Charles Wuorinen was born in New York City. He is a prolific composer of primarily serial instrumental music and high profile proponent of contemporary music. In 1970, Wuorinen became the youngest composer to win the Pulitzer Prize for Music (for the electronic work Time's Encomium) while his many other awards include a MacArthur Fellowship.
An indication of Wuorinen's historical importance can be seen in the fact that in 1975 Igor Stravinsky's widow gave Wuorinen the composer's last sketches for use in A Reliquary for Igor Stravinsky. Wuorinen was the first composer commissioned by the Cleveland Orchestra under Christoph von Dohnanyi (Movers and Shakers); and likewise the first to compose for Michael Tilson Thomas' New World Symphony (Bamboula Beach).
Fractal geometry and the pioneering work of Benoit Mandelbrot have played a crucial role in several of his works including Bamboula Squared for orchestra and computer generated sounds and Natural Fantasy, a work for organ. His later works feature some tonal relationships. Both as composer and performer (conductor and pianist) Wuorinen has worked with some of the finest performers of the current time and his works reflect the great virtuosity of his collaborators.
Wuorinen's most recent commission is from the New York City Opera to compose the operatic version of Annie Proulx's short story (later Ang Lee's movie) "Brokeback Mountain", though this has caused considerable speculation and criticism.
Wuorinen is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. According to The New York Times, "Charles Wuorinen has taken the decrees of 12-tone music and made them sing."