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Arthur Russell

About this Artist

Arthur Russell (1951 – 1992) was a cellist, vocalist and composer known for his fusion of classical and popular music.

Originally from Oskaloosa, Iowa, Arthur traveled to the west coast in 1970 joining a Buddhist commune and studying Indian classical composition at the Ali Akbar Khan College in Marin County. In 1971 Arthur met and performed with Allen Ginsberg who brought him to New York for a recording session produced by John Hammond that also included Bob Dylan, Perry Robinson, and Happy Traum.

Arthur moved to New York in 1973 to study at the Manhattan School of Music. Quickly gravitating to the then burgeoning downtown music scene, Arthur wrote and performed his minimal compositions, including the bubblegum pop inspired “Instrumentals”, and was music director at the Kitchen in 1974, along with recording his own pop songs for John Hammond.

Throughout his life Arthur collaborated with a who’s who of some of New York’s most influential artists including Christian Wolf, John Cage, Peter Gordon, Peter Zummo, Ernie Brooks, Jon Gibson, Mustafa Ahmed, Rhys Chatham, Jill Kroesen, David Byrne, Laurie Anderson, Larry Levan, Phillip Glass, Robert Wilson, Julius Eastman, Arnold Dreyblatt, Walter Gibbons and Phill Niblock.

Russell’s music shifted dramatically in 1977 after an unexpected visit to a disco. Inspired by the sonic repetition and sense of community, Arthur wrote and recorded some of the most influential records of the disco era including “Kiss Me Again,” “Is It All Over My Face,” and “Go Bang”. By 1984 Arthur began stretching the boundaries of disco and composition, becoming entranced with echo, and its use in his own songwriting. The completed album, World of Echo combined Arthur’s rich composition skills with echo, feedback, voice and cello, and remains one the most influential documents of the era as a work of timeless beauty.

When Arthur Russell died from complications due to AIDS in 1992, he left an overwhelming archive of unreleased material that has since been rereleased and compiled by Audika Records in association with Arthur’s partner Tom Lee. As a cellist, songwriter, composer, and disco visionary, Arthur Russell consistently challenged our expectations of what pop music could be.