Working in the avant-garde realm where classical and popular music sometimes intersect, Charles Amirkhanian bills himself as a composer, percussionist, sound poet, radio producer, and practitioner of electro-acoustic music and text-sound composition. His magnum opus, perhaps, is Loudspeakers, a 1990 spoken-word portrait of composer Morton Feldman, lasting 35 minutes. The work incorporates Feldman's recorded speeches and conversations. The following year he composed A Berkelium Canon, a "digital pianistic tribute to Nicolas Slonimsky."
Amirkhanian honed his skills at sound and text manipulation as music director of radio station KPFA in Berkeley, CA, from 1969 to 1992. During this period he also directed the "Speaking of Music" series at San Francisco's Exploratorium from 1983 to 1992, and, with John Lifton, was founding co-director of the Composer-to-Composer Festival in Telluride, CO, from 1988 to 1991. From 1993 to 1997 he served as executive director of the Djerassi Resident Artists Program in Woodside, CA. Beginning in 1993 he also was associated with Other Minds, a San Francisco-based, non-profit global new music community. Initially he was the organization's artistic director; in 1998 he became its executive director.
Amirkhanian's bio says that his later works, produced with the Synclavier digital synthesizer, incorporate "sampled acoustic environmental sounds (which he calls "representational sounds") and traditional musical pitched sounds ("abstract sounds') to develop dreamscapes that act as disjunct narratives, evoking a world of memory-triggers that induce a trance-like listening state. Sounds are chosen both for purposes of reference to a subject and for their sculptural and gestural beauty." A primary example of this is Walking Tune (A Room-Music for Percy Grainger), which combines natural sounds recorded in Grainger's native Australia with violin melodies and fragments of a J.C. Bach aria.