Born to Russian parents in Manchuria (now Inner Mongolia, China), Ussachevsky emigrated to the United States in 1931 and studied music at Pomona College in Claremont, California (B.A., 1935), as well as at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York (M.M., 1936, Ph.D., 1939). His early, neo-Romantic works were composed for traditional instruments, but in 1951 he began composing electronic music. He served as president of the American Composers Alliance from 1968 to 1970 and was an advisory member of the CRI record label, which released recordings of a number of his compositions. Recordings of his music have also been released on the Capstone, d’Note, and New World labels.
In 1947, following a stint with the U.S. Army Intelligence division in World War II, he joined the faculty of Columbia University, teaching there until his retirement in 1980. Together with Otto Luening, Ussachevsky founded, in 1959, the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City. While acting as head of the Electronic Music Center Ussachevsky specified the ADSR envelope in 1965, a basic component of modern synthesizers, samplers and electronic instruments. Ussachevsky also taught and was composer-in-residence at the University of Utah.
His notable students include Charles Wuorinen, Alice Shields, Ilhan Mimaroglu, Charles L. Bestor, Ingram Marshall, Wendy Carlos, and Richard Einhorn.
“VLADIMIR USSACHEVSKY ELECTRONIC AND ACOUSTIC WORKS 1957–1972”. New York: New World Records (80654-2), 2007. This is a compilation rerelease of recordings originally issued on various CRI LP’s in the 1960s and 70’s.
Linear Contrasts (1958)
Wireless Fantasy (1960)
Of Wood and Brass (1965)
Computer Piece No. 1 (1968)
Two Sketches for a Computer Piece (1971)
Three Scenes from The Creation (1960; rev. 1973)
Missa Brevis (1972)
“Vladimir Ussachevsky: Film Music”. New York: New World Records (80389), 1990
Suite from No Exit (1962)
Line of Apogee (1967)