Californian radio producer, percussionist, composer, and sound poet Charles Benjamin Amirkhanian (b. 1945) of Armenian descent, is best known for his electroacoustic music and text-sound compositions. In addition, Amirkhanian is considered one of the most important promoters of contemporary music in the United States.
Charles Amirkhanian studied at California State University, Fresno and earned a master's degree at San Francisco State University. From 1969 to 1992, Amirkhanian was music director of Pacifica Radio, KPFAin Berkeley, California, and since then has been artistic director of numerous festivals, initiator of workshops and study programs. He directed the Speaking of Music series at the Exploratorium in San Francisco from 1983 to 1992, and was co-founder with John Lifton of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, Colorado in 1988. From 1993 to 1997, Amirkhanian was executive director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, California. In 1993 he became Artistic Director of the Other Minds Music Festival in San Francisco, which he co-founded with Jim Newman in 1992, and Executive Director in 1998.
Amirkhanian has received numerous commissions from the National Endowment for the Arts, Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR), Meet the Composer, the BBC, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, the 1984 Summer Olympics, Arch Ensemble and Ensemble Intercontemporain, and other organizations. Theatrical performances of his sound poetry with projections by Carol Law have taken him to such venues as the Stedelijk Museum (Amsterdam), the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis), the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, New Langton Arts (San Francisco), and throughout Australia since 1975. Other performances have been in Berlin, Beijing, Linz, Huddersfield, Moscow, and St. Petersburg. In his works he used language and voice as sound and rhythm, so that poetry and music thus merge into a third.
Charles Amirkhanian produced the first album of American text-sound composition 10 + 2: 12 American Text Sound Pieces in 1973. This compilation presents works by artists such as Brion Gysin, John Giorno, Charles Dodge, Beth Anderson, Liam O'Gallagher, Clark Coolidge, John Cage (played by Jack Briece), Robert Ashley, etc. He released the following recordings, among others:
10 + 2: 12 American Text-Sound Pieces (LP, 1975), reissued in 2003.
Lexical Music (LP, 1979
Polipotry Themes Numero 3: American Text-Sound Poetry (LP, 1983)
Mental Radio: Nine Text-Sound Compositions (LP, 1985), reissued as CD in 2009
Walking Tune (CD, 1998)