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Maryanne Amacher in Oakland, 1993. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Blank Forms /The Estate of Maryanne Amacher.
Maryanne Amacher in Oakland, 1993. Photographer unknown. Courtesy of Blank Forms /The Estate of Maryanne Amacher.

New York Public Library Acquires Archive of Sound Art Pioneer Maryanne Amacher

The Brooklyn-based nonprofit Blank Forms has announced the formation of the Maryanne Amacher Foundation and the donation of the American composer and sound artist’s archives to the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center. The material, which was assembled shortly before Amacher’s death in 2009, includes more than one-thousand reel-to-reel tapes, a collection of writings, annotated drafts, project notes, performance materials, concert posters, and ephemera as well as some custom-made electronic music tools, which will be cared for by the foundation.

“Blank Forms was founded with the mission of establishing new frameworks to preserve and present the time-based and interdisciplinary practices of underrepresented experimental artists like Maryanne Amacher,” said Blank Forms director Lawrence Kumpf. “Standard methodologies developed around painters or orchestral composers, for example, are insufficient to capture the more ephemeral practices now pervasive in a post-disciplinary production. Working with Amacher’s archive has represented a unique opportunity to explore these new models for archiving the composers of the future and may serve as a prototype for other composers and artists of her generation.”

Born in Pennsylvania in 1938, Amacher became a pianist before she studied composition at the University of Pennsylvania under the tutelage of German avant-garde composer Karlheinz Stockhausen. Following her graduate studies, Amacher went on to hold many fellowships including one at SUNY-Buffalo in the 1960s. While at the university, she began creating “long distance music,” telematic and site-related works. Among her most well known pieces are three muiltimedia installation series: “City Links,” “Music for Sound Joined Rooms,” and the “Mini Sound Series.” 

Jonathan Hiam, curator of the music and recorded sound division at the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, added, “Her collection provides a fascinating glimpse into the creative process of a truly unique artist. Making the collection available alongside our other holdings of Amacher’s peers and collaborators, like John Cage, also gives the public an understanding of the creative community she thrived in and influenced. We’re looking forward to seeing how researchers and artists use the collection to find inspiration and understand Amacher’s history and legacy.”

To celebrate the launch of the foundation and the donation of her archives, Amy Cimini and Bill Dietz will lead a conversation about the artist and the highlights from the collection on Thursday, March 12, at the Library for the Performing Arts.