Born January 19, 1945, in Fresno, California, composer, percussionist, sound poet and radio producer Charles Amirkhanian is a leading practitioner of electroacoustic music and text-sound composition and has been instrumental in the dissemination of contemporary music through his work as Music Director of KPFA/Berkeley from 1969 to 1992. He also directed the Speaking of Music series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco (1983-1992) and was the founding Co-Director (with John Lifton) of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado (1988-1991). From 1993 to 1997 Amirkhanian was Executive Director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. From 1993 he has been Artistic Director of Other Minds. In May of 1998 Amirkhanian was appointed Executive Director.
In 1990 Amirkhanian completed an extended spoken word portrait of the late American composer Morton Feldman, incorporating his extant recorded speeches and conversations, on commission from Meet the Composer/Reader's Digest (Loudspeakers, 1990). This 35-minute composition was premiered at the Electronic Music Plus Festival at Mills College in Oakland, California, on April 3, 1991, and was aired nationally over the NPR Satellite in January 1992. In 1991 he composed A Berkelium Canon (with Henry Kaiser), a digital pianistic tribute to Nicolas Slonimsky, on the occasion of the latter's 97th birthday.
In his recent works, produced with the Synclavier digital synthesizer, Amirkhanian incorporates sampled acoustic environmental sounds (which he calls "representational sounds") and traditional musical pitched sounds ("abstract sounds") to develop dreamscapes which act as disjunct narratives, evoking a world of memory-triggers which induce a trance like listening state. Sounds are chosen both for purposes of reference to a subject and for their sculptural and gestural beauty. His Walking Tune (A Room-Music for Percy Grainger), is perhaps the most important example of this genre, combining natural sounds recorded in Grainger's native Australia with haunting violin melodies and fragments of a J. C. Bach aria.
His music has been recorded on Starkland Records, 1750 Arch Records, Composers Recordings, Inc., Giorno Poetry Systems, Fylkingen Records (Sweden), S Press (Germany), OU Records (England), Perspectives of New Music, and Diffusion i Média (Canada). His CD "Walking Tune", containing five works, was released in 1998 by Starkland Records