The Alvin Curran Fakebook

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“The alvin curran fakebook” is an atypical autobiography in notated compositions, a journey through my musical thought and practice within and without the system, edited by Susan Levenstein. Not just sheet music but a multifaceted compendium, richly designed with photos, writings, and sketches, for anyone to pick through, enjoy, and make their own.  The more than 200 works range from raw sonic materials to conceptual musics, fragments, suggestions, itineraries, and completed compositions, containing no secret codes other than my own DNA. They can be played as is, recomposed, looped, arranged, freely improvised on, remixed, layered, spatialized, staged, troped on, or tripped on.  A resource and source of pleasure for composers, performers, improvisers, sound artists, scholars, teachers of composition and improvisation, fans, amateurs, terminal avant-gardists, bloggers, buskers, and art book lovers. 

In some of the 9 sections the music is written out for piano, but the possibilities of instrumentation are limited only by the imagination. The first section consists of SEQUENCES, simple strings of single tones that can be used to form looping patterns or as melodic or harmonic generators. The MELS were born as pure monophonic melodies but can also be played in quasi-unison by multiple instruments, or overlaid in precise or random ways.  The next sections are OCTAVES (rarefied pieces featuring the octave or extended octave interval), MUSIC IN TWO PARTS (just that), and BEATS (regular and irregular rhythmical patterns that swing, mostly but not only for percussion instruments).  The STRUMMZ, alternating or rapidly repeated tones or chords, can be used by any chord-capable instrument or ensemble.  The 3- and 4-part chorales in CHORAL REEFS, for any instruments or voices, bring triadic harmony to another brink.  Most of the SONGS AND DANCES, which were originally applied musics for theater, film, and dance, are presented in conventionally arranged lead sheets. The OPEN AIRES are large- and small-scale structured improvisations for voices and/or instruments, mostly performed outside the concert hall.

This “fakebook” is a democratic compost heap of musical scraps in the grand tradition of American experimental music.  Available for delectation and use by anyone “ – without artistic, social, or philosophical limits – interested in my work or in contemporary musical/performative practices in general. 

Click on any chapter's title page to see a sample ...


“The Alvin Curran Fakebook, gleaned from nearly 50 years of his own musical thought and practice, is offered as an anthology of "genuine 'unpopular' music" and also "an autobiography in notated sound.” Compact melodic cells, chorales and monophonic lines, germs of pulsing rhythmic structure, strumming patterns and shameless flirtations with the octave interval disclose, like entries in a journal, the tireless sparking of Curran's agile imagination.  Conventional notation can give only a partial account of his contribution to the expanded horizons of current music making . . . The pages of this beautifully produced book convey some sense of that creative scope through a selection of textual and graphic scores, quotations, allusive images, preparatory sketches and documentary photographs. "Sound and image together," Curran asserts, "create an infinity of meanings, timbres, energies and emotions that would be impossible to achieve using either alone." Susan Levenstein, his wife and collaborator on this project, proves that point through her own photographs and supervision of layout and graphics.  Images not only provide tantalising glimpses of concerts, art performances, dance events and maritime rites, but also reflect the daily context for Curran’s life as a musician - his flat in Rome, his studio and kitchen, plus the wider reality of a political rally and a police record of his handprints. "I write no frills music," Curran declares in one of the numerous quotations that pepper the Fakebook.  "It's very democratic and it usually gets you there." . . . His compositions have melodic strength and rhythmic vitality, and are free from doctrinaire complexity or elitist guile.  His decision to compile this Fakebook acknowledges an attachment to popular music that has continued to inform his own work at some level, even when most original, unorthodox and incisive.  Included here are excerpts from sophisticated compositions such as For Cornelius, On My Satin Harp, Inner Cities, Schtyx, Electric Rags 2 and VSTO.  These, along with many other fragments, scraps and distillations are presented generously "as pure source material for imaginative sonic elaboration". The invitation is not merely to consume but to use this book as a launchpad into other orbits, and readers with basic competence and beyond will find multiple points of departure."
– Julian Cowley, The Wire Magazine, November 2015

“A beautiful and impressive book.  It not only shows the broad variety of Curran's musical thinking but is really, more generally, a book about the possibilities of musics in the 20th and 21st centuries.  A precious collection.”
- Björn Gottstein, SWR New Music Producer, Director of the Donaueschinger Musiktage Festival


“A treasure trove of musical source materials by an illustrious avant-garde provocateur.” – David W. Bernstein, Mills College

“An inspiring and varied collection of music by a true maverick who has always been ahead of the curve.” - John Zorn, composer

“I haven't received something this cool and mindblowing in longer than I can remember.” – Peter Garland, composer

“I had a Fake Book in the 50s that I used extensively throughout my career as a strolling accordionist. Now we have the Alvin Curran Fake Book to bring us to the center of experimental music.” – Pauline Oliveros, composer

“Alvin is a master of both melody and rhythm and, in the tradition of Cage, Monk, Lacy, brings a new twist to the American fakebook!” - William Winant, percussionist

“Alvin Curran is one of the greats of the American experimental music tradition. Here in his captivating Fake Book is the evidence of that investigative drive, containing as it does a plethora of gems from his inexhaustible creativity.” - Jon Rose, composer

“Playing Alvin Curran's marathon piano cycle Inner Cities is one of the real joys in my musical life. When one plays the music of a composer one reads the musical text and then translates the musical symbols into real sound, trying to enter the composer's mind. The alvin curran fakebook gives the reader exactly that possibility.  One can read/play/imagine the musical excerpts, read the texts, watch the imagery and enter a unique world of beauty, imagination and poetry . . . the artistic universe of one of the great artists of our time.” “ Daan Vandewalle, pianist

“Could this man run a carnival?  The answer to this question and many more are in the Fake Book. Notes (lots of notes), puns, photographs, throw away gems, profundities, anecdotes and maxims…the autobiography of a man who has been making music all his life with everyone who ever did anything interesting in the rag bag called New Music. Alvin is one of the great individuals who have illuminated the path in music for my whole life.” – Evan Parker, saxophonist

"Alvin Curran is a musician capable of wonderful excess and here is a book of a lot of it... It's directly accessible. You can get into a good musical conversation.” – Christian Wolff, composer

“He may have titled this a “Fake Book,” but Alvin Curran is the real deal, the last maestro in an age of extinction.  An extraordinary, magical tome.” – Benjamin Piekut, Cornell University

“An inspiration.” – Edmund Campion, composer

“For instructions in fakery there are a very few people in whom I would place my trust. Alvin Curran is one of them.” – David Toop, composer

“Fatbook, Fakebook, Bik, Bok, Bak, Book, Great, Book, Thank, You, Curran, Alvin, Fakebook, To be read at leisure or really fast for/words or back/words.” - Mike Cooper, guitarist

“Alvin’s notes bring encouragement to rediscover the magic of notation.” - Robin Rimbaud / Scanner, sound artist

“The Fake Book is great.” – Roscoe Mitchell, composer

“A treasure-trove of overflowing riches. Filled with Ideas upon ideas from a mind overflowing with musicality, joy, and vitality, Curran’s collection is an indispensable source of pleasure and inspiration.”  – Yotam Haber, composer

“An essential archive which allows us a peek into the brilliant musical mind that is Alvin Curran.  Thematic offerings pave the way for the most oblique, obsessive and eccentric be-bopper, post- and pre- minimalist, improvisor, impersonator, non- and consummate academic, ethno- and underground digger, and just plain you-and-me: this book has something for everyone.” - Arnold Dreyblatt, composer

“I've been enjoying the fake book, playing it on the piano every day.” – Tom Johnson, composer

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