Jon Hassell ’55
In a tribute in The Guardian in 2007, Brian Eno wrote of Mr. Hassell:
He looks at the world in all its momentary and evanescent moods with respect, and this shows in his music. He sees dignity and beauty in all forms of the dance of life.
Jon Hassell was born in Memphis, Tennessee, and began at Christian Brothers in 1951 as a freshman. He joined the band under Ralph Hale playing Trumpet and quickly excelled as one of the top members of the program. His junior year Jon had the privilege of performing with the band’s guest soloist, Raphael Mendez, whose moniker was “The World’s Greatest Trumpet Player.” His senior year Jon became the band president, was a featured soloist, and graduated in 1955. He then attended the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, and received a master’s degree. After graduating he began to get involved with avant-garde experimental music and enrolled in the Cologne Course for New Music for two years under notable serialist Karlheinz Stockhausen.
Hassell returned to the United States in 1967 where he met music experimentalist Terry Riley in Buffalo, New York, and performed on the first recording of Riley’s seminal work In C in 1968. He pursued his PhD in musicology in Buffalo and began performing with experimental groups in New York City, contributing to numerous albums in the late 1970s. In the 1980s, he collaborated with Brian Eno, The Talking Heads, Peter Gabriel, and Tears for Fears along with composing solo albums where he explored what he would call “Fourth World” music.
“Fourth World is kind of a philosophical guideline, a creative posture, directed towards the conditions created by the intersection of technology with indigenous music and culture,” Hassell explained in a Rolling Stones interview.
In the 1990s and 2000s, Hassell continued to experiment, work on movie score soundtracks including The Last Temptation of Christ, and collaborated with Ani DiFranco, Ry Cooder, and K.D. Lang. Jon Hassell passed away from natural causes on June 26, 2021, at the age of 84 and he has been selected as this year’s Christian Brothers Band Hall of Fame Member.