by Frederick D. Fairchild
(b. Paris, France Dec. 22, 1883; d. Nov. 6, 1965)
Edgard Varese is recognized as an important innovator in percussion composition and orchestration. Dissatisfied with the conservative bent of his early musical training, he finally found encouragement in Berlin from people such as Richard Strauss, only to have his composing and conducting career interrupted by World War I. He moved to the United States after a stint in the French Army and there became a champion of contemporary music through his conducting of new-music concerts, composing, and writing. Varese’s orchestration eventually utilized large percussion sections and was often very rhythmic in nature, while at the same time taking advantage of unique and startling timbres. He is best known among percussionists for his 1931 composition "Ionization," which is one of the earliest percussion ensembles and most important pieces in the percussion repertoire.