. Young developed into one of the principal performers of Maxfield’s work. Maxfield’s most productive years were from 1959 to 1964, during which he completed at least 24 compositions. In New York’s first loft concert series, directed by La Monte Young at Yoko Ono’s studio in 1960 and 1961, Young presented two evenings of Maxfield’s work as well as concerts of the works of Jennings and other artists who were creating new and radical work at that time. David Tudor, Terry Riley, Terry Jennings, Dick Higgins and George Maciunas were some of the other artists with whom Maxfield worked. He was Musical Director of the James Waring Dance Company and his work was performed regularly in major concert series, at the Living Theatre, and for dances by Aileen Passloff and Paul Taylor. In 1967 Maxfield left his tape music, scores and equipment in the care of Walter De Maria. He moved to San Francisco, where he taught at San Francisco State College in 1966 and 1967. He moved to Los Angeles in 1968. In 1969 Maxfield, whose drug addiction was getting worse and worse, committed suicide by jumping out a window of the LA Figueroa Hotel at the age of 42.
The second Richard Maxfield anthology released on Slowscan contains four compositions: ‘Electronic Symphony’ (1964), ‘Dromenon’ (1964), ‘Suite From Peripateia’ (1950-1961) and ‘Wind’ (1961). All recordings courtesy of Dick Higgins.