Eric Christian Jensen
April 14, 1943 ~ February 15, 2017
Eric passed away peacefully at home, surrounded by his loving family after a battle with cancer. Eric was born to Virginia and Chris Jensen and grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. His enlightened parents -
Virginia was a music teacher and Chris was an agricultural scientist -
provided wonderfully stimulating environment where their three children Eric (oldest), Peter, and David could flourish. They introduced their children to classical music and encouraged them to engage in vigorous intellectual and creative endeavors. Eric was recognized as a prodigy early on and received nourishing support from his community. He graduated from Fargo Central High School and was chosen as a National Merit Scholar. He was fortunate to have had great music teachers including Sigvald Thompson, a renowned cello and composition teacher and music director of the Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra in Fargo, and Leonard Rose, a world-renowned cellist in New York City. He performed as a cello soloist with Fargo-Moorhead Symphony Orchestra. He attended Meadowmount School of Music one summer. The humanity and pedagogy of violin master Ivan Galamian at the school left an indelible impression on Eric. He earned his B.A. (1965) and Master of Music degree (1969) from Yale University. He trained with virtuoso cellist Aldo Parisot. He then moved to University of Iowa and earned a M.A. (1970) and a M.F.A. (1971) and a PhD in composition (1977). while continuing to compose and give musical performances on campus and on tour. He was cellist with the Center for New Music at the University of Iowa. Friendships formed through these studies and performances had a life-long influence on Eric's development as an artist. He joined the faculty of the Grinnell College and taught music theory, composition and electronic music, and performed for several years there. At Grinnell, he directed the experimental electronic music studio. His involvement with modern experimental music through composing and improvisation using various electronic instruments grew deeper during this period.
Eric travelled to the Pacific Northwest on his vacations and was deeply moved by the pristine beauty and vitality of the environment with potential for new possibilities and decided to move to Seattle permanently in the mid-1970s. His focus then began to shift away from securing an academic career to living more independently as an artist and educator. He taught briefly at a local college as a music faculty while continuing to teach privately. He became active in the local avant-garde arts scene including the And/Or arts organization as a professional cellist and composer. He became a member of the improvisational music ensemble, "First Avenue," with Jim Knapp and Denney Goodhew. The integral part of their work grew out of artistic collaboration with the American Contemporary Dance Company / Skinner Releasing dance ensemble. This group successfully recorded an album, "First Avenue," with the ECM recording company in the 1980s. The album has since become a collector's item. Natural leader, pioneer and inventor at heart, Eric began to build a family of electric bowed musical instruments he designed in 1983, with help from local artisans, becoming one of the first such makers in the world. He established his own company, Eric C. Jensen Musical Instruments. He designed, assembled, and sold his custom-made electric violins, violas, cellos, cellobasses, and basses to musicians of diverse genres, including classical, jazz, rock, pop, country, traditional ethnic, and new progressive music in the U.S., Canada, Europe, South America, and Asia. His designs were widely praised as most advanced among electric bowed instruments for successfully integrating beauty with ergonomic comfort and for their ability to produce superior sound quality. Eric's instruments were featured in Strings and the Strad magazines, and his business was featured in the Puget Sound Business Journal in January 1993. The Canadian premier of American composer John Adams' composition for solo electric violin and orchestra, "the Dharma at Big Sur," was performed by the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra in November 2005 on Eric's custom-ordered electric violin.
To Eric, his wife Julia (Airyang) and son Soren were the light and love of his life. Eric's long-lasting marriage to Julia was based on their mutual respect, shared quest for truth and appreciation for the universality of humanity and spirituality of embracing life on earth holistically. Their partnership was that of two trees merging into one and helped keep up their shared passion for good work and life. Their travels to Europe and Asia refreshed their interest in their respective heritage and world cultures including his Danish roots. Eric travelled to his ancestral place in Denmark with their son Soren in 2006 to share this appreciation.
His on-going communication and loving relationship with his two brothers has had an important influence on all three men in their creative lines of work; Peter as a cinematographer, writer, and inventor, and David as a harpsichord and electronic organ maker.
Eric was a Renaissance man, ardent lover of nature, good father, loving son, husband, and brother, and beloved friend to many people. He leaves behind a legacy of an American original who believed in the merit of living an authentic life that is independent, creative, and honest. His kind, brilliant, and wise presence will live in the hearts and minds of his family and friends forever.
He is survived by his wife Julia Park and son Soren Jensen of Seattle, his brothers and sisters-in-law, Peter, Gayle, David, and Janet, and their children and grandchildren.
A private Celebration of Life will be held among family and friends in August 2017. He received loving and attentive care from the Kaiser Permanente Hospice Care in the last months of his life. Those interested may consider a donation to the organization in his memory.
Published by The Seattle Times from Aug. 8 to Aug. 9, 2017.