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Other Minds Archives Headed for UC Santa Cruz

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From a concert at the Other Minds Festival in 2015, "OM 20." Maja SK Ratkje (L), Frode Haltli (C), Kathy Hinde (R). (Courtesy: Mike Melnyk)

Other Minds, the San Francisco-based champion of avant-garde music, has found a home for its archives at UC Santa Cruz.

Laurie Anderson at OM 3
Laurie Anderson at OM 3 (Courtesy John Fago)

For Other Minds’ executive and artistic director Charles Amirkhanian, this development a dream come true. “I’ve been working on this for years,” Amirkhanian says.  “I always intended to have a collection of materials in a library. Our history often gets lost. I’ve saved every letter sent to me by a composer, every CD. I’m also happy these materials end up in a place where the teachers are sympathetic to the music.”

The non-profit he started has been championing experimental jazz and classical music for more than 20 years, in large part through its annual festival, bringing together composers who first spend time working with each other in a collective residency at Djerassi, a ranch in Woodside. Big name headliners include Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson and Meredith Monk.

Monk, who participated in the very first Other Minds Festival in 1993,  returns this year, a rarity for an organization that prides itself on avoiding repeats on the roster. Over the years, Other Minds has presented close to 200 composers from all over the world.


The organization works hard to cultivate and celebrate experimental music on the West Coast: In addition to the festival, Other Minds also hosts a weekly radio show on the San Francisco-based radio station KALW, an online radio station with the Internet Archive called radiOM, and a record label.

A composer himself and for many years, the music director at the Berkeley-based radio station KPFA, Amirkhanian is the heart and soul of the operation:. As such, he got his hands on a wealth of musical archives on the verge of being tossed, including music and interviews that date back to the 1940s.  Those are now headed to Santa Cruz. The cache includes 4,000 reel-to-reel, cassette, DAT and video tapes from KPFA, along with 125 boxes of records, musical scores, artwork, and a toy piano used in a concert. (Yes, that’s a thing.)

According to Other Minds spokesman Blaine Todd, UC Santa Cruz is a practical and aesthetic fit for the collection. “Other maverick artists are archived there,” Todd says, “including the poet Kenneth Patchen, the Grateful Dead, and probably most relevantly the composer Lou Harrison, whose innovative approach to music has served as a guiding spirit to the work Other Minds does.”

Watch a Documentary Made When Others Minds Turned 20:

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