JON HASSELL was born in Memphis, Tennessee. He earned degrees in music at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester and at Catholic University, in Washington, DC, and studied with Karlheinz Stockhausen in Europe. In the mid-sixties he performed and recorded with LaMonte Young and Terry Riley. He also began composing his own work, developing a collection of plans for "sound monuments", called the Landmusic Series. One of these was Solid State, an electronic work which combined the aesthetic of minimalism with the notion of the sculptural presence of sound; a tuned mass of sound surrounded the audience with vibrational forms evoking the imperceptible shift of sand dunes.
Since 1972 Hassell has studied classical Indian music of the Kirana tradition with the great vocal master, Pandit Pran Nath. Hassell adapted vocal techniques to the trumpet and developed a new style of playing which forms the basis of the musical setting he describes as "Fourth World--a unified primitive/futuristic sound combining features of world ethnic styles with advanced electronic techniques."
Vernal Equinox, released in 1978 by Lovely Music is considered to be Hassell's first "Fourth World" work. Hassell integrated his Kirana style trumpet with electronic effects and with subtly shifting synthesizer drones similar to those of Solid State, adding the sounds of ocean and birds and simple, evocative rhythm tracks.
Hassell's string quartet, Pano de Costa, commissioned by Kronos, is recorded on their album, White Man Sleeps. He has written the scores for several theater works, among them Magazzini Criminali's production of Sulla Strada for the Venice Biennale, which won an "Ubu" for best music for a theatrical work in the 1982 season, and he collaborated with director Peter Sellars on a play by the Russian futurist poet Velimir Khlebnikov entitled Zangezi, which was produced at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's "Next Wave Festival."
Jon Hassell tours with his own ensemble, and he often works with musicians from other musical cultures, such as his 1987 collaboration in concert (for "Serious Fun" at Lincoln Center) with Farafina, the eight member group of percussionists, singers and dancers from Burkina Faso in Africa.
He has also collaborated
with and performed on recordings by Brian Eno, Peter Gabriel, David Sylvian
and The Talking Heads.