“His identity as an artist took shape during the 1960s; a decade when such identities became volatile, when shape shifting, border crossing and evasion of conventional classification started, once again, to become the norm.”

– Jerome Rothenberg

Charlie Morrow

Charlie Morrow, by Tim Page - A Portrait     Milestones


Charlie Morrow (b. 1942 in Newark, NJ) is a composer, sound artist, performer, and innovator whose goal over the past four decades has been to bring experimental sound and music to a wider audience. And, through avenues including concert performances and ad jingles, city-wide events and film soundtracks, museum sound installations and hospital sound environments, his work has in fact been experienced by a wider audience than most creative artists can claim.

A composer who studied with Stefan Wolpe and worked with avant-garde Fluxus artists in New York in the 1960s, Morrow has written works that range from a sound portrait titled Marilyn Monroe Collage to Toot ‘N Blink, an orchestrated chorus of boat horns with blinking lights, as well as the soundtrack to the acclaimed 1970 documentary Moonwalk One and innumerable ad jingles, including those for Hefty trash bags (“Hefty, Hefty, Hefty! Wimpy, wimpy, wimpy!”) and Diet Coke. In 2010, he was honored in New York with Little Charlie Fest, a five-day celebration of his work presented and organized by Michael Schumacher/Diapason Sound Art Gallery, John Doswell Productions and WFMU FM in association with Steelcase.

A trailblazer in staging large-scale festival events—at which he was always recognizable in his signature bowler hat—Morrow created city-wide summer solstice celebrations in New York City from 1973 to 1989 through the New Wilderness Foundation, an arts organization he founded in 1974 with poet Jerome Rothenberg that promoted cross-cultural and cross-disciplinary art and performance, while exploring relationships between current developments and cultures of the distant past.

And in 1979 he founded Charles Morrow Productions and built a global network for sound explorations. In the 21st century, he created MorrowSound® state-of-the-art technologies—including True3D sound and 360° VR sound (see below)—at the forefront of the rapidly-expanding field of immersive sound. His work in the creation of sound environments is currently showcased in venues worldwide, including the Magic Forest & Aviary at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus, Ohio; Marimekko’s New York flagship store on Fifth Avenue; SC Johnson’s corporate headquarters in Racine, Wisconsin; and the Hall of Planet Earth in the Rose Center for Earth and Space at New York’s American Museum of Natural History.

As a 2013 KALW radio documentary put it, “How did the son of two New Jersey psychiatrists come to be known as ‘the man in the bowler hat’—sound artist, impresario, and catalyst for creativity for so many others?”

Charlie Morrow calls himself a “framemaker”—a creator and producer of context.  His life’s work – 50 years as a hybrid, with one foot each in the classical and commercial music worlds – has been devoted to, in his words, “moving out of the concert hall.  The future lies in composing environments as well as music as we know it:  bringing the skills of composition to where we live work and circulate, as in a city.”  Born to a family of doctors and inventors, Morrow uses his creativity to make tools to share with others—not only musicians and sound artists, but teachers, architects, and engineers –  “so that they might create positive spaces for work, education, and healing.”

The Charlie Morrow Archive in Barton, Vermont, now houses Morrow’s  scores, writings, designs, correspondence, media, publications and artifacts.

Toot! – Charlie Morrow, a 3-CD compilation of Charlie Morrow’s compositions, 1957-2007, was released by XI Records in 2010.

© 2014 by Charles Morrow. All rights reserved.