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Mark Morris’s Guide to Twentieth Century Composers

Front Page

UNITED STATES of AMERICA

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The history of 20th-century classical music in the U.S.A. revolves around a continuous series of attempts to formulate novel and especially American forms of musical expression, in part a struggle against the domination of European classical music and ideas, new or old. Some of these attempts have been more successful than others; ironically most of them have been absorbed and transformed by European traditions, notably through the immigration of European composers to the United States. It is noticeable, though, that compositions by the major American composers have been under-represented in both concert halls and in recordings by the major labels, although the rise of international independent labels such as Naxos has recently allowed a much wider encounter with the range of American 20th-century music.

A large measure of the lack of general exposure of American composers, both internally and externally, may be due to environmental factors rather than to any absence of an innate pool of talent: the kind of dissemination of new music that was particularly associated in the late 20th-Century in Europe with radio broadcasting and widely-covered festivals did not exist in the States to the same extent or depth. In addition, the close ties between American composers' livelihoods and academia has had a `Ivory Tower' effect on composition, shifting the balance more towards purely intellectual concerns, away from the expression of a wider human condition, and from the reflection of American non-academic emotions and concerns.

Another curb on the dissemination of American music has been the lack of operas of the quality to establish themselves internationally, until the innovative works of such composers as Philip Glass and John Adams. This, though, is partly a reflection of the development of one of the major contributions of American music, though one that lies outside the scope of this Guide: the American musical, and it has been noticeable how many 20th-Century American operas, such as those of Floyd or Douglas Moore, seem to edge towards the popular American form. Similarly, the States gave to the world two major music genres in the 20th-Century, both of which also lie outside the scope of this Guide, and both of which have had their influence on classical music: jazz and the blues.

However, the States has produced, and continues to produce, a remarkably large number of composers. A book such as this cannot possibly do justice to that scale, and therefore concentrates on those composers most likely to be encountered, in the States or outside. In addition, the first generation of truly American composers, now coming to the end of their lifetimes, are of such general if not exceptional interest, their music so undeservedly neglected even if their names are widely known, that there is an element of bias towards that generation.

A major feature of American music is the long tradition of maverick experimental composers, from the hymn music of Henry Billings (1746-1800, in whom interest has been revived this century), who wrote an atonal hymn, to John Cage in the present day. But as the 20th century started, American music was anything but original or inventive, being dominated by European example, European training (particularly Germanic), and by European visitors, such as Dvořák (1841-1904) or Mahler, and in the world of opera, by the major Italian contemporary composers. The major figure of the end of the 19th century was Edward MacDowell (1860-1908), whose idiom was in the German Romantic tradition. Similarly, the group known as the 'New England Classicists' - George Chadwick (1854-1931), Arthur Foote (1853-1937) and Horatio Parker (1863-1919) - followed the example of Brahms. These, the leading composers of the period, concentrated on symphonic and instrumental works; opera meant Italian opera. There were two major exceptions to this general cast of American composition at the turn of the century. The first was Charles Martin Loeffler (1861-1935), who reflected the fin-de-siècle developments of the end of Romanticism in Europe. Drawn to unusual, bizarre, or exotic subjects, his outlook was Symbolist, and his main achievements are the orchestral colours and effects of his tone-painting. The evocative La mort de Tintagiles (1897, revised 1901), a tone-poem for viola d'amore and orchestra based on a dark marionette play by Maeterlinck, is well worth hunting out, similar in style to the music of his British contemporary Bantock. Loeffler's output is now little heard; it may be that, in an age more indulgent to his type of idiom, he will emerge as a composer of greater stature than such obscurity would suggest. The second is Charles Ives (1874-1954), whose extraordinary output, anticipating many of the techniques evolved by others later in the century, had no influence at the time of their composition. His place in the history of American music is discussed under the entry devoted to him, below. Two other composers might be far better known had their output been larger. After early works influenced by German models, Charles Tomlinson Griffes (1884-1920) developed an Impressionist idiom tinged with Oriental colours and effects, in such evocative tone-poems as The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan (1912-1917) for orchestra and The White Peacock (1915,orchestrated 1919, originally the first of four Roman Sketches for piano). These, and the fine Poem (1918) for flute and orchestra, are well worth the encounter; this talented composer died prematurely just as his music had been discovered, but he helped American music turn away from German influences and look to French music. The output of Carl Ruggles (1876-1971, a painter as well as composer), bold in scale but meticulously crafted, was extremely small (some ten acknowledged works) but of a visionary quality, exploring an atonal harmonic palette. Sun-Treader (1926-1931, much revised), the third of a triptych of orchestral works, is one of the finest American compositions of the first half of the 20th century, a large, rich 16-minute score, its roots in late Romanticism, but with an extremely chromatic harmonic palette that (through Ruggles' general unwillingness to repeat a note until some eight others have been heard) sometimes has an atonal cast. The emotional range is considerable, the orchestra regularly swelling up and out in unresolved climaxes that must start again, the whole effect one of Expressionist emotional tension compressed almost to bursting point, each detail meticulously weighted. An apt comparison is perhaps with the earlier orchestral writing of Berg. The two other works of the triptych, Men and Mountains (1924, revised 1936) for orchestra and Angels (1921, revised 1939) for four muted trumpets and five muted trombones, are equally compressed. The former, for a very large orchestra and in three parts, is in a idiom similar to, but less intensely effective than, that of Sun-Treader. Angles is a 47-bar work, muted but of an anguished and evocative weave. Ruggles spent many years working on an opera The Sunken Bell based on a play by Gerhardt Hauptmann, but burned the score.

The first, and the most lasting and influential of all specifically American musical developments, was not in the field of `serious' music, but in the development of jazz. Ironically, the first classical composers to absorb some of the techniques and ideas of jazz into their work were not American at all, but those such as Martinů, Milhaud, and Stravinsky, working in Paris in the early 1920s. Nonetheless, it was the element of jazz that provided the impetus for the styles of the first American composers who came to the fore in the late 1920s and early 1930s with music that was instantly recognizable as American, rather than a European clone. The catalyst for this sudden explosion of an American music was also found in Paris, in the teacher Nadia Boulanger. So many Americans studied with her, from Copland to Glass, that a list of her pupils reads rather like a catalogue of major American composers. Her legacy was twofold. She encouraged American composers to seek their own American voices. She also insisted on a detailed and thorough study of basic techniques; on the positive side, she instilled the sense of craftsmanship that is so apparent in the subsequent generation of American composers, and on the negative contributed to the obsession with intellectual analysis that has so castrated academic American music.

A second major thread running through the history of American music has been that of dance. Many of Copland's best-known works originated as ballets; much of the initial experimental work with percussion by Cage and Lou Harrison (born 1917) was influenced by dance, and Minimalism had its origins in small-scale works for dancers. But one of the most lasting legacies of the heritage of American serious music is also one of the most neglected. The generation of American composers who came to prominence in the 1930s excelled at the traditional form of the symphony, and, to a lesser extent, its interior obverse, the string quartet. What is more, these symphonies, far from being mere copies of European models, proved to be a major vehicle for the expression of ideas, emotions, and concerns that reflected the American outlook of their age, especially a sense of broad landscape and a rugged, rough purpose. If the States did not produce a symphonist of the calibre or consistency of Shostakovich or Vaughan Williams, the best of these symphonies (as indicated in the individual entries below) are very fine indeed, and moreover are of especial interest and appeal because they reflect that particularly American spirit. It seems extraordinary that American orchestras have not trumpeted these works at home and abroad, to establish the base of a pride in a musical cultural heritage currently so nebulous in the U.S.A., especially when the form of the symphony is one readily accessible to general audiences. The major American symphonists include (besides Ives and Copland), Howard Hanson (1896-1981), a conservative but a major force in promoting indigenous American music, Roy Harris (1898-1979), Walter Piston (1894-1976), Wallingford Riegger (1885-1961), William Schuman (1910-1992) Roger Sessions (1896-1985), and the now virtually forgotten Ernst Toch (born Vienna 1887, died 1964), who moved from a Romantic idiom through neo-classicism to 12-tone techniques, and whose music deserves a revival.

These group of symphonists formed the core of American classical music in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, establishing and promoting a specifically American idiom ranging from the American subjects and tone of Copland and Schuman to the 12-tone techniques of the influential Sessions, and developing an American symphonic and operatic style, though much of the latter awaits re-exploration and appraisal. Meanwhile Henry Cowell (1897-1965), a major American innovator, had started exploring works dominated by percussion, music for pianos prepared in various ways to change or extend the range of colours, and Eastern musics and rhythms. John Cage (1912-1992) and Lou Harrison (born 1917) developed this legacy, the former then emerging into a major avant-garde force whose ideas were taken up by a number of experimental American composers. The eccentric Harry Partch (1901-1974) was on a parallel experimental path, but using specially designed instruments with microtonal intervals (dividing the scale into 43 or more tones). His extraordinary sound-world, quite unlike anything until the 1980s (when Eastern sounds became more assimilated into Western music), owes much to traditional Eastern musics, is usually built around his specially designed tuned percussive instruments, and has a strong ritual and theatrical quality. His sound-world is compelling, but is almost impossible to encounter except on recordings, due to the uniqueness of the instruments. Of his earlier works, often using voice, Barstow (1941-1943) is an extraordinary setting of eight hobo inscriptions on a railing outside the town of the same name, using two voices, half-singing, half-speaking, and four players on original instruments; it captures the essence of the period of displaced hitchhikers, a 1940s equivalent to Reich's 1980s Different Trains. Of his later works, mostly large-scale rituals, Delusions of Fury (1963-1969) is a music-theatre piece for mime, dancers (also chanting or singing) in two halves, the first based on a Japanese nōh play, the second a folk-like tale centred around a hobo, and covers the whole gamut of Partch's unusual instruments, infectious rhythms, Oriental colours, and microtonal effects. The RCA Company had been experimenting with electronic instruments since the late 1940s, but Vladimir Ussachevsky (born in Manchuria, 1911, died 1990) and Otto Luening (born 1900) pioneered American electronic music in the late 1950s, establishing a studio in Columbia University that became the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in 1959. Their example was followed by Mario Davidovsky (born Buenos Aires, 1934); all three composers are now little encountered, but made important contributions to the development of American music.

In the 1960s American composition split into a number of branches. Some composers followed the experiments and examples of Cage; others like Lukas Foss (born 1922) had similarities with the European avant-garde. Many more followed the path of `total serialism' into ever more arcane detail, led by Milton Babbitt (born 1916); this also dominated academic composition teaching in the 1960s and 1970s, and still dominates academic musical analysis, to the great detriment of modern American music. Carter remained the most interesting and consistent of the American composers, but his idiom was unique. The reaction in the 1970s and 1980s produced a fragmentation of styles that ranged from a return to a late-Romantic influence (Mahler in the works of David Del Tredici, born 1937, and especially in those of George Rochberg, born 1918, whose change from a serial to a tonal neo-Romantic idiom is best heard in his string quartets), a general neo-Romanticism (such as the very attractive if superficial Violin Concerto, 1979, of Earl Kim, born 1920), the stylistic mishmash of John Corigliano (born 1938), and the mainstream, influenced by popular music and the Broadway musical, of such composers as Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990), a major personality and force in American music more through his conducting and broadcasting than through his own compositions. But the movement that has had the most national and international attention and influence, and the only `school' that has arisen in this period, is that known as `Minimalism'. With its origins in the music of Carl Orff, more immediately in the 1960s drone works of the jazz composer LaMonte Young, and particularly in the seminal In C (1964) by Terry Riley (born 1935), it was immediately loathed by conservative critics and serialist academics alike, partly because it was a strong reaction to 'highbrow' and particularly academic American values. Its earliest manifestation in the 1960s was closely tied with experimental modern dance and small chamber groups usually using electronic amplification. It then broadened its range and appeal in the 1970s until the works of Philip Glass (born 1937) and Steve Reich (born 1936) achieved an enormous following beyond the range of lovers of classical music, and has spread into all serious musical genres, including opera. While it has had adherents outside America, its use of repetitive evolving patterns has increasingly influenced elements of works by composers who could not by any stretch of the imagination be included in the Minimalist school. Adherents of Minimalism have been at pains to point out the considerable stylistic differences between the major composers of the school. Such differences are undeniable; but the cast of similarities, particularly the influence of gamelan ideas, the return to a diatonic base, and the altered conception of the time and spatial elements of the construction of music, so markedly set these composers aside from other developments in modern music that the broad grouping is apposite. Whether the movement will be a lasting one, or whether it will prove to be more significant in the influence of its ideas on non-minimalist music remains to be seen, but its main flaw - that it is more suited to broader spiritual undertows than focused, immediate, experiential emotions - suggests the latter.

These, then, are the main outlines and figures of the development of American music, but a number of composers for whom there is not enough space for full inclusion in this Guide deserve mention. John Alden Carpenter (1876-1951) experimented with jazz influences in the very visual ballet Krazy Kat, based on a comic strip. The finest work of Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953) is her String Quartet (1931). Paul Creston (né Guttoveggio, 1906, died 1985) was a cosmopolitan traditionalist, best heard in the Symphony No.2 (1944), a two-movement work pitting a Sibelius-touched `Introduction and Song' against an `Interlude and Dance', full of forceful infectious bounce tinged with jazz, and the fine, if conventional Symphony No.3 (1950), which with the American gaiety of the second movement and the contemplative dark third movement works better as an abstract work, rather than through its programme representing the mysteries of the Nativity, Crucifixion and Resurrection. The unashamedly neo-classical Partita (1937) for flute, violin and strings is also most attractive. Gian-Carlo Menotti (born in Italy in 1911) is generally thought of as an American composer, though he retained his Italian citizenship and settled in Scotland in 1974. He is best known for his earlier operas, unchallenging in their morals and in a naïve idiom that came straight from the Italy of 1900, including The Medium (1946), The Telephone (1947) and The Consul (1950). His most successful work was the short, sentimental but attractive Amahl and the Night Visitors (1951), woven around a crippled boy who meets the three Magi; it was the first television opera, and on the stage remains a perennial Christmas favourite in North America. David Diamond (born 1915), best known for his Rounds for Strings (1944), was primarily a symphonist, producing nine; the characteristic Symphony No.4 (1944) is traditional, attractive, but unmemorable. Vincent Persichetti (1915-1987) produced a large body of works in a variety of communicative styles, from the tonal to the atonal, including nine symphonies. The symphonies of Peter Mennin (born Mennini, 1923-1983) are large and bold, tinged with an American brashness and syncopation, and if not as striking as similar works by Harris or Schuman, are worth hearing, especially the Symphony No.3 (1946). Ned Rorem (born 1923) is probably better known for his provocative books of musical autobiography and criticism than for his music. His primary achievement is his large body of songs; his style has been gracefully traditional, drawn from French models, and his output and has been large, including three numbered symphonies, of which the Symphony No.3 (1957) is full of delightful ideas but, with its range from the atmospherical serious to the light, fails to gel. Of his operas, Miss Julie (1960-1965, revised into one act, 1975) belongs to the American traditional of lyrical opera, but its vocal fluency fails to delve the psychological depth of the Strindberg play. He is at his worst in such grand-scale works as An American Oratorio (1983-1985), mixing a 19th-century choral tradition with populist elements and jazz, and at his best in smaller-scale works that give rein to his sense of style and grace. Lejaren Hiller (born 1924) has concentrated on music composed with computers; his Illiac Suite (1957) for string quartet (developed with Leonard Issacson) was the first computer-programmed acoustic composition. His String Quartet No.5 (1962) is in quarter-tones with a 24-note row, using variation technique in which variation twelve is itself a miniature quartet inside a quartet, all four movements played simultaneously. Earle Brown (born 1926) was a leading advocate of `indeterminacy', with scores that allowed the players considerable freedom in interpretation and order of events, and mobile forms. Ben Johnston (born 1926) is best known for his strings quartets using microtonal intervals, notably the String Quartet No.2 (1964). Morton Feldman (1926-1987), initially influenced by Cage and the avant-garde New York painters, developed an idiom of quiet, sometimes hypnotic strands of sound undergoing slow-moving variation of detail, using graphic scores in the 1950s before reverting to conventional notation. Jacob Druckman (born 1928) turned from electronic music with instruments (notable the Animus series, 1966-1969) to a neo-Romantic style that has included references to earlier musics. John Eaton (born 1935), after exploring electronic music in the 1960s, has more recently turned to opera (including The Tempest, 1985) where he has used quarter-tones, especially in the orchestral writing, set against more traditional harmonies to considerable effect. Morton Subotnick (born 1933) has produced a series of atmosphere electronic `theme' works, aimed at a more popular market; Silver Apples of the Moon (1967), designed for an LP, brought him wide attention, but the most effective is After the Butterfly (1979) for trumpet ensemble and electronics.

Finally, it should be pointed out again that the States has a particularly honourable tradition in the form of the musical, which, with the help of Hollywood versions of Broadway productions, usurped the position of European operetta from the 1930s to the 1960s. Such works lie outside the scope of this book, but they have influenced American classical music. Many American composers, both indigenous (such as Bernstein) and immigrants (Weill), have made major contributions to the genre, while Broadway's most talented exponent, George Gershwin (1898-1937), included works of a more classical idiom in his output, and the musicals of Stephen Sondheim (born 1930) have taken the genre to new levels of sophistication.

American Music Centre:

30 - West 26th Street

Suite 1001

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tel: +01 212 366 5260

fax: +01 212 366 5265

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ADAMS

ANTHEIL

BABBITT

BARBER

BERNSTEIN

BOLCOM

CAGE

CARTER

COPLAND

CORIGLIANO

COWELL

CRUMB

DEL TREDICI

FOSS

GERSHWIN

GLASS

HANSON

HARRIS

HARRISON

HOVHANESS

IVES

PISTON

REICH

RIEGGER

SCHUMAN

SESSIONS

THOMSON

WUORINEN

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ADAMS John                                                                                                                             

born 15th February 1947    at Worcester (Massachusetts)

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John Adams, who came to prominence with the grand-scale opera Nixon in China (1987), is proving to be one of the most fascinating and infuriating of the new wave of Minimalist composers who have followed the examples of Reich, and in Adams' case, Glass. He is also the American Minimalist composer most aware of the inheritance of musical tradition, incorporating many influences into the minimal structures of his works, from material that he shares with Ives (hymns, marches - such Adams titles as Common Tones in Simple Time are clearly an echo of Ives), to a use of ostinati colours that looks back beyond Orff and the metallic percussive colours of early Cage. Most strikingly, he almost immediately applied Minimalist techniques to large-scale orchestras with an almost Impressionist, Ravelian command of orchestral colour (Adams had the advantage of being composer-in-residence at the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, in contrast to Reich and Glass, who arrived at writing for larger force via their own small groups). His earlier works show his fondness for lyrical ideas while being influenced by Cage and, in the triptych American Standard (1973), Cardew and the Scratch Orchestra, with marches, jazz, and performers adding 'found objects'. The section `Christian Zeal and Activity', with an almost Wagnerian overtone to the slow unfolding of melodic strand, continues the American tradition of utilizing hymn tunes, and placed Adams firmly in the neo-Romantic movement.

Adams' first major Minimalist work is also one of his most effective. Shaker Loops (1978) for string septet (version for string orchestra, 1982-1983) is inspired by another American phenomenon, the 'Shaker' religious sect. Adams' minimalism does not come from the very slow changes, the movement in stasis that is a characteristic of Eastern musics inherent in the music of Reich and Glass, and whose trance-like effect has been so often noted. Instead, Adams' driving, impulsive, and very effective repetitive rhythms are strictly ostinati, emphasising changes of colour and timbre, and closer to neo-classical ostinati usage (a rhythmic parallel to the third movement is Honegger's Pacific 231). Similarly, there are no sudden key shifts, but a conventional tonal (and neo-Romantic) sense of harmonic progression and eventual resolution: Phrygian Gates (1978) for piano is a cycle of fifths. A simple harmonic pattern is the basis of Common Tones in Simple Time (1979-1980, revised 1986), the structure built on common chords (triads) or similarly simple harmonic constructions, and modulation achieved only through chords with common tones. With an equally simple basic metre (always 4/4 or 2/2), the emphasis is thrown on the changing colours, achieved by such details as the 16th notes played by violins and violas, the two pianos being 1/16 out of phase with each other, or the two oboes or two trumpets hovering between neighbouring B and C.

The element of banality that has subsequently plagued some of Adams' music then became apparent in Grand Pianola Music (1982), with its elements of pastiche, including revivalist hymns and, in the finale, echoes of the modern Hollywood pop epic style in major keys exemplified by the pop composer Vangelis, together with gospel music and marches. In contrast, two works have shown the enormous potential of this composer, both extremely powerful in their own right. In Harmonium (1981) for chorus and orchestra and Harmonielehre (1985) for orchestra, rich and sometimes delicate orchestral textures vie with orchestral detail, the long flowing melodies with complex repetitive rhythmic touches. Events unfold especially through changing colours, and through the gradations of dynamics over a very long time-span, leading to great sweeping climaxes in major keys whose power, emotional effect, and sheer excitement, thanks to the scale of the orchestral imagination, is unmatched by any other Minimalist composer. The influence of Glass, observable particularly in the shifts of the interval of 2nds in Harmonielehre, unfortunately becomes more overt in Adam's major success to date, the opera Nixon in China (1987), especially the devices and energy of Act II of Glass's Satyagraha. The opera deals in a rather uncomfortably surrealistic way with Nixon's trip to China and his meetings with Chairman Mao. Much of the orchestra texture is pared down, the fascination of detail lost, and in spite of some marvellous climactic moments (especially when ecstatic choral texture joins rich orchestral colour), the banality resurfaces, partly caused by the ungrateful and whitewashing libretto, which makes some sections seem a Minimalist parody of Gilbert and Sullivan. In contrast to Glass' individual vocal writing, Adams' solo vocal lines here belong to another American tradition: that of the American musical, exemplified by Bernstein's West Side Story. This type of melody sits very uneasily on the Minimalist orchestral writing, sometimes the impetus seems to lose focus, and the long lines become merely note-spinning. Nowhere is this better exemplified that on the note-spinning sections of The Chairman Dances (1985, on material from Nixon in China) for orchestra, which feel like muzak, in spite of the thrilling impetus of much of the writing, with influences from Chinese music to Weill. However, in Fearful Symmetries (1988) for winds, saxophones, synthesizer, strings and brass (the same orchestral complement as Nixon in China), Adams combines his sense of forward momentum, climactic moments, and delicate touches with a more eclectic synthesis of moods, not the least of which is humour, to create one of his most satisfying and entertaining works.

Adams' second opera, The Death of Klinghoffer (1989-1991), also to a libretto by Alice Goodman, again treats a contemporary subject: the hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro by Palestinian terrorists, with the subsequent death of one of the passengers, Leon Klinghoffer. The aim is a tragedy, rather than the quasi-comedy and parody of Nixon in China, and its form is influenced by the Bach Passions, being laid out in clear sections with a conspicuous choral involvement. Although individual moments echo the idiom of the earlier opera, the musical style is more varied, and in many respects more conservative than Adams' earlier work, and the libretto more poetic. Both these operas leave a sense of discomfort, easy to overlook because of the sheer power of some of the music. In spite of the claims of the composer, librettist and director, the treatment of other cultures and ways of looking at the world has exactly the kind of shallow, single-culture viewpoint that bedevils American news. It is instructive that in Nixon in China, and even more in The Death of Klinghoffer, Adams should turn to what amounts to an equivalent of the 19th-century Grand Opera, a form that inclines to primary colours and shallow simplistic treatment when dealing with political subjects. This has been reinforced by the spectacular, almost melodramatic, stage elements of the operas, such as the appearance of the fuselage of the Boeing when Nixon arrives in China with Kissinger, visually very dramatic, but contributing little apart from the melodramatic.

Whether Adams will continue to develop his individual brand of Minimalism, or whether he will continue a populist opera style remains to be seen. However, those coming new to the genre will find him perhaps the most accessible composer of this new American movement. They should not confuse him with the composer John Luther Adams (born 1953).

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works include:

- symphony Light Over Water for brass and synthesizers

- Common Tones in Simple Time and Harmonielehre for orch.; Fearful Symmetries for orchestral ensemble; Shaker Loops for seven strings

- Phrygian Gates for piano

- The Wound Dresser for baritone, trumpet and violin

- Grand Pianola Music for voices and orch.; Harmonium for chorus and orch.

- operas The Death of Klinghoffer and Nixon in China

───────────────────────────────────────recommended works:

Fearful Symmetries (1988) for orchestral ensemble

Harmonium (1981) for chorus and orchestra

Harmonielehre (1985) for orchestra

Shaker Loops (1977-1978) for 7 strings

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ANTHEIL George Johann Carl                                                                                              

born 8th July 1900               at Trenton (New Jersey)

died 12th February 1959                at New York

───────────────────────────────────────George Antheil was the first modern American composer to attract attention (and controversy) in Europe, where he had originally gone as a pianist (to Berlin, 1922), before settling in Paris in 1923, where he was championed by the writers James Joyce and Ezra Pound. There, between 1923 and 1927, his anti-Romantic, excessively mechanistic music (influenced by Stravinsky, whom he knew) caused a sensation.

Initially, this was expressed in piano music, especially in a series of sonatas, Sonata sauvage (Sonata No.2, 1922 or 1923), Death of Machines (Sonata No.3, 1923), Jazz Sonata (Sonata No.4), and, most notoriously, the Airplane Sonata (Sonata No.1, 1921), with repetitive machine-like rhythms, organised in blocks of different ostinati, and including cluster-like chords. His Symphony No.1 `Zingaresca', 1922, revised 1923) had included jazz elements, developed in the lively, impulsive, witty and short Jazz Symphony (1926) for 22 instruments (revised for small orchestra, 1955). But the most notorious piece of this period was the Ballet mécanique (1923-1925) for eight pianos, player piano, four xylophones, percussion and two airplane propellers (version for 16 pianos and other noise makers, 1927). The version now usually performed is a considerably shortened revision (1953), and uses four pianos. Again, modular repetitive units are used, under the influence of similar procedures in Cubist painting. The fragments of melodic material (rhythm and percussive colour is much more important) are influenced by Stravinsky. With the pianos used percussively, it is a tour-de-force of mechanistic but sometimes delicate sounds, whose repetitions are masked by other constant changes. Its use of unpitched percussion sounds, and emphasis on organization by contrasts of rhythmic rather than harmonic material, parallels the work of Varèse and anticipates later percussion developments.

Antheil then turned to a neo-classical style, again following the lead of Stravinsky, but also produced Transatlantic (1927-1928), an admired satirical opera on American life that uses cinematographic stage techniques, parodies of popular tunes, and his modular and ostinati techniques. It was the first opera by an American composer to be produced by a foreign opera company. His last major piece written in Europe before his return to the USA in 1933 was the uneven but sometimes fascinating La femme: 100 Têtes (1933), a set of 44 preludes and a final dance for piano, which include a return to the steely, percussive (and sometimes noisy) style, as well as parodies of other pianistic styles, from the virtuoso, through Impressionism, to a suggestion of Shostakovich (later a strong influence on Antheil's music), but which have a visionary feel to the overall set, and an internal programme recalling Antheil's childhood.

From 1935 Antheil became well-known as a film composer working in Hollywood, turning to opera in the late 40s and early 1950s, of which the most successful was the comic Volpone (1949). At the same time his style changed considerably, becoming neo-Romantic in orientation, though keeping something of the rhythmic impulse and jazzy rhythms of his experimental period. The most prominent works of this period are the Symphony No.4 (1944), showing the influence of Shostakovich, and using intentionally populist melodies, and the infectious Symphony No.5 (1947-1948, not to be confused with the Tragic Symphony, 1945-1946, sometimes called No.5), with a lively first movement whose language recalls Shostakovich's scherzos, and a slow movement in the American landscape mode. The ballet The Capital of the World (1953) is based on a Hemingway short story about a young bullfighter from a poor village going to Madrid, the city of the title, who eventually dies in the ring. First presented on television rather than on the stage, it is a colourful and vivacious score, full of Spanish touches, conventional in substance, but with enough American verve to suggest that it would work well on stage.

Among Antheil's many achievements were the writing of a syndicated column of advice to the lovelorn, the co-invention of a new kind of torpedo, and the publication of two books on glandular criminology. His music deserves more prominence, particularly the opera Transatlantic, not least for its historic interest.

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works include:

- 6 numbered symphonies (No.1 Zingareska, No.3 American, No.4 1942, No.5 Joyous, No.6 after Delacroix); Jazz Symphony; Symphonie en fa; Tragic Symphony (sometimes confusingly referred to as No.5)

- 2 piano concertos; Ballet mécanique; other orchestral works

- flute sonata; trumpet sonata; 4 violin sonatas (No.1 only finale extant, No.2 with drums) and violin sonatina; Concertino for flute, bassoon and piano; 3 string quartets; Symphony for 5 instruments and other chamber music

- cantata Cabeza de vaca; song cycles including Eight Fragments from Shelley and Songs of Experience; other songs

- surviving ballets Capital of the World, Dance in Four Parts, and Dreams

- operas The Brothers, Helen Retires, Transatlantic, Venus in Africa, Volpone, and The Wish

- incidental music; 28 film scores, some lost; TV scores

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recommended works:

Airplane Sonata (Piano Sonata No.2, 1921)

Ballet mécanique (1926 rev. 1955)

Jazz Symphony (1926 rev 1955)

La femme: 100 Têtes (1933) for piano

Symphony No.5 (1947)

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bibliography:

G.Antheil                   Bad Boy of Music, 1945, reissued 1981

E.Pound                    Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony, 1928, reissued 1968

L. Whitesitt    The Life and Music of George Antheil, 1983

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BABBITT Milton Byron                                                                                                            

born 10th May 1916            at Philadelphia

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For better or worse, Milton Babbitt has been through his writings, his theories and his teaching as well as his music, one of the most influential of American composers since the Second World War, one whose music is treated outside the circles of his followers more with respect than with affection. Indeed, his works are totally unknown to the vast majority of those who listen to music: the composer himself has stressed the validity of appealing to a small elite. Broadly speaking, his achievement has been to remain in the forefront of the establishment and development of 12-tone music in the USA, and more especially to reappraise the 12-tone legacy of Schoenberg, ally it with Webern's derived sets (a term invented by Babbitt, referring to a 12-note set that is derived from the manipulation of a smaller set of notes), apply the techniques to all the parameters of music (e.g. duration, dynamics) as well as pitch, utilize the concepts of new mathematics in the resultant systems, and invent (or borrow from mathematics) terms to describe the processes (and which have become current usage in complex analysis of such works).

The result was the concept of 'total serialism', which European composers such as Boulez and Stockhausen were arriving at independently following the lead of Messiaen, but a year or so later than Babbitt. A major difference has been that the European composers by and large dropped the strict application of total serialism by the middle 1950s as being too restricting; Babbitt, on the other hand, has developed it. His first work of total serialism was Three Compositions for Piano (1947-1948) a busy, yet austere and sometimes delicate set of abstract miniatures, much more easily appreciated (like most of Babbitt's music) when heard while following a score. It uses a rhythmic set (and its transformations) that corresponds to the pitch set (and its transformations according to 12-tone principles). In the uncompromising, often single-voiced Composition for Four Instruments (1948) for flute, violin, clarinet and cello, and Composition for Twelve Instruments (1948) the complex serial interrelationships between the various aspects of the music are extended. He then continued to refine the internal mathematical honeycombs of his music, in such works as the String Quartet No.2 (1954) in which the structure is based on the introduction of the first half of a 12-note series (with their own row permutations), with increasingly larger intervals until all six notes are stated consecutively, followed by a similar process with the second six notes, until all twelve notes can be sounded, or in the intervallic relationships of Partitions (1957) for piano, the polyphonic network of Relata I (1965) for orchestra, the distantly jazz touches of All Set (1957) for jazz ensemble, or the String Quartet No.3 (1969-1970) which the composer has aptly described as 'sonic asceticism'. In all these works the fascination is largely intellectual, the appeal to the mathematical mind, the conceptualisation abstract. To the curious general listener, the most appealing work of this period is probably Philomel (1964) for soprano and 4-track tape.

In 1959 Babbitt set up the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Studio, and himself became one of the earlier American exponents of electronic music. He himself used the medium largely to have total control over the detailed graduations of his strictly total serial concepts, particularly organized changes in timbre and colour, and to utilize the ability to create much faster changes than instrumentalists, in contrast to the new aural conceptualisations that the Europeans were pursuing. His earliest essay for tape was Composition for Synthesizer (1961), the best-known probably Ensembles for Synthesizer (1962-1964).

Babbitt's own achievement has been considerable, even if appreciated by a very few. But there are many who consider that his influence on American music has been little short of disastrous, producing a whole generation of composers without his talent, erudition or wit who have slavishly followed, in the academic circles where much of the funding for new music is available, intellectual complexities of such convoluted intent that their music has often been excruciating, and totally devoid of any audience other than their fellow practitioners. One might also point to another effect of his influence, which many would consider equally unfortunate: that the main reaction to such intellectual complexity has been a swing to the opposite end of the pendulum, the often oversimplified harmonically naïve trend of Minimalism.

Babbitt has taught at Princeton since 1938 (as director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center since 1959), and at the Juilliard. He received a Pulitzer Special Citation for Music in 1982.

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works include:

- Concerti for violin, small orch. and tape

- Relata I and II for orch.; Ars combinatoria for small orch.; Correspondences for string orch. and tape

- My Ends Are My Beginning for solo clarinet; melismata for solo violin; Dual for cello and piano; Images for saxophone and piano; Compositions for viola and piano; Sextet for violin and piano; 5 string quartets (No.1 withdrawn); woodwind quartet; Compositions for Four Instruments for flute, clarinet, violin and cello; Four Play for clarinet, violin, cello and piano; Arie da capo for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, violin, cello and piano; Paraphrases for 10 instruments; Composition for Twelve Instruments

- Canonical Form, Duet, It Takes Twelve to Tango, Lagniappe, Minute Waltz, My Compliments to Roger, Partitions, Playing for Time, Post-Partitions, Tableaux and Three Compositions for piano; Reflections for piano and tape; Don for piano, 4 hands

- Sheer Pluck for guitar

- Composition for tenor and 6 instruments; The Head of the Bed for soprano, flute, clarinet, violin and cello; A Solo Requiem for soprano and 2 pianos; Two Sonnets for baritone, clarinet, violin and cello; and other songs

- More Phenomena for 12 voices; An Elizabethan Sextette for 6 female voices; Four Canons for women's voices

- music-theatre Fabulous Voyage

- electronic Composition for Synthesizer, Ensembles for Synthesizer and Occasional Variations

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recommended works:

Ensembles for Synthesizer (1964)

String Quartet No.2 (1952)

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BARBER Samuel                                                                                                                     

born 9th March 1910                       at Westchester

died 23rd January 1981                  at New York

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Samuel Barber was a more varied and more interesting composer than his current reputation as a conservative in an age of modernism would suggest. His output was small, but beautifully crafted, usually in larger forms. He is often misleadingly called a Romantic composer, but there is rarely any Romantic sensibility or conflict in his music except in the two major operas; instead there is a distillation of potential complexities into their base constituents. He is, though, undoubtedly a lyrical composer, the lyricism perhaps stemming from his training as a singer (unusual for a composer) and providing a constant thread throughout his work. This seeming effortless lyrical inspiration is married to a base drawn from neo-classicism, usually using conventional Classical forms, the harmony traditional, though extended in works after 1939. He was a composer of considerable undemonstrative craftsmanship: his rhythmical sense is often quietly active, unobtrusively adding angles onto the flowing lines, and his orchestration, often for chamber-like forces, is a model of clarity. In this general cast he has in his earlier works much in common with Kabalevsky and Rodrigo, and indeed can at times coincidentally sound like either (for example, in the first and second movements respectively of the Violin Concerto). His later works are more wide-ranging in their idiom, as he undemonstratively absorbed elements of contemporary developments but also was prepared to vary the means considerably to suit the demands of a particular work.

Two of Barber's best-known works come from early in his career, and make a lyrical introduction to his music. Dover Beach (1931) for baritone and string quartet sets Matthew Arnold's descriptive-philosophical poem, and is illustrative of a predominant mood in Barber's music, a kind of wistfulness tinged by lyrical sadness. The quartet creates an almost continuous weave, rocking like the waves, undulating, rhythmically fluid, crossing paths with the melancholic but rhapsodic vocal line. The lovely sonorous Adagio for Strings is actually the slow movement with expanded forces of the String Quartet (1936). A third introduction to Barber's music is the Piano Sonata (1949), which goes beyond the purely lyrical image of the composer. Tonal in the sense of using a basic key, it also freely uses ideas drawn from 12-tone techniques. The virtuoso first movement is essentially Romantic, but constantly confounds expectations rhythmically and harmonically; the second is a brief scherzo, twinkling and lissom, like a music-box waltz; the third builds up to passion; and the finale, starting as a fugue, is the most interesting, with boogie-woogie jazz rhythms whose feel have confounded many an accomplished player - this sonata needs a pianist who can get underneath its eclectic idioms to come off, and is fascinating when it does.

Besides the Adagio and Dover Beach, it is the concertos that are most frequently encountered. The popularity of the Violin Concerto (1939) has been hampered by its hybrid nature. The first too movements are gloriously lyrical, with a lovely insinuating opening idea worthy of Dvořák, lucid chamber textures (including piano) and a singing slow movement. But the businessman who commissioned the concerto for his protegé complained these were too easy to play, whereupon Barber wrote a furious, virtuoso and rather brash finale (which the violinist then claimed he could not play). This sits rather uneasily against the preceding lyricism, though it does illustrate Barber's gradual change to a less obviously Romantic idiom. The Capricorn Concerto (1944) for flute, oboe, trumpet and strings has the verve of a Stravinsky neo-classical work in a quasi-concerto grosso. The less well-known Cello Concerto (1945) is a lovely undemanding work, pitting energy against lyricism in the first movement, a Mediterranean glow in the slow movement touched by a hint of wistfulness, and a finale of complex, shifting emotions. The Piano Concerto (1962) is a virtuoso work in three movements, each in a sharply contrasting minor key. It is the most obviously Romantic of his concertos, though in the sometimes helter-skelter final movement the writing is eclectically wild, with a touch of humour.

The Symphony No.1 (1935-1936, revised) is in a single movement with contrasting sections. The second symphony has a somewhat complex history. Titled Symphony Dedicated to the Army Air Force (1943-1944), and using airplane effects and dissonant harmonies, it was revised and then destroyed in 1964 (but survives in a recording), except for the second movement, which was retitled Night Flight for orchestra; it is an atmospheric evocation of its title, an American equivalent to a Respighi mood-painting. The fine Essay for Orchestra No.1 (1937), its title referring to `a work of a moderate length on a particular subject', is an abstract largely neo-classical work in one movement but with distinct sections along symphonic lines, tinged with a hint of Dvořák towards the end, most effectively constructed on the simplest of themes that appears in its inversion to round off the work. The music of Medea's Meditation and Dance of Vengeance (1946, usually heard in its orchestral tone-poem form, 1955) was originally written for a Martha Graham ballet charting Medea's growing jealousy of Jason and her desire for vengeance, with the characters of the Greek tragedy sometimes assuming the form of a modern woman and man. It is rich and exotic, its dissonances used for dramatic rather than harmonic ends; the actual dance is American in feel, with its piano ostinato, its jazzy rhythms and colours passed among the orchestra and providing a kind of pre-echo to Bernstein's West Side Story.

The libretto for Barber's opera Vanessa (1958) was written by Menotti, set around 1905 in northern Europe: Vanessa has waited twenty years for her lover, but it is his son who returns, takes up with her, and leaves with Vanessa for Paris. In the process, the son rejects his own lover, who shrouds the house to await his return. It employs all the tricks of Grand Opera (four acts, a ball scene) for this overtly Mills and Boon/Harlequin story designed to appeal to conservative American audiences not willing to be challenged, and Barber wrote music to suit. His next full-length opera, Antony and Cleopatra (1965-1966), was also on a grand scale and had a notoriously disastrous premiere. The libretto by Zeffirelli and Barber, based on Shakespeare, was revised in 1974 by Menotti, removing much of the spectacle, condensing some sections and adding a duet taken from a play by Beaumont and Fletcher (and set with a lyricism worthy of Puccini). It deserved reworking, for Barber's music is communicative and attractive, and if lacking the depth of the Shakespeare, combines passion, lyricism, and a touch of exoticism that is worth exploring by those who might have been put off by the opera's original reputation. Less flawed than either of these is the tiny chamber-opera A Hand of Bridge (1948) for four soloists and chamber orchestra, a comedy with a serious undertone. The frame for the opera is the game; within this the four players are alienated, estranged individuals, thinking respectively of such things as clothes, a mistress, a dying mother, and a boring job, and yet continuing the illusion of their lives through the formalities of bridge. The lithe score has touches of jazz and follows the moods of the players. The smaller scale of this work might seem more suited to Barber's idiom, but he proved that he could write on a large, powerful, and dramatic scale in the scena Andromache's Farewell (1962). It sets Euripides: Andromache, widow of Hector, has been told that she cannot take her son with her into exile following the defeat of Troy - he is to be killed, and this is her farewell to her son and to Troy. This extended aria has the richness of Strauss, immediately obvious in the opening orchestral outburst, making one wish he had created a complete opera from the story. Knoxville: Summer of 1915 (1947) for soprano and orchestra is an effective setting of a James Agee prose poem about evening in a small American town.

Barber was a composer whose self-effacing and essentially uncomplicated musical view of life becomes increasingly attractive the more one explores it, the work of a minor master who now deserves a more sympathetic general treatment.

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works include:

- 2 symphonies including Symphony Dedicated to the Army Air Force

- cello concerto; piano concerto; violin concerto; Capricorn Concerto for flute, oboe, trumpet and strings; Toccata Festiva for organ and orch.

- 3 Essays for Orchestra, Fadograph of a Yestern Scene, Music for a Scene from Shelley, overture School for Scandal; Adagio for Strings (from String Quartet No.1); Serenade for Strings

- 3 string quartets; Summer Music for woodwind quintet

- piano sonata; Ballade, Excursions for piano

- song cycle Despite and Still; Andromache's Farewell for soprano and orch.; Dover Beach for lower voice and string quartet; Knoxville: Summer of 1915 for voice and orch.; The Lovers for baritone, chorus and orch.; Prayers of Kierkegaard for soprano, chorus and orch.; A Stop-watch and an Ordinance Map for male voice choir and orch.; choral preludes Dies Natalis; many songs

- ballets Medea: The Cave of the Heart and Souvenirs

- operas Antony and Cleopatra, A Hand of Bridge and Vanessa

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recommended works:

Adagio for Strings (1936)

scena Andromache's Farewell (1962) for soprano and orchestra

opera Antony and Cleopatra (1966, revised 1974) (see text)

Essay for Orchestra No.1 (1937)

chamber opera A Hand of Bridge (1959)

Cello Concerto (1945)

Dover Beach (1931) for lower voice and string quartet

Medea's Meditation and Dance (1947) for orchestra

Piano Sonata (1949)

Violin Concerto (1939) (see text)

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bibliography:

N. Broder       Samuel Barber, 1954

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BERNSTEIN Leonard                                                                                                              

born 25th August 1918       at Lawrence (Massachusetts)

died 14th October 1990      at New York

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At present, it is difficult to separate Bernstein the composer from Bernstein the media-master, the most brilliant example of American mass high-culture, a marvellous speaker and communicator, and sometimes brilliant, usually wayward conductor. His music is often treated like his personality and his conducting: uncritically, as if such a forceful personality has to be brilliant just because he was such a personality. This very American confusion between style and substance masks the underlying impression that he composed a number of interesting works but only one masterpiece (the musical West Side Story), and that, through its genre, lies on the margins of this Guide.

Much of Bernstein's more weighty music is touched by his Jewish faith, and the earliest work likely to be encountered, the programmatic Symphony No.1 `Jeremiah' (1942) uses the Biblical `Lamentations of Jeremiah' (in Hebrew) in its third and final movement, for mezzo-soprano and orchestra, with an aura of Hebrew melody in the (original) vocal line. The symphony is grand in scale, Mahlerian in the first and third (slow) movement, but with a very American tone to the most attractive middle movement, full of Coplandesque dance syncopations broadening out into a larger American vision (and portraying its intended programme of the results of pagan corruption rather unsuccessfully, since it is so vital). The Symphony No.2 `Age of Anxiety' (1947-1949, revised 1965) is essentially a piano concerto inspired by the poem by W.H.Auden (whose essence is a cry for faith), in two parts each divided into three sections, closely following the structure and the content of the poem. It veers eclectically in style, from a late-Romantic florid delicacy, through echoes of Stravinsky and grand gestures, to pure jazz, but manages a tenuous internal logic. These two symphonies deserve a place in the canon of the American symphony, if not a prominent one. The Symphony No.3 `Kaddish' (1961-1963, revised 1977) for soprano, speaker, chorus, boys' chorus and orchestra is the least successful of the three. It sets the Jewish prayer chanted for the dead, continuing the theme of faith, along with English words by Bernstein that do not match the Hebrew or the music in quality: indeed at times the work has similarities to Soviet Socialist Realist declamatory choral works. The Mass (1971) for singers, players and dancers bears about the same relationship to a liturgical work of depth as does an Andrew Lloyd-Webber musical to a serious modern opera. Using pop elements, including an electric guitar, quasi-Broadway tunes, mixed uneasily with classical touches, and combining embarrassingly corny words with the Mass, it seemed designed to instantly gratify those who cannot go beyond instant gratification.

Bernstein's flair for a more populist idiom had surfaced much more successfully in the ballet Fancy Free (1944). The ballet follows a group of sailors on shore leave, trying to find young women; it is Bernstein at his best, bringing together elements of Broadway, jazz, a trace of Kurt Weill, in a score of gaiety, verve, and rhythmic flow. It was then expanded into the Broadway musical On the Town (1944). The witty and entertaining Prelude, Fugue and Riffs (1949) for clarinet and ensemble is a cross between Stravinskian neo-classicism and out-and-out jazz. After an adaptation of Voltaire in the musical Candide (1956), a work of varying quality that doesn't match its source, the culmination of this trend was Bernstein's masterpiece, the musical West Side Story (1957). With a book by Stephen Sondheim, himself a renowned Broadway composer, it reworks Romeo and Juliet in modern New York with a brilliant combination of Bernstein's classical and more popular experience, its songs too familiar to be enumerated here. Bernstein turned some of the music into a successful concert suite (West Side Story - Symphonic Dances, 1960). His one-act opera Trouble in Tahiti (1952) was less successful; he reworked it into the opera A Quiet Place (1983).

Of his other works for the concert platform, two stand out. Chichester Psalms (1965) for treble, chorus and orchestra (also version with harp and organ) uses Hebrew texts of the psalms, the idiom ranging from touches of jazz to a cappella writing. In the orchestral song-cycle Songfest (1976-1977) for six soloists and orchestra Bernstein finally succeeded in integrating the disparate influences on his music into a convincing whole. Although written for a festive occasion (the American Bicentenary) and drawing on American poets from the 17th-century Anne Bradstreet to Lawrence Ferlinghetti, many of the poems have an undercurrent of protest. The musical idiom draws on a similar range, from Broadway-like tunes through art-song to a big-band sound. But whereas so often in Bernstein's work these eclectic sources had been inserted wholesale into a particular passage, here they are melded into a concert-classical base. The Ferlinghetti setting, for example, initially appears to be a jazz piece, but it is also a 12-tone setting, and eventually reaches regions beyond the jazz song, while two poems about the Afro-American experience are brilliantly combined into a single song. The orchestra is huge, but used in different combinations for each song.

Bernstein was music director of the New York City Center Orchestra (1945-1948), taught at the Berkshire Music Centre (1951-1955) and at Brandeis University (1951-1956) and was associated with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra as assistant conductor, musical director, and Laureate Conductor from 1943. It was perhaps a measure of his confusion over different idioms that near the end of his life he recorded West Side Story with purely operatic voices, with disastrously stilted results.

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works include:

- 3 symphonies (No.1 Jeremiah with mezzo-soprano; No.2 Age of Anxiety with piano; No.3 Kaddish for soprano, speaker, chorus, boys' choir and orch.)

- Halil for flute and orch.; Serenade for violin, strings, harp and percussion; Preludes, Fugues and Riffs for clarinet and ensemble

- overture Slava!; Divertimento and A Musical Toast for orch.

- clarinet sonata; violin sonata; piano trio; Four Studies for 2 clarinets, 3 bassoons and piano

- piano sonata; Four Anniversaries, Five Anniversaries and Seven Anniversaries for piano; Scenes from the City of Sin for piano, 4 hands

- song cycles La bonne cuisine and I Hate Music; Songfest for 6 soloists and orchestra; Silhouette (Galilee) and other songs

- Mass for singers, players and dancers; Chichester Psalms for treble, chorus and orch.; Hashkivenu for tenor cantor, chorus and organ; Simchu na and Yigdal for chorus and piano; Harvard Choruses and The Lark for chorus; Little Norton Lecture for male voice choir and other vocal works

- ballets Dybbuk, Facsimile and Fancy Free

- operas Trouble in Tahiti and A Quiet Place

- musicals Candide, On the Town, West Side Story, Wonderful Town and 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

- film score On The Waterfront

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recommended works:

Chichester Psalms (1965) for treble, chorus and orchestra (or harp and organ)

ballet Fancy Free (1944)

Songfest (1976-1977) for 6 singers and orchestra

Symphonic Dances (from West Side Story) (1960)

Symphony No.1 Jeremiah (1942)

Symphony No.2 Age of Anxiety (1949 rev.1965)

musical West Side Story (1957)

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bibliography:

L. Bernstein              The Unanswered Question, 1976

J. Peyser                    Bernstein: A Biography, 1987

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BOLCOM William                                                                                                                      

born 26th May 1938            at Seattle

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William Bolcom is as well-known as a performer (especially with his third wife, the mezzo-soprano Joan Morris) as a composer. He is also an expert on rag-time music, and his own compositions draw on a wide variety of sources, especially early American music, rag-time, and the occasional touch of cabaret or Broadway, combined into a post-modernist idiom drawing on the experience of the avant-garde period. Sometimes this mix sits uneasily; at others it can be most effective, and is always willing to be exploratory. His harmonic idiom is eclectic, ranging from the serial to works with heavy chromatic dissonance with a tonal centre, to more traditional harmonies. His concert works are often dramatic, and in the 1960s he worked with improvisational theatre groups.

His more important works include song-cycles. The huge setting of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Experience (1956-1981) for nine solo voices, three choruses, children's chorus and orchestra set forty-six songs and took him two-and-a-half decades to write. The song cycle Open House (1975) for tenor and chamber orchestra sets seven poems by Theodore Roethke in a sensitive treatment that matches the gently passionate poetry, ranging from the Expressionist through shades of Britten and a sinuous humour reminiscent of Walton's Façade to a Broadway influence. The second part of the two-movement Symphony No.4 (1986) for mezzo-soprano and orchestra is an extended setting of a Roethke poem, `The Rose'; the first movement, `Soundscape', is of Mahlerian proportions and emotional range, longer on effect than substance. The Symphony No.5 (1990) drew on Wagner (Lohengrin and Tristan und Isolde) and the hymn `Abide with Me'.

His other works are wide-ranging in styles and genres, attempting collage-like effects in the 1960s, with a Blakeian vision of an American culture moving towards disintegration, and then increasingly influenced by rag-time and Classical music. Black Host (1967) for organ, percussion and tape, includes a jazz passage and crowd noises on the tape. Frescoes (1971) for two pianos doubling harmonium and harpsichord is a rather strange two-part work, inspired by paintings, the first half titled `War in Heaven', the second `The Cave of Orcus' (the underworld). It is a declamatory collage of effects, from the monumental to the deliberately naïve, its first part heavily influenced by early American secular music (such as Benjamin Carr's The Siege of Tripoli for narrator and piano). The culmination of this collage tendency was the wild Piano Concerto (1975-1976) which draws on almost every musical style conceivable, ending with a montage of snatches of famous American tunes (such as `The Battle Hymn of the Republic' - it was written for the Bicentennial). The contemporary opening of Commedia (1971) for `(almost) 18th-century orchestra', evoking the commedia dell'arte, is almost immediately countered by reminders of Papageno's flute, and the work then traverses an entertaining amalgam of the old and the new that is aptly titled and well worth encountering, using a kaleidoscope structure in which different combinations come into view and are replaced by others. The Fantasia Concertante (1986) is entirely Mozartian. Much of his piano music emulates piano-rags, which also emerged in Ragomania (1982) for orchestra. Works such as the Duo Fantasy (1973) for violin and piano move from an almost atonal idiom to a waltz and rag-time, traversing both agitation and sentimentality; one of the more successful combinations of blues and suggestions of old hymns is the laid-back and attractive Violin Sonata No.2 (1978). Two of his operas are in cabaret style (there are also two sets of cabaret songs); the rather uninteresting television opera Matigue (1993) has an American Western theme, rather hysterical vocal lines, and echoes of Broadway.

Bolcom was composer-in-residence with the Detroit Symphony (in 1987 and 1988), and he taught at the University of Washington (1965-1966), the City University of New York (1966-1968), New York University (1969-1971), and at the University of Michigan since 1973.

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works include:

- 5 symphonies (No.2 Oracles)

- piano concerto; violin concerto; Concertante for flute, oboe, violin and orch.; Five for violin, piano and 3 string groups; Humoresque for organ and orch.

- Summer Divertimento and Ragomania for orch.; Commedia for chamber orch.

- Short Lecture for solo clarinet; Phrygia for harp; sonata for solo violin; Decalage for cello and piano; Dark Music for cello and timpani; Concert Piece for clarinet and piano; Aubade for oboe and piano; Lilith for saxophone and piano; 2 violin sonatas; Duo Fantasy, Fancy Tales, Graceful Ghost and Pastorale for violin and piano; rag suite Afternoon for clarinet, violin and piano; piano quartet; 9 string quartets (Nos. 1-7 withdrawn; No.9 Novella); Trauermarsch for flute, oboe, electric harpsichord and electric cello; brass quintet; Duets for Quintet; Whisper Moon for 2 violins, flute, clarinet and piano; octet; series Session (I for septet, II for violin and viola, III for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion, IV for nonet)

- Brass Knuckles, The Dead Moth Tango, Dream Music No.1, Fantasy Sonata No.1, Garden of Eden, The Graceful Ghost, Monsterpieces (and Others), Raggin' Rudi, Romantic Piece, Seabiscuits Rag and Twelve Etudes for piano; Interlude for 2 pianos Dream Music No.2 for harpsichord and percussion; Frescoes for 2 pianos doubling harmonium and harpsichord

- Chorale and Prelude on `Abide With Me', Hydraulis, Mysteries and Gospel Preludes (3 books) for organ; Black Host for organ, percussion and tape; Praeludium for organ and harmonium; Seasons for guitar

- Open House for tenor and chamber orch.; Six Cabaret Songs and Six New Cabaret Songs for voice and piano; Three Donald Hall Songs for lower voice and ensemble

- Morning and Evening Poems for soloists and instrumental ensemble; Songs of Innocence and Experience for 9 soloists, 3 choruses, children's chorus and orch.; Satires for chorus

- operas Dynamite Tonight, Greatshot and Matigue; music theatre Casino Paradise

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recommended works:

Commedia (1971) `for (almost) 18th-Century Orchestra'

song cycle Open House (1975) for tenor and chamber orchestra

Songs of Innocence and Experience (1956-1981) for nine solo voices, three choruses, children's chorus and orchestra

Violin Sonata No.2 (1978)

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CAGE John (Milton)                                                                                                                 

born 5th September 1912               at Los Angeles

died 12th August 1992       at New York

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John Cage was the outstanding American experimenter of the 20th century, and the one who has most deeply influenced other composers the world over. His name has also been vilified - partly through ignorance - by the more orthodox music listener, a reputation that is often unjustified, as many who have encountered his music have discovered. His inventive and meticulous mind was matched by a surety of ear that transcends the merely theoretical, and if his more extreme ideas, especially in the 1950s and early 1960s, may have a largely intellectual appeal to a limited number of music lovers prepared to address the extremes of the avant-garde, his earlier music in particular paved the way for the most recent of trends, Minimalism. Those music lovers who enjoy Minimalism will appreciate and enjoy the music of this remarkable precursor (and find it considerably more rewarding than many of the later Minimalist composers).

Cage's earliest scores followed 12-tone principles (he studied briefly with Schoenberg in 1934), but it was following the example of Henry Cowell, to whom Cage acknowledged a considerable debt (creating a continuity of eccentric American innovators), that he developed an individual voice. Cowell and Varèse had opened up new possibilities with percussion; Cage formed his own percussion group in 1938, and faced an inherent problem in the indeterminate pitch of so many of the percussion instruments he used (including found objects, such as brake drums, and many exotic eastern instruments). The solution was the reliance not on the musical organization of pitch in the Western tradition, but on the development of the organization of rhythm (as Varèse had done in Ionization). Cage's preferred method was to repeat groups of rhythmic patterns, well-known to the Eastern musics (e.g. Indian talas) that Cowell had introduced Cage to some years before. Such additive groups give a sense of stasis within movement. At the time this was a rhythmic concept alien to the Western tradition, but it now receives widespread acceptance thanks to later developments in both popular and classical music. Cage's own version preferred squared proportions in numerical relationships. Typical works of this period are the marvellous, vividly and metallically coloured, urban-orientated First Construction (in Metal) (1939) for a variety of metal-based percussion instruments, or the rather spare textures of the Third Construction (1941) for percussion, using traditional instruments from all parts of the Americas. This piece, being divided into 24 sections, themselves divided in 24 bars, illustrates his preoccupation with proportion.

Equally trail-blazing was the addition of variable speed turntables in Imaginary Landscape No.1 (1939) and frequency oscillators (producing purely electronic sounds) in Imaginary Landscape No.3 (1942), as Cage continued the search for sound sources divorced from traditional concert instruments. Cowell had achieved considerable notoriety with his unconventional use of the piano, creating sounds by plucking or sweeping the strings with the hands, and using tone-clusters. These were essentially atmospheric accompaniments; Cage extended the range of sounds by meticulously preparing the piano, modifying individual strings by the application of objects (ranging from nuts and bolts to forks and cardboard strips) to the strings themselves, creating what he named (on the score of Bacchanale for piano, 1940) the `prepared piano'. The expression has since received general acceptance. The result was an instrument that was essentially percussive, and a development of the percussive approach already discussed; since Cage initially used prepared piano pieces as music for dance (thus obviating the need for a number of percussion instruments), the modifications became the sounds of the music itself, rather than the essentially accompanying role of Cowell's innovations. The percussive nature was emphasized by the fact that some of the modifications meant that specific strings could lose their absolute pitch (harmony, in any chordal sense, has a minor place in all of Cage's work). The innovations were allied with the experience of his percussion music, and there appeared series of works which look forward to the Minimalists of the 1980s, with slow-moving patterns of sound whose rhythmic progression is drawn from Eastern models, and, in the colours Cage elicited, a strong echo of the timbre and style of the gamelan orchestra, often very delicate in timbre. The characteristic piano sound is virtually completely eradicated by Cage's preparations. Typical of these pieces is The perilous night (1943-1945) for prepared piano, with ethereal, beguiling sounds and a mesmerizing progression, the monodic A Valentine out of Season (1944) or the very minimalist Music for Marcel Duchamp (1947). Amores (1943) juxtaposes sections for percussion (with the hissing sounds of a pod rattle against tom-toms, a colour contrast found throughout Cage's music) against the softer sounds of a prepared piano. Exceptionally complex preparation and (within the unfolding of longer patterns) intricate polyrhythms, sounding like the multiple rhythms of more recent improvisatory jazz, dominate Three dances (1944-1945) for two amplified prepared pianos, again with gamelan overtones, and all strictly notated (and therefore composer-instigated). The Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948) were an extended set of works (sixteen sonatas and four interludes) for prepared piano (with mesmerizing ostinati in such works as Sonata V). The last piece that Cage wrote for prepared piano is generally the most highly regarded, the Concerto for prepared piano and chamber orchestra (1950-1951), although most readers may prefer the earlier works already mentioned. This piece, of nebulous strands of a narrow range of timbres, also used rhythmic structures drawn on charts, and silent sections, and reflects Cage's growing conviction that the composer's role was as a conduit for divine (or natural) influence rather than as a means of self-expression.

The summation of this period is probably the String Quartet in Four Parts (1950), in which many of Cage's concerns over the previous years are brought together. The structure is based on square roots, mathematically precise, with a basic structural unit of 22 bars and with small divisions keeping a similar pattern, the overall distribution between the four movements also being based on 22. The string players are expected to play in a very flat style (e.g. with no vibrato) to produce sounds reminiscent of some of the sound effects of the prepared piano. In addition, the movements not only represent seasons, but the first two, places, and all four, elements of Indian philosophy. If this sounds impossibly academic, the results, like so much of Cage's music up to this point, are exactly the opposite, with a haunting unadorned unfolding of slow events like the distant distortion of some familiar music, but with an underlying inevitability (the tempo indication is constant) that does indeed reflect the philosophy.

These works had been meticulously notated, with a mathematical exactitude. With Music of Changes (for piano, in four volumes, 1951), Cage's ideas took a radical new turn, and one that was to become exceedingly influential to other avant-garde composers of the time. Following his reading of the Chinese I Ching (Book of Changes), he abandoned his careful delineation of all the parameters of his music, and allowed some of them to be determined by chance (specifically by charts and by the throwing of dice). The music that Cage then notated was therefore partly determined by these procedures; with Music for Piano I (1952) Cage took a further step, with the performer rather than the composer choosing the duration of the notes, and the pitch of the notes being determined by imperfections in the music paper. In Imaginary Landscape No.4 (1951) for twelve radios, the chance is what is on the air and received by the radios. The intention in all these pieces is to turn the audience's attention away from the self-expression of the composer towards an understanding of the elements of incidental chance and of the sounds around the performance. The latter was brought, in its most famous manifestation, to an extreme expression in 4'33" (1952) for any number of players (usually a pianist) who remain silent. If anyone thinks this a joke, they should attend a performance; they may not consider the event music, but the resultant heightened awareness of the sounds around (in the hall, outside) is considerable, and one's awareness of the nature of sound enhanced.

Cage then developed chance into indeterminacy, where instead of chance being a factor in notation, it would take place in performance, so that no two performances of a piece would be the same; the role of the composer was thus further transformed from self-expression into an initiation of ceremonies. Music for Piano 1-84 (1953-1956) in four parts, may be played all together or in sections, perhaps separately, perhaps simultaneously, by any number of pianists, while the Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-1958, not to be confused with the Concerto for prepared piano and chamber orchestra, above) is totally random, any number of players on any instruments choosing any parts of a score founded on chance, the duration determined by a conductor showing the time. The graphic notation of works of the late 1950s and early 1960s (such as Variations I for any number of players, 1958) are almost totally divorced from the musical results, and exist in their own right (Cage was eventually to produce art works). Works such as Atlas Eclipticalis (1961-1962, constellation maps translated into musical notes) can be played simultaneously with others like Winter Music (1957) for any number of pianists, the score distributed randomly. The reductio ad absurdam was probably a necessary measure at the time; its opposite was the exploration of sounds per se by electronic means (often in collaboration with David Tudor), from Williams Mix (1952), through Cartridge Music (1960) to realisations of such works as Variations II (1961). Whether anyone would now want to recreate such things other than in the spirit of historical interest is a moot point: the resulting music requires the listener to simply receive the sounds resultant from so much indeterminacy, rather than listen in the conventional sense. If in the right frame of mind this can be interesting (though surely more rewarding to create than receive), but mostly the music of this period of Cage's output is of import only from the point of view of musical philosophy or aesthetics. Overall, it is aurally a total bore if given concentrated attention, though interesting as background noise, where some fascinating sounds suddenly interrupt.

However, Cage's development of 'happenings', combining this aural hodge-podge with visual elements, from the stage events of Water Music (1952) for piano, which includes pouring water, through 0'0" (1962) in which Cage made juice from vegetables in an electric blender, to the gigantic multi-media happening HPSCHD (with Lejaren Hiller, 1967-1969), including 51 tapes, and snatches of the music of past masters, with film, slides, and lights, belongs to the exploration of new musico-dramatic possibilities that was one of the main legacies of the avant-garde period. The sounds here become incidental to the overall creation; and in HPSCHD, when divorced from the other events, start, wittingly or unwittingly, to create an urban soundscape. This process was furthered in the much more interesting 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs (1977) `for performer(s) or listener(s) or record maker(s)' - a graphic map of five boroughs of New York, then 149 street addresses divided into groups of three. Like the harpsichord fragments of the earlier work, sounds and fragments of waltzes are distributed by I Ching consultation and by dice throwing, and are combined with tapes prerecorded on location, as specified, and other live sound makers. The montage of street sounds punctuated by distant fragments of music is atmospheric and evocative, the chance sounds of the street brought into the concert hall.

Cage's later work continued to use chance operations, as well as many of his earlier techniques, with varied results. Some works remain more interesting in the conceptualization, as in Score (1974) for any number of instruments and/or voices, using small drawings from Thoreau's Journals to determine the music. In others, such as the delicate and ethereal Hymns and Variations (1979) for twelve solo singers with echoes of tunes by Henry Billings (1746-1800), there is a return to more conventional soundscape and delineation of forces (and, in this case, to the inheritance of the American tradition).

Cage's place in American and avant-garde music is unquestioned, for his conceptualizations remain of interest to anyone considering the problems of the development of modern music. Whether his actual music will continue to command the respect of performance is a different matter. The earlier works deserve to, and it is greatly to be regretted that so often the place of Cage's earlier music has been overwhelmed by his later innovations. Certainly 20th-century music has been greatly enhanced by the presence of this extraordinary personality, writer, artist, and expert on mushrooms as well as composer.

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works include: (selected list from large output)

- concerto for prepared piano and chamber orch.; Concert for Piano and Orchestra; Ryoanji for voices, flute, oboe, double bass, percussion and small orch.

- 30 Pieces for 5 Orchestras; Atlas Borealis for voices and orchestra; A Collection of Rocks for orch. without conductor; Dance Four Orchestras; Etcetera for small orch. and tape; 49 Waltzes for the Five Boroughs for any number of players, any means

- Atlas, eclipticalis for any ensemble drawn from 86 instruments; branches and Child of Tree for percussion using amplified plant materials; HPSCHD for 1 to 7 amplified harpsichords, 1 to 51 tapes (with L.Hiller); Score (Drawings by Thoreau) and 23 Parts for any instruments

- Amores for 2 prepared pianos, 2 percussion trios

- Nocturne for violin and piano; Six Melodies for violin and keyboard; percussion quartet; string quartet; 30 Pieces for String Quartet; Music for Four for string quartet; Music for Wind Instruments for wind quintet; Postcard from Heaven for 1 to 20 harps

- Constructions for various percussive instruments and objects

- Five Imaginary Landscapes for various objects or tape

- Music of Changes, 84 Music for Piano, and many other works for piano

- And the Earth shall Bear Again, Baccanale, In the Name of the Holocaust, Music for Marcel Duchamp, Music for Xenia, A Valentine out of Season, The Perilous Night, Prelude for a Meditation, Primitive, Roof of an Unfocus, Sonatas and Interludes, Spontaneous Earth, Tossed as it is Untroubled, Totem Ancestor, The Unavailable Memory of for prepared piano; Two Dances for amplified prepared piano; Electronic Music for piano and electronics

- 4'33" for any instrument, tacet; Radio Music for 1 to 8 radios, and other similar works

- The Wonderful Widow of Eighteen Springs for lower voice and closed piano; Song Books (Solos for Voice 3-92); Hymns and Variations for 12 amplified voices; and other vocal works

- Theatre Piece for 1 to 8 performers; 8 Variations for virtually any type or number of performers (No.8 for poster)

- Fontana Mix and other works for tape; Bird Cage for 12 tapes

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recommended works:

Amores (1943) for prepared piano and percussion

Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-1958)

Concerto for Prepared Piano and Chamber Orchestra (1951)

First Construction (in Metal) (1939) for percussion

Sonatas and Interludes (1946-1948) for prepared piano

Three dances (1944-1945) for two amplified prepared pianos

Third Construction (1941) for percussion quartet

Thirty Pieces for Five Orchestras (1986)

String Quartet in Four Parts (1950)

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bibliography:

Cage's own writings include Empty Words, 1979, For the Birds, 1981, Mud Book, 1982, Silence, 1961, Themes and Variations, 1982 and A Year from Monday, 1967.

P. Griffiths                 Cage, 1981

ed. R. Kostelanetz   John Cage, 1970

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CARTER Elliott Cook                                                                                                               

born 11th December 1908 at New York

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Elliott Carter was born the day after Messiaen, and the two composers are perhaps the most highly regarded of their generation. For Carter, widespread recognition came comparatively late in life, partly because he did not develop a truly individual idiom until his early 40s. Since then, however, his musical language has been entirely personal, following none of the systems or trends evident since the 1950s, but displaying an awareness of those developments. His idiom is especially rewarding because it combines conceptual brilliance and complexity of thought with an entirely expressive intent: Carter is inclined to develop the means, the structure of a piece, especially for the intent of that piece, whatever the common treads of his ideas. Thus he has not adhered to any particular system, apart from his use of `metrical modulations'.

However, both the concepts and the expressive content are usually of considerable complexity, especially in rhythm and metre. In place of development by conventional means (thematic or harmonic), Carter in his mature work has utilized what he has called `metric modulation'. Analogous to harmonic modulation (which transforms the sense of key), metric modulation is a gradual transformation of the underlying rhythmic pulse of a passage, sometimes emphasised by the introduction of cross-rhythms to change the metre (as opposed to a sudden shift, such as halving the speed). These changes can mark formal blocks in the structure. His atonal harmonic language is equally plastic, and typical of the way Carter will find novel structural solutions in a particular work is the extraction of a foreground three-note chord from a 12-note background in the Piano Concerto (1964-1965), then developed into more complex five- and seven-note chords in the Concerto for Orchestra (1969).

Equally prominent in Carter's work is a sense of duality, both in means and in content. His sense of music-making as a drama or conversation creates tensions with the purely abstract, intellectual intricacies of construction. Part of the solution is to create intentional dualities in the formal layout, whether between instrumental groups that oppose, interact, and overlay each other, or in strong differentiation between colours, rhythms, harmonic kernels and character of the basic materials - a form of collage. This can lead not only to the considerable aural complexity of much of his work, but an impression of a split between the formal and expressive qualities of his music; much of his evolution has been an increasing mastery of the combination of the two. That complexity requires considerable rehearsal time, and consequently his orchestral music is less often encountered in the concert hall than his chamber music.

Carter's earlier, and now less heard music, had included (after the early influence of Stravinsky and neo-classicism) echoes of Ives and Copland. In such works as the Holiday Overture (1944) he had demonstrated a rugged personality, while the Symphony No.1 (1942), although its last two movements are in the mainstream American tradition, has an unconventional first movement that progresses by variations on two groups of musical material in a foretaste of Carter's later concerns with unusual structures. The rugged and the vital are paramount in what is perhaps the most effective of the earlier works, the Piano Sonata (1945-1946). The sense of the overtones of the piano, emphasised by material based on chords of fifths, anticipates later preoccupations with sonority, while the undercurrent of stillness that keeps (magically) emerging as if always latent is another example of Carter's basic duality between the still point and the surrounding activity. The rather dour ballet Minotaur (1947, suite 1950) is primarily of interest to those wishing to explore the range of Carter's earlier music.

The work with which Carter (at the age of 42) found a totally individual voice, and which initiated a steady evolution of style ever since, was the String Quartet No.1 (1951), in which he allowed himself to explore a much more esoteric language, only to be surprised by the enthusiastic reception of the work. Although in three movements, these do not correspond to the sections of the work: rather the breaks are pauses in the flow. The quartet is framed by an opening cello cadenza, giving the basic harmonic material including a four-note chord in which every interval may be obtained through permutation; this is picked up by the violin at the close, the common link representing real time. Within this frame (suggesting dream time) is a complex layering of independent melodies fastened to each other through polymetric relationships. It is an intensely expressive work, `a continuous unfolding and changing of characters', as Carter has described it, emotionally charged, sometimes with a dry heat reminiscent of the desert in which it was written. A passage in the adagio exemplifies Carter's metrical manipulation for those new to it, with shifting flows and tempi above a strict `walking' jazz bass whose influence is felt even when it has finished.

A similar rugged sense instils the Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello, and Harpsichord (1952), in which Carter's sensitivity to texture is paramount, the other instruments picking up the resonances of the harpsichord. Perhaps the most effective work with which to approach his music is the Variations for Orchestra (1954-1955), one of Carter's more transparent pieces with a synthesis of many different styles (from Schoenberg to the American symphonic tradition). The structure, based on continuous variation of material rather than the traditional clearly differentiated sectioning, is particularly approachable, and the working of Carter's complex imagination is clearly exemplified by the two `ritornelli', in which the tempi characteristically undergo controlled change, and by variations seven, eight and nine - the ninth presents the three successive ideas of the seventh simultaneously over a rhythmic pulse transformed from variation eight. Throughout, the detailed clarity of the orchestration reflects Carter's mastery of sonority; the impression that one finds throughout Carter's music that he is not following any system, but building his own edifices, is strong.

In the String Quartet No.2 (1959) the sense of the individuality of the instruments, inherent in its predecessor, becomes overt in a kind of modern conversation piece (echoing Ives's String Quartet No.2), with each instrument being associated with different musical gestures, rhythms, and expressive content. It is a more condensed work than its predecessor, in both nine sections and four `movements' played continuously (with each of the first three dominated by one of the instruments). The `characters' go their own way, imitate each other, sometimes co-operate. In the Double Concerto (1959-1961) for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras, Carter's characteristic sense of duality is expressed by the different materials for the two soloists, and by their function as intermediaries between percussion and two chamber orchestras. The work is not easy to listen to, with very busy textures, but with a convincing arch structure, issuing from chaos to a kind of ordered expression and dissolving back again, its vibrant layers of imagination and event become compelling on renewed acquaintance. The Piano Concerto (1964-1965) is emotionally more uncompromising, with the piano associated with a concertino septet, in often violent (and unresolved) conflict with the main orchestra, and for many it will appear with its widely leaping intervals excruciatingly difficult music.

The culmination of this period of constructional intensity, complexity and dramatic interplay was the String Quartet No.3 (1971). The quartet of instruments is divided into two duos (violin and cello, violin and viola), each of which has different material and a number of different tempi in a formal plan of ten cross-cutting sections. Each of the tempi of one group is at one time or another played against the tempi of the other, as well as on its own (with the other duo silent), and such is the complexity of these ever-shifting strata that it is usually performed with a metronome `click-track' relayed by headsets to the players. It is impossible to approach this quartet with conventional expectations; instead one has to allow the ear to drop in and pick up the changing patterns and textures in this gritty and forceful work.

The Duo for Violin and Piano (1973-1974) formed a bridge between these complex works and a more open style that continued to explore new methods of expression while retaining the metrical idiom. At first hearing the song-cycle A Mirror on which to Dwell (1975) for soprano and chamber orchestra, setting six poems by Elizabeth Bishop, can appear dour. But underneath this surface is a welter of detail and effect, enhanced by the changing combinations of instruments for each song; in `Sandpiper', for example, the soprano lines (echoed by the oboe) exactly mimic the stop-go-stop movement of the bird on the shore, in `Insomnia' there is a haunting play of light in the overlapping textures, while `A View of the Capitol from the Library of Congress' (the work was commissioned for the Bicentennial) has Ives-like juxtapositions. A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976) was inspired by Hart Crane's poem The Bridge. The orchestra is divided into three groups with distinct characters, each of which has four movements, all differing in tempo and harmony that are cross-cut in the manner of the String Quartet No.3; the whole piece travels, in three parts but one overall motion, from the heights of the opening strings, woodwind and trumpet to the lowest depths. But these complex interactions travel too fast for immediate appreciation; the dominating effect of this powerful work, its textures less dense than earlier orchestral works, its sudden eruptions and outbursts new to Carter's idiom, is of a great, teeming, sometimes pugnacious, momentarily lyrical, urban landscape in which individual sections or buildings initially present a sense of confusion until they are seen within the broader landscape, matching Crane's epic imagery.

The symphony marked a climax in Carter's output, in which there was an element of reconciliation between the demands of form and of expressive intent. The twenty-minute Night Fantasies (1980) for piano retained the considerable complexity, together with virtuoso writing and sharp contrast of episode, but subsequent works have shown a mellowing of the intricacy. Syringa (1978) for mezzo-soprano, baritone and orchestra sets an allusive and ironic view of Orpheus by John Ashbery in a collage with fragments of Greek texts, with a clarity derived from A Mirror on which to Dwell. It was joined by another vocal work, In Sleep, in Thunder (1981) for tenor and chamber orchestra, setting Robert Lowell, to complete a trilogy. Triple Duo (1983) returns to the interplay of character through its juxtapositions and interactions of the duos, sharply contrasting in timbre and colour, of flute (doubling piccolo) and clarinet, violin and cello, and piano and percussion.

Carter's singular achievement has been to create a viable expressive musical language that eventually owes very little to traditional formal procedures, and yet maintains a link, however tenuous, with that tradition. His other achievement is more subtle: as the century has progressed there has been an increasing understanding that behind all apparent chaos, in whatever field, physical, psychological or social, lie patterns and organizations that have their own rigorous logic, momentum, order and beauty. Carter's music has exactly reflected that understanding.

Carter worked in the office of War Information during the Second World War, and taught at the Peabody Conservatory (1946-1948), at Columbia University (1948-1950), at Yale (1960-1962) and at the Juilliard (from 1963) and briefly at other universities.

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works include:

- symphony; Symphony for Three Orchestras

- oboe concerto; concerto for orch.; Double Concerto for harpsichord and piano

- Holiday Overture and Variations for Orchestra

- cello sonata; Pastoral for clarinet or cor anglais or viola and piano; Duo for violin and piano; 3 string quartets; Eight Etudes and a Fantasy for woodwind quartet; Pieces for Four Tympani; Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord; brass quintet; woodwind quintet; Triple Duo for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion and other chamber music

- piano sonata; Night Fantasies for piano

- In Sleep, In Thunder (1981) for tenor and orchestra; A Mirror on which to Dwell for soprano and chamber orch.; Syringa for mezzo-soprano, baritone and chamber orch.; Three Poems by Robert Frost for voice and piano

- The Defence of Corinth for speaker, men's chorus and piano four hands; The Harmony of Morning for women's four-part chorus and chamber orchestra; Emblems for men's chorus and piano and other choral works

- ballets The Minotaur and Pocahontas

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recommended works:

Double Concerto (1959-1961) for harpsichord, piano and two chamber orchestras

song-cycle A Mirror on which to Dwell (1975) for soprano and chamber orchestra

song-cycle In Sleep, in Thunder (1981) for tenor and chamber orchestra

Piano Sonata (1945-1946)

String Quartet No.1 (1951)

String Quartet No.2 (1959)

String Quartet No.3 (1971)

A Symphony of Three Orchestras (1976)

Variations for Orchestra (1954-1955)

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bibliography:

E. Carter        The Writings of Elliott Carter (ed. E. and K. Stone), 1977

D. Schiff        The Music of Elliott Carter, 1983

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COPLAND Aaron                                                                                                                      

born 14th November 1900 at Brooklyn (New York)

died 2nd December 1990   at New York

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Aaron Copland was the first composer of classical music whose style and spirit were recognized by a wide public to be specifically American. Although Ives and others had consciously forged an `American' style, they did so in isolation, virtually unnoticed, and historically Copland instigated a new outlook in which younger American composers looked to their fellow composers rather than European contemporaries for their models. Many followed his example of studying with Nadia Boulanger in Paris.

He remains the quintessential American composer, whose basic duality reflects the American landscape: the lyrical and the broad, evoking the wide expanses of the prairies, and the monumental, suggesting the high mountains when lyrical, urban skyscrapers when dissonant. For Copland, these were not mutually exclusive, but rather the opposite ends of the same pole, mediated by dance rhythms and especially the influence of Latin American and Mexican music. His primary vehicle was the orchestra, and he saw the timbres of individual instruments as having specific emotional connotations; consequently his orchestration concentrates on eliciting the maximum expression from each instrument and maintaining space between them, giving a purposeful airiness in the sound. The apparent ease and mastery of his rhythmic drive is often achieved by complex rhythmic patterns that have their origin in the syncopations and polyrhythms of jazz, though it should be noted that the jazz influence is rarely that of the intimate club (as it is in Stravinsky or Milhaud), but that of larger popular dance bands. Traditional and folk material (or invented folk-like tunes) are invariably modified by odd accents and phrasing. Two moods predominate in these dance patterns (corresponding to the basic duality in Copland's work): the undulating and trance-like, and the lively and nervous. Except when using 12-tone techniques, his traditional harmonies are enlivened by clashes and polyharmonies, and development is more often by evolution of rhythm and theme rather than any conventional harmonic progression (except when used as an intellectual device in such works as In the Beginning for choir, 1947). In general, his music seeks to express the multiplicity and variety of the surface impressions and emotions of the American life around him, as opposed to exploring the profound or the tragic.

Commentators have tried to draw distinct periods in Copland's output, but the elements of Copland's distinctive language were formed early on, and his early music brings many of them together, sometimes tumbling over each other. His development was to extract these various strands and to bring them to fruition at various times in different groups of works. The Symphony for Organ (1924), revised as Symphony No.1 without organ in 1928, introduces a number of Copland characteristics: the broad lyricism, the clear textures, the use of ostinato figures, the syncopated rhythms and the fanfare figures; the organ is generally undemonstrative, and there are acerbic harmonies, especially in the second movement. Music for the Theater (1925) for small orchestra is imbued with the dance, the influence of popular band music in evidence. The opening of the Piano Concerto (1926) establishes a kind of American pastoral, especially with the blues inflections of the piano entry; there are echoes of Prokofiev in the piano writing, but the second of two parts (played continuously) is jazzily dissonant and happily raucous. The Dance Symphony (1929), reworked from an earlier ballet Grohg (1922-1925) opens with a delightful Stravinskian neo-classicism, moves to the monumental and the rugged, and ends with jazzy touches similar in idiom to Gershwin's An American in Paris. Even at this early stage the influence of Latin-American percussion is evident. The more inflated Symphonic Ode (1928-1929, revisions to 1932) traverses broad vistas, and uses a characteristic Copland figure: a short note leaping upwards or downwards (sometimes on the octave) to a longer held note. The Short Symphony (1930-1933, numbered as Symphony No.2), with a fifteen-minute slow-fast-slow structure all of whose material is derived from the opening idea, is more spiky.

All these earlier works are distinctive, individual, and well worth hearing, but in the 1930s Copland's idiom split into two main strands. The first was a consciously more popular sound, with generally traditional harmonies, colourful rhythms and evocations, and a particular concentration on the broad, lyrical vistas. The second picked up on the more exploratory and dissonant elements inherent in almost all the earlier works, and developed them, eventually with 12-tone elements. These works, less often encountered, reflect the turbulence and the urban energy that Copland saw around him.

A major impulse in the more populist works was Copland's systematic absorption of the idiom of Mexican music, following visits there and through his friendship with Chávez. It was a development of great import for indigenous American music, for the Spanish-Mexican influence had infiltrated over the border through the movement of cattle ranching and its popular music, and Copland was thus forging a link with the music of the American West. El salón Mexico (1933-1936) for orchestra, brilliantly coloured, rhythmically impulsive, and full of `bounce' (Copland's word), adapted themes from two collections of Mexican folk-music. The ballet Billy the Kid (1938), whose orchestral suite uses a large portion of the ballet, brought the idiom to the American Western heritage, opening with the wide open prairie, portraying a frontier town, complete with Mexican women and their characteristic music, using onomatopoeic ideas for the gunfight, and weaving in an authentic cowboy song. The equally entertaining ballet Rodeo (1942, symphonic suite in four sections, 1945) is virtually a companion piece, following the adventures of a lonely, tom-boy who tries to match the riding skills of the men, and eventually dresses as a beautiful woman for the ranch dance and wins her man. Billy the Kid is more characterized by its vivid colour, Rodeo by its strong vein of humour. The best-known example of this aspect of Copland's output is undoubtedly Appalachian Spring (1943-1944), which exists as the original ballet for thirteen instruments, as a full orchestration of the ballet, and as a suite (omitting some eight minutes) for full orchestra, but sometimes played with the original instrumentation. This glowing, warm-hearted work transports us to Shaker country, that now defunct sect famous for its perfect combination of form and function in its furniture, and for its hymn tunes, of which `Tis the gift to be simple' forms the heart of the ballet music. Set in the early 1800s, it follows a young couple, about to be married, celebrating their newly-built farmhouse and warned by revivalists about human fate. The Symphony No.3 (1944-1946) contains a similar idiom in symphonic form, the basic duality being between the lyrical and the monumental and declamatory. Although widely admired, it seems a little stilted alongside the ballets, though it has some magical effects in the fourth movement, which opens (without a break from the third) with the well-known and imposing Fanfare for the Common Man, originally written as a separate piece for brass and timpani in 1942. The Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra (1948) belongs to this group of works, in spite of its intimate jazz touches (with a plucked bass), for the clarinet writing largely reflects the spacious, lyrical tone of the work. Other, shorter pieces in a similar vein are well-worth hearing: John Henry (1940) celebrates a railroad man. In the same period Copland produced a number of scores for films that celebrated a shared view of the American heritage; The Red Pony (1948) contains attractive music. The score for The Heiress (1948) won him an Oscar. The attractive song-cycle Old American Songs (two sets, 1950-1952) most effectively arranges well-known American songs, including the Shaker hymn of Appalachian Spring, but the finest of Copland's limited output of vocal works is the song-cycle Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson (1949-1950), which, in general tone, rhythmic variety, and its use of high independent piano writing, is an American first cousin to Britten's song-cycle Winter Words.

The culmination of this aspect of Copland's art should have been the opera The Tender Land (1952-1954), designed for smaller stages (or television) and telling the story of a prairie family whose daughter is seeking escape. Its major failing is that its libretto by Erik Johns is too pat and insubstantial, suggesting an outside concept of prairie life, not inside observation or knowledge. Copland's score was designed to appeal to wide audiences, but it does not have enough psychological bite for sophisticated opera audiences, and is unlikely to be seen by the kind of audience who might respond to it. It is best encountered in recording. The last work to explore this side of Copland's idiom was the ballet Dance Panels (1959, revised 1962), a set of seven contrasting sections without a storyline.

Copland had written what was virtually an atonal work in his setting of e.e.cummings' Poet's Song in 1927, but he initially avoided the example of Schoenberg and his followers in order to divorce himself from the Germanic tradition. The Piano Variations (1930), a seminal work in American piano literature and one of Copland's finest creations, comes close to the techniques and aesthetic of the Schoenberg circle without completely breaking with a tonal base in its twenty variations in two sets of ten, all based on a seven-note theme. Copland orchestrated it in 1957 as the Orchestral Variations, but it is more effective, aggressively turbulent and remorseless, in its original version. The opening of the influential Piano Sonata (1939-1941) takes up from the Piano Variations, with steel-edged abrasive chords and an unsettled rhythmic percussive lilt, followed by a darting wispish scherzo and leaving a slower pace to the last movement; its opening has parallels with the opening of Ives' Concord Sonata. The Piano Quartet (1950) does use 12-tone techniques, but is totally devoid of any Germanic cast; indeed, Copland deserves more credit for showing, at an early date, that such techniques could serve the mellifluous, here spiced with dissonant moments and a spiky, jovial second movement. Connotations (1961-1962) for orchestra opens with the 12-tone row piled vertically in chords, which then spread out in a series of variations, the percussive colours of the orchestra suddenly countered by the colours of a piano. The tone is of the urban landscape, sometimes forceful, almost brutish, often lonely, occasionally fantastical with little flute runs or strings using harmonics, its title referring to implications `in addition to the primary meaning', and is one of Copland's finest and least-known works. Inscape (1967), Copland's penultimate orchestral work, fittingly brought together the two strands in his aesthetic. It opens with a 12-tone chord, but tonal implications are quickly established, and the gritty urban forcefulness is offset by a broad lyricism.

Besides Copland's compositional contribution to American music, he was a major advocate of new American music in his activities as writer, conductor and broadcaster. Among his many achievements, he co-founded the Copland-Sessions Concerts, which ran from 1928 to 1931, he helped organize the American Composers' Alliance (1937), was on the faculty of the summer courses at Tanglewood, and his pupils included Bernstein and Foss. Ives may have been the herald of a truly American classical music; Copland was its father-figure.

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works include:

- 3 numbered symphonies (No.1 originally Symphony for Organ and Orchestra, No.2 Short Symphony); Dance Symphony

- Concerto for Clarinet and String Orchestra; piano concerto

- Connotations, Emblems, Fanfare for the Common Man, Inscape, John Henry, Letter from Home, Music for a Great City, Music for Radio, Music for the Theatre, Orchestral Variations (from piano work), An Outdoor Overture, El salón Mexico, Quiet City, Symphonic Ode, Two Mexican Pieces and Three Latin American Sketches for orch.; Lincoln Portrait and Preamble for a Solemn Occasion for speaker and orch.

- Duo for flute and piano; violin sonata; Two Pieces for violin and piano; Vitebsk for piano trio; Two Pieces for string quartet; piano quartet; Two Threnodies for flute and string trio; nonet for strings

- piano sonata; Four Piano Blues, Night Thoughts, Piano Fantasy, Piano Variations and other works for piano; Danza de Jalisco and Danzón cubano (also orchestrated) for 2 pianos

- song-cycles Twelve Poems of Emily Dickinson and Old American Songs; other songs; In the Beginning and other works for chorus

- ballets Appalachian Spring, Billy the Kid, Dance Panels and Rodeo

- school opera The Second Hurricane; opera The Tender Land

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recommended works:

Copland's output was not large, but its quality was consistent, and all his music is recommended. Those new to his work may care to start with the more popular pieces, as outlined above; those familiar with the well-known scores might care to explore the other side of his output - the more abrasive and experimental scores - or the early works.

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bibliography:

A. Copland                            Copland on Music, 1960

A. Copland and V. Perlis    Copland, (2 vols.), 1982 & 1989

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CORIGLIANO John                                                                                                                  

born 16th February 1938    at New York

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John Corigliano is emerging as the `safe' populist American composer, sufficiently in touch with tradition to aim at a more mass audience, sufficiently touched with modernism to promote as a contemporary composer, and sufficiently untouched by deeper philosophical delving that might challenge audiences.

His earlier works, such as Elegy (1965) for orchestra, follow a tonal, popular tradition that stems from such earlier composers as Nelson and Moore, through Copland; Tournaments Overture (1965) has palpably American tunes, a `holiday' atmosphere, just touched with dissonant effects to ensure it is not confused with a composition of an earlier epoch. The Piano Concerto (1968) has big bold gestures, contrasts of mood (and an overtly neo-Romantic slow movement) in its four movements that have fleeting effect, but is totally unmemorable apart from the rhythmic flow and ostinati impulse of the second movement. The Oboe Concerto (1975) emulated the effect of orchestral tuning in its opening, and of Moroccan music in its finale. The fine Clarinet Concerto (1977) still relies on the big effect, in its outbursts and in its demanding solo writing reaching into the highest registers, but is much less traditional in its procedures, unfolding a series of contrasting emotional states, exploring the possibilities of juxtaposed colours, and with a broad, lyrical and homogeneously textured slow movement. The Pied Piper Fantasy (1978-1979) is a programmatic flute concerto, but is less effective, with its corny opening of power and might, its neo-Romantic writing, and such banalities as a tin whistle. Two independent children's orchestras represent the children of the story: they leave, lured by the flute in a work of gesture and effect rather than substance. The Fantasia on an Ostinato (1986) for piano (also orchestrated) is based on a passage from Beethoven's seventh symphony, its almost Ravelian repetitive insistence (with an imitation of the decay of repeated notes) evolving into an Impressionistic minimalism. The Symphony No.1 (1980) was inspired by the exhibition `The Quilt', commemorating AIDS victims; three of the four movements commemorate particular friends who died from AIDS, ending with an epilogue, intertwining ideas from the earlier movements. It has moments of considerable power - dark marches with climactic interjections, hushed sad passages (and a fine slow movement), piano playing and dances distantly heard as if through nostalgic memory - that creates a work of emotional substance rather than of the mere effects that sometimes threaten. The extravaganza of an opera The Ghosts of Versailles (completed 1991) was commissioned for the 1983 centenary celebration of the Metropolitan Opera, and is overall an opera buffa, based on the third book of the Beaumarchais Figaro trilogy to a libretto by William M. Hoffman. Its considerable spectacle, rivalling those of contemporary musicals and including an opera-within-an-opera, was more interesting that its music, which draws on a divergent set of styles, new and old. It was a pity that the Met. could not have chosen a composer of greater musical depth for their first new opera in a quarter of a century.

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works include:

- symphony

- clarinet concerto, oboe concerto, piano concerto; Pied Piper Fantasy for flute and orch.

- Campane di Ravello, Echoes of Forgotten Rites, Elegy, Gazebo Dances (also piano, 4 hands or brass band), Ritual Dance, Three Hallucinations, Tournaments Overture for orch.; Voyage for Flute and String Orchestra; Creations for narrator and orch.

- violin sonata; Aria for oboe and string quartet; Voyage for Flute and String Quintet

- Etude Fantasy, Fantasia on an Ostinato (also orchestrated) for piano; Kaleidoscope for 2 pianos

- The Cloisters for voice and piano or orch.; Three Irish Folk-Songs for voice and flute

- A Dylan Trilogy (Fern Hill for mezzo-soprano, chorus and orch. or strings, piano and harp; Poem in October for tenor and orch, or chamber ensemble; Poem on his Birthday for baritone, chorus and orch.); Christmas at the Cloisters for chorus and piano; What I Expected Was... for chorus, brass and percussion; A Black November Turkey and L'invitation au voyage for unaccompanied choir

- operas A Figaro for Antonia and The Ghosts of Versailles

- film scores including Altered States

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recommended works:

Clarinet Concerto (1977)

Symphony No.1 (1990)

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COWELL Henry Dixon                                                                                                            

born 11th March 1897         at Menlo Park (California)

died 10th December 1965  at Shady (New York)

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Henry Cowell is one of the major figures in the American traditions of eccentric music experimentation, and of enthusiastic support and promotion of the modern music of others. Like a number of those other experimenters, his ideas are now more often heard in the music of the generation of composers who followed him, and who adopted many of his innovations, than through his own music. His output is vast (over 950 works) and eclectic, much of it is now totally ignored (especially in Europe), and currently it is difficult to gain an overall impression of its value, especially as much is unpublished.

His childhood included the abiding influence of oriental music he heard in the Chinatown of San Francisco, and not only did he further this interest, studying non-European musics at the end of the 1920s and the beginning of the 1930s, but he also assimilated influences from his Celtic heritage (especially Irish music), and American Mid-Western folk-tunes. But it was his new ideas on the sounds available on the piano that first brought him and his music into prominence. Chief among these was the concept of the tone-cluster (a term he himself invented), which Ives had also developed, independently and unnoticed. These clusters Cowell played using the forearm, the palm and the fists, although they are closely delineated and usually used as support for more conventional melodic ideas (as in Adventures in Harmony, 1913, for piano). To this technique he added new ways of actually playing the strings, such as the very atmospheric and haunting swirls and characteristic glissandi played internally on the piano strings in The Banshee (1925), which also incorporates the whole-tone scale in a strikingly successful demonstration of new piano colours. Similarly, in the Aeolian Harp (c.1923) the strings are plucked and strummed (Cowell termed the instrument thus used the `string piano'). All these ideas, as well as his innovation of placing objects inside the piano to change the timbre, have been developed by subsequent composers (especially through the influence of Cage) to become common parlance in avant-garde piano music; most of them, and their use as background to more conventional writing, are heard in Cowell's Piano Piece (Paris 1924). His widespread tours as a pianist, sensationally received (and including the first invitation to an American composer to tour the U.S.S.R., 1929) furthered the influence of his new ideas.

Cowell also used clusters in his orchestral music of the 1920s, notably in the Piano Concerto (1928), but meanwhile he had experimented in totally different areas, those of micro-tones, harmonics and very unconventional and complex rhythmic patterns moving completely independently of each other. These ideas were expressed in two atonal quartets, Quartet Romantic (1915-1917) for two flutes, violin and viola, and Quartet Euphometric for string quartet, which were thought by the composer and others to be unplayable, until new techniques in the 1960s proved otherwise. They have the sense of two worlds colliding, the individual melodic lines belonging loosely to their period, the uses to which they are put and the multiplication of simultaneous ideas, some 50 years ahead of their time. As such, there is an element of the academic, and their influence derived from the expounding of these and Cowell's other experimental ideas in the classic theoretical book New Musical Resources (1916-1919, but not published until 1930). He also developed new sound sources, from the concerto Rhythmicana for the early electronic rythmicon and orchestra, to the widespread use of percussion, notably in the beguiling Ostinato pianissimo (1934) for two string pianos, eight rice bowls (an early use of 'found objects'), two wood blocks, guiro, tambourine, two bongos, three drums, three gongs, xylophone, with an Eastern sense of progression and colour, which again influenced such composers as Cage.

Yet another innovation that Cowell bequeathed (again following the lead of Ives), was that of indeterminacy, which he termed "elastic form", and which he first applied theoretically to dance. In his own work it concerns especially the free order in which events are to be played (Mosaic Quartet for string quartet, 1935). The middle of the 1930s marked the end of his particularly experimental period (coinciding with his false imprisonment for four years in 1936), as he increasingly turned to tonality and to more homely idioms, particularly Irish music and the rich tradition of American hymns (exemplified in Eighteen Hymns and Fuguing Tunes for diverse instrumental combinations including orchestra, 1944-1964).

In the 1950s and 1960s he integrated many of his earlier concerns, especially dissonance and clusters, with a less esoteric approach, particularly the influences of the near- and far-East (Percussion Concerto, 1958) and Japan (Koto Concertos No.1 and No.2, 1961-2, 1965). Among the major works of this period, most of which are in a more accessible idiom, are the Symphony No.11 `The Seven Rituals of Music' (1953), in which each of the seven movements is in a different style, matching the seven ages of man. The first sections herald material in the last sections, and the stylistic approach varies from insistent motoric percussion to shades of the big band and jazz sound in what is essentially a dance score as much as a symphony. A similar mixture of tradition and exoticism is found in such works as the Symphony No.15 'Thesis' (1961), which opens in the American hymn style, has five tiny movements followed by a sonata-form closing movement, and includes percussive effects and wailing string harmonics, with some very quirky results in its combination of the traditional and the modernistic. The element of Americana is typified by the light and fluffy Saturday night at the Firehouse (1948) for small orchestra, using folk melodies and rhythms.

Cowell both as a composer and as a major historical figure in serious American music has still not received his due. For anyone interested in modern American music, his earlier works are both enjoyable and essential to an understanding of that history. Among his many pupils at Columbia University and the New School for Social Research were Cage and Gershwin, and he championed the cause of new American composers through his magazine New Music (1927-1948), which published gramophone records as well as scores. Among his books, New Musical Resources is a classic of the genre, while Charles Ives and His Music (written with his wife Sidney Cowell, 1955) is the definitive work on the composer.

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works include:

- 20 completed symphonies (No.2 Anthropos, No. 3 Gaelic for band and strings, No.4 Short Symphony, No.8 with optional alto and chorus, No.11 Seven Rituals of Music, No.13 Madras, No.15 Thesis, No.16 Icelandic, No.20 completed by Harrison); sinfonietta

- Concerto brevis for accordion and orch.; harmonium concerto; harp concerto; 2 koto concertos (No.2 In the Form of a Symphony); percussion concerto; Concerto Grosso and other concertante works

- Variations for Orchestra and a very large amount of other orchestral and band music

- much chamber music including Ensemble for string quartet with thundersticks, Ostinato pianissimo for percussion, Polyphonica for 12 instruments or chamber orch.

- piano trio; Quartet Euphometric for string quartet, Quartet Romantic for two flutes, violin and viola, Twenty-Six Simultaneous Mosaics for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion

- extensive piano music including a series of encores (No.3 Advertisement), The Banshee, 14 Ings, Piano Piece (Paris 1924) and Tiger

- a large amount of especially shorter choral music; vocal music

- much incidental and dance music

- operas The Building of Bamba and O'Higgins of Chile (not orchestrated)

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recommended works:

Ostinato Pianissimo (1934) for percussion orchestra

Pulse (1939) for percussion

Symphony No.11 The Seven Rituals of Music (1953)

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bibliography:

H. Cowell       New Musical Resources, 1930, reprinted 1969

R. Mead         Henry Cowell's New Music, 1925-1936, 1981

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CRUMB George                                                                                                                        

born 24th October 1929      at Charleston (W.Virginia)

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George Crumb became established in the 1960s as one of the more individual of contemporary American composers, and one who commanded a much wider audience than most of the avant-garde. After a number of atonal and then serial scores, his individual voice emerged in a cycle of works (1964-1970) for voice and chamber ensemble inspired by, and incorporating sections of, the poetry of Lorca. Crumb responded to the dark, earthy but haunting imagery of the poetry with musical equivalents, especially in the basic atmospheric tension between deep held sonorities and sharp bursts of usually percussion colour.

In the first of these, Night Music I (1964) for mezzo-soprano and chamber ensemble, Crumb established a delicacy of wispish texture, detailed with dots of delicate percussive colour and deep sonorities, that relied on colour and atmosphere for its effect and to point up sometimes almost spoken vocal line. In Madrigals (1965-1969, in four books) for soprano, flute, harp and double bass, Crumb explores a similar world but with a refinement of subtle graduations of instrumental sound (including very precise and controlled modifications such as striking the harp with metal rods). Some of the melodic effects (set against a wide range of vocal styles) suggest a strong Moorish hue (and, in the final madrigal, a folk-line against a drone). This Moorish influence is even more overt in the clarinet writing of the Eleven Echoes of Autumn (1965) for violin, flute, clarinet and piano (with the instrumentalists at three points intoning a Lorca fragment), a more austere work in which Crumb starts to use the high extremes of instruments that he developed in later works as an evocative and effective colouristic device. All these works have a sense of improvisatory freedom (belying the actual precision of detail) that exactly reflects the poetry, but the most successful work of this series is also the best known, Ancient Voices of Children (1970) for mezzo-soprano, boy soprano, oboe, mandolin, harp, electric piano and percussion. Working from a similar base of delicate detail, the range is extended, the intensity of the percussion writing in the `Dance of the Sacred Life-Cycle' matching that of Ohana's Lorca cycle, Llanto por Ignacio Sanchez Mejias.

The sense of ritual that lies behind these works was more evident in such scores as the Pulitzer Prize-winning Echoes of Time and the River (1967) for orchestra, but became fully integrated in his most evocative work, and one which continues to capture the public's imagination when performed, the Vox Balaenae (Voice of the Whale, 1971) for flute, cello and piano with antique cymbals, all sometimes amplified. In it the high harmonic effects become an instrumental echo of the whales' cries; the highly atmospheric writing is enhanced in stage performance by the use of masks, turning the piece into a 'mystery' in the ritualistic sense. Meanwhile, the underlying humanity of the Lorca settings was sharply contrasted by the harshness of Black Angels (Images I) (1970) for electric string quartet. Ethereal, distant wisps of sound, very high, sit behind a foreground of tortured and sometimes brutal electric string expression. Using the plainchant Dies Irae, snippets of Schubert's Death and the Maiden and an Elizabethan madrigal, a spoken voice, and numerical symbolism, its extreme Expressionism centres around black and sinister superstitions - the performance instructions suggest the volume should be "on the threshold of pain". Nonetheless, some passages are very evocative. Crumb's preoccupation with tone colours and with atmosphere has been developed in A Haunted Landscape (1984) for orchestra with a very large percussion section (45 different instruments). Designed to conjure up the sensibilities of landscape, it is indeed a haunting work, pitting foreground colour, sometimes spare (the use of the rattle recalling early Cage), sometimes climactic, against a background that regularly uses a series of tonal chords, reminiscent of the colourless but moving world of the end of Vaughan Williams's Symphony No.6.

Crumb's achievement has been to take the pointillistic sound of much serial music, and adapt it to his own (non-serial) exploration of tone colour and atmosphere. Devoid of any system, his music is designed to appeal to the emotions as much as the intellect, and with his very sure sense of colour, restraint and overall structure (usually a number of shorter sections within a larger span), he has succeeded in still sounding modern while appealing to a wider audience, who respond to the emotional aspects. His works are genuinely evocative; and while they have currently been somewhat eclipsed by the vogue of the Minimalists, they seem likely to continue to appeal.

Crumb taught at the University of Colorado (1959-1964), and at the University of Pennsylvania from 1965.

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works include:

- A Haunted Landscape, Echoes of Time and the River and Variazione for orch.

- Eleven Echoes of Autumn and Night of the Four Moons for instrumental ensemble

- Night Music I for soprano, celesta, piano and percussion, Night Music II for violin and piano

- sonatina for solo cello; Four Nocturnes for violin and piano; Vox Balaenae for flute, cello and piano; string quartet; Black Angels for electric string quartet; Eleven Echoes of Autumn for violin, flute, clarinet and piano; An Idyll for the Misbegotten for amplified flute and 3 percussionists

- Five Pieces and Makrokosmos I for piano; Makrokosmos II for amplified piano; Makrokosmos III 'Music for a Summer Evening' for 2 amplified pianos and percussion; Makrokosmos IV 'Celestial Mechanics' for amplified piano, four hands

- Ancient Voices of Children for mezzo-soprano, boy soprano and 7 instruments; Apparition for soprano and amplified piano; Madrigals, Book I for soprano, vibraphone and double-bass, Book II for soprano, alto flute and percussion, Book III for soprano, harp and percussion, Book IV for soprano and instrumental ensemble; Songs, Drones, and Refrains of Death for baritone and instruments

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recommended works:

Ancient Voices of Children (1970) for mezzo-soprano, boy soprano and chamber ensemble

Black Angels (1970) for electric string quartet

A Haunted Landscape (1984) for orchestra

Madrigals (1965-1969) for soprano and various forces

Makrokosmos III 'Music for a Summer Evening' (1974) for 2 amplified pianos and percussion

Vox Balaenae (1971) for flute, cello and piano

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DEL TREDICI David Walter                                                                                                    

born 16th March 1937         at Cloverdale (California)

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David Del Tredici is one of the most approachable eccentrics of modern American music. His idiom is dominated by three fundamental clashes: the tug between the modern avant-garde of his training and a sumptuous Romanticism that eventually looks to Strauss and Mahler; the pull between the demands of music for the concert platform and a preference for the operatically dramatic; and the desire to reach both sophisticated and populist audiences. Such a raft of conflicts is perhaps irreconcilable without obsession or humour, and Del Tredici has both in full measure; Oliver Knussen has aptly pointed out than even when his music is being serious, it is humorous, and when being humorous it is serious; these conflicts also create a palpable tension in his music. It is perhaps typical of his humour that he often uses the number 13 (in intervals and time signatures, for example) in his works, punning on the Italian meaning of his name.

After earlier, mainly piano, works, Del Tredici's output has been dominated by two obsessions: between 1958 and 1968 the writing of James Joyce, and since 1968, forming the bulk of his work, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland and Alice through the Looking Glass. Both writers, of course, share the same delight in odd language connected to tradition, quirky humour (often half-hidden), surrealist imagery, and a lateral, disconcerting logic - all of which is found in Del Tredici's music. The Joyce works (a full list is given below) are essentially a prelude to the Alice works, with the lithe vocal lines electronically amplified, as in so many Del Tredici works, in Syzygy (1966), for soprano, horn, tubular bells and chamber orchestra, to counter the massed sounds from the orchestra. The first of the Alice works was Pot-Pourri (1968, revised 1972) for amplified soprano, a rock group of saxophones and electric guitars, chorus and orchestra, which gives a good introduction to his quirky humour, rhythmic inventiveness and to the characteristic solo vocal writing, lyrical at its base but with huge leaps, sudden runs, trills, speech and a wide range of colours and inflections. The irreconcilable oppositions in this piece are the `Turtle-soup' passage from Alice and the Catholic liturgy, represented in part by the (Protestant) Bach chorale `Es is genug' (used by Berg in his Violin Concerto), separating each of the five sections and whose first four notes provide the basic material. In the second section the chorus have repetitive chants derived from Del Tredici's memories of interminable hours in church. The turtle soup material is eventually heard played backwards while a trumpet plays forward, and in the final section the Bach chorale is heard in full against interjections of turtle soup material. The result is a piece that can suddenly turn from pathos or a wonderful, childlike humour (especially in some of the tongue-in-cheek instrumental effects) to moments of serious impact. An Alice Symphony followed a similar formula, with a folk group replacing the rock group, but it was with Final Alice (1975-1976) for amplified soprano, folk group and orchestra that Del Tredici found a less startlingly eclectic idiom to suit the material, and its success catapulted him into international prominence. Set in five scenes, it retains the vocal style (including distortions available through the amplification), opening with the soprano narrating; but as soon as the soprano starts singing (against prominent banjo and mandolin) the large orchestra moves into a sumptuous large-scale palette directly derived from Strauss and Mahler, the harmonies, phrase-shapes and orchestral colours and patterns instantly recognizable, yet glossed with more modern harmonic effects and the vastly extended range of vocal style. It is as if we were in a parallel world (as, of course, the texts place us) in which the known developments of 20th-century music had not happened, and instead classical music had continued directly from the late-Romantic, and the effect is remarkable, fiercely dramatic (with Alice eventually denouncing the cards and returning to reality) and strangely moving. Perhaps the dominating emotions in Final Alice are a Mahlerian bitter-sweet ecstasy and a Straussian turmoil and triumphant joy. Final Alice was not, however, final, and even more stunning is In Memory of a Summer Day (1980) for amplified soprano and orchestra, the first and best-known part of Child Alice (1977-1981), in which the other parts form the second half of a concert evening when given in its entirety. In the earlier Alice works Del Tredici had told various parts of the Alice story; in In Memory of a Summer Day he dropped the linear story-telling in favour of an Alice atmosphere, and at the same time omitted the rock or folk groups. While the idiom remains similar, there is a greater emphasis on lyrical calm, as if this were the grown-up Alice looking back and recalling. A large number of Del Tredici's other Alice works are reworkings of parts of the major Alice works in different formats, or forming new works: Virtuoso Alice (1984), for example, is a fantasy for piano on a theme from Final Alice.

Del Tredici's extraordinary idiom is a one-off, inimitable except by parody, a mixture of two eras fused through equally remarkable non-musical inspirations; it certainly provides a unique experience, to which many have responded.

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`Alice' works include:

- An Alice Symphony for amplified soprano, folk group and orch.

- Virtuoso Alice for piano

- Adventures Underground for soprano, folk group and orch.; Child Alice for amplified soprano and folk group; Haddocks' Eyes for amplified soprano and chamber ensemble; In Memory of a Summer Day for amplified soprano and orch.; Pop-pourri for amplified soprano, rock group, chorus and orch.; Vintage Alice for amplified soprano, folk group and chamber orch.

settings of Joyce:

- I Hear an Army for soprano and string quartet; Night Conjure-Verse for soprano, mezzo-soprano or counter-tenor and chamber ensemble; Syzygy for amplified, soprano, horn, tubular bells and orch.; Two Songs on Poems of James Joyce and Four Songs on Poems of James Joyce for voice and piano;

other works include:

- Fantasy Pieces, March to Tonality, Steps and Tattoo for orch.

- string trio

- Soliloquy for piano; Scherzo for piano, 4 hands

- The Last Gospel for female voice and rock group

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recommended works:

Final Alice (1975-1976) for amplified soprano, folk group and orchestra

In Memory of a Summer Day (1979) for soprano and orchestra

Pop-pourri (1968) for soprano and orchestra

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FOSS Lukas (né Fuchs)                                                                                                          

born 15th August 1922       at Berlin

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Lukas Foss has been one of the most visible of the experimental American composers, tempering his modernity with what often seems a residue of traditional ideas or techniques, and usually incorporating new directions in his own idiom rather than himself being an innovator. He is also well known as an unusual conductor, and an enthusiast for new music. Although born in Germany, he moved with his family to Paris in 1933 and to the USA in 1937, becoming an American citizen in 1942.

His early music was influenced by Copland, and until the 1950s he wrote music of a neo-classical mould, with traditional harmonic structures (including a Symphony in G, 1944) and a sense of American colour and nationalism (as in The Prairie, 1944, for soloists, chorus and orchestra, or the comic opera The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, 1949). The influence of the Passions of J.S. Bach lay behind the narrative style of A Parable of Death (1952) for narrator, tenor, chorus and orchestra. Using the poetry of Rilke, it has a spare, serene beauty, the narrator taking the major role while the musical forces comment or support. The diversity of styles that he has continued to show was evident in the virtuoso Piano Concerto No.2 (1951), or the romantic and sensuous Song of Songs (1946) for soprano and orchestra. He continued to write in this broadly mainstream style until the Symphony of Chorales (1956-1958, based on Bach chorales) and the ten-minute opera Introductions and Goodbyes (1959, to a libretto by Menotti), although by then he had started experimenting with improvisation groups at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), where he had taught since 1953. This led to a complete change of style, and it is for the works written since 1959 that he is now best known.

In 1957, following his experiments with his students, Foss founded the Improvisation Chamber Ensemble to explore the possibilities of chance, and the relationship between composer and performer in the control of the performed music. In his own works, notably the Webernesque song cycle Time Cycle (1959-1960, versions for soprano and orchestra or chamber ensemble), with a spare vocal line and some tonal, some atonal sections, he started to use serial techniques, strictly composer controlled, in spite of interpolated improvisations (later notated) in the first performance of Time Cycle. With Echoi (1961-1963) for clarinet, cello, piano and percussion, his first more experimental piece, Foss retained the serial basis for the construction of the music, but building on the experience of the Ensemble, he included limited chance (the players switching to sections of the score on the stroke of an anvil), a characteristically large-scale sound (including internal piano sonorities) from limited resources. In the extrovert feel of the work there is a sense that the lyrical is never too far away.

Foss then developed the concept of what he called `multi-diversity': the score is dense with material, but only a small amount is used at any one time and in any given performance. This allows a random element while ensuring control of the actual material. Élytres (1964) for solo flute, two solo violins and instrumental ensemble varies the density of forces as well as material. The Fragments of Archilochos (1965) for four small choirs, large chorus, percussion, mandolin, guitar, male and female speakers and solo counter-tenor, with considerable use of speech, allows some choice in rhythm and pitches in its rather dense and declamatory gestures. The elements of the linguistically dramatic and the declamatory (and the rather brutal) were developed in Paradigm `for my friends' (1969) for percussion (doubling conductor), electric guitar and three instruments, with many chance elements.

The influence of the Baroque, evident in the Symphony of Chorales, then resurfaced in Foss's new style. From the grand white-noise sonorities and the echoes of the Baroque in the insistently effective Non-Improvisation (1967) for four instruments (the very title indicating a change of direction) Foss arrived at the marvellous synthesis of the Baroque and modernist distortion that are the Baroque Variations (1967) for orchestra, his most notorious, most popular and most accessible experimental music. Based on Handel, Scarlatti, and Bach, it is not in a recognized variation form, but fragments of the originals are seen distorted in a kind of dream (and in the last movement, nightmare) world, haunting and effective, a reflection both of the 20th century's interest in earlier music, and the way it becomes a residue in our memories. In the same year, the Concert for Cello and Orchestra mixed a live orchestra and the cello recorded on tape, both eventually dividing and distorting a Bach sarabande.

The more recent works have explored a number of these facets of his idiom. Timbre and sonorities are the subject of Ni Bruit Ni Vitesse (1973), in which two pianists treat the inside of two pianos percussively, with effects akin to electronic music. The Salomon Rossi Suite (1975) for orchestra treats music by the early 17th-century Mantuan composer with great reverence, modifying the original only by orchestration. The almost neo-Romantic idiom of Night Music for John Lennon (1980) is cast in neo-classical forms (prelude, fugue and chorale). The repetitions of Minimalism influenced Solo (1983) for piano.

Foss taught at UCLA (University of California in Los Angeles) from 1953. He was the artistic director of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra (1963-1970), conductor of the Brooklyn Philharmonia (now Philharmonic) Orchestra from 1971, and director of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (1981-1986). He founded, and became director of, the Buffalo Centre for Creative and Performing Arts (1963).

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works include:

- symphony

- clarinet concerto, revised as Piano Concerto No.1; flute concerto Renaissance; 2 piano concertos; oboe concerto; Concert for Cello and Orchestra; Orpheus and Euridice for 2 violins and orch. (orig. Orpheus for violin, viola or cello and orch.);

- Baroque Variations, Night Music for John Lennon (with brass quintet), Solomon Rossi Suite and other works for orch.; Geod for 4 orch. groups

- Echoi for clarinet, cello, piano and percussion; Élytres for solo flute, two solo violins and instrumental ensemble; Non-Improvisation for four instruments; Paradigm `for my friends' for percussion (doubling conductor), electric guitar and 3 instruments

- percussion quartet; 3 string quartets (No.2 Divertissement `Pour Mica'); brass quintet; The Cave of Winds for wind quintet; Music for Six for six instruments; Quartet Plus for speaker and 2 string quartets

- American Cantata for tenor, chorus and orch.; The Fragments of Archilochos for 4 small choirs, large chorus, percussion, mandolin, guitar, male and female speakers and solo counter-tenor; A Parable of Death for narrator, soloists and orch.; song cycle Time Cycle for soprano and orch. or chamber ensemble; other choral and vocal works

- ballets Gift of the Magi, The Heart Remembers and Within these Walls

- operas Introductions and Goodbyes, Griffelkin and The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

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recommended works:

Baroque Variations (1967) for orchestra

Ni Bruit Ni Vitesse (1973) for two pianos

Non-Improvisation (1967) for 4 instruments

song cycle Time-Cycle (1959-1960) for soprano and orchestra

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GERSHWIN George                                                                       (as classical composer)

born 26th September 1898            at Brooklyn (New York)

died 11th July 1937             at Hollywood

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George Gershwin was one of the finest popular song-writers of the century, often with his brother Ira as lyricist; songs such as That Certain Feeling (1925), 'S Wonderful (1927), I've Got a Crush on You (1928) and I Got Rhythm (1930) have become standards, and he brought to the American musical stage a new sophistication drawn in part from his classical training. These and the shows from which they came, including Lady, Be Good! (1924), Funny Face (1927), Show Girl (1929) and Strike Up the Band (1927, revised 1930)), lie outside the parameters of this Guide. But Gershwin also wrote a number of works for the concert stage, colourful, vivacious, and imbued with the spirit of jazz, blues and ragtime. Rhapsody in Blue has become one of the best-known of all 20th-century compositions, and his idiom paved the way for other American composers to incorporate jazz and popular elements into their music.

Aside from the Lullaby (c.1919) for string quartet, his first major attempt at a combination of the popular and the classical was the 20 minute one-act opera Blue Monday (1922, original orchestration by Will Vodery), which used a theme from the Lullaby. Set in a night club, it was originally (and disastrously) used within a musical comedy, and then taken up by the band leader Paul Whiteman and re-orchestrated (1929) by Ferde Grofé under the title 135th Street. It was Whiteman who commissioned the Rhapsody in Blue (1923-1924), whose opening upward clarinet run is pure jazz, then turning into a scintillating combination of short piano concerto and jazz suite. The orchestration in the version usually heard was again by Ferde Grofé (best remembered for his overtly Romantic Grand Canyon Suite, 1931, for orchestra); it is more effective in its original guise for piano and jazz band. Its instant popularity led to a commission for the Piano Concerto (1925). This much more ambitious work attempted to extend the idiom of the Rhapsody; it veers into sentimental lushness and into brashness, but has a memorable lilt and bright optimism. More successful is An American in Paris (1928) for orchestra, an evocation of Gershwin's reactions to the sights and sounds of Paris (the street noises including the sounds of taxis), whose verve and bright colours far outweigh its rather rambling form. The Cuban Overture (1932) for orchestra incorporated Cuban rhythms, and helped draw the attention of American composers to the fertile inspiration of Latin-American music. But his masterpiece is the opera Porgy and Bess (1934-1935) to a libretto by Ira Gershwin and DuBose Heyward, based on the novel by Heyward. The story is set among the American Black dockyard community (drawn from Heyward's knowledge of Charleston), and follows the love of a cripple (Porgy) for the loose woman Bess. Bess is the `woman' of a stevedore, Crown, who commits murder in a crap-game; Porgy gives Bess sanctuary, until Crown returns and Porgy kills him. Porgy is taken away by the police (to identify Crown, not as a suspect), and Bess is persuaded by another villain to leave with him for the high life in New York. When Porgy returns, she is gone, and the opera ends with him setting out to follow her. Gershwin correctly described it as a `folk-opera', for it is an equivalent of a ballad opera, drawing on Negro spirituals as well as jazz, blues and ragtime; the lovely song `Summertime' has become one of the most famous ever written. The opera teems with vitality and energy, vivid in its evocations and emotions, and it remains, whatever its affinities with the form of the musical, the classic American opera.

Gershwin died at the age of 38; one can only wonder how he might have continued the synthesis of popular and classical American styles.

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works include:

- piano concerto; Rhapsody in Blue and Second Rhapsody for piano and orch.

- An American in Paris and Cuban Overture for orch.

- Lullaby for string quartet

- Preludes for Piano and "I Got Rhythm" Variations for piano

- Funny Face, Girl Crazy, Lady, Be Good!, Let 'Em Eat Cake, Of Thee I Sing, Oh, Kay!, Shoe Girl, Strike Up the Band, Tip-Toes, Treasure Girl, and other musicals and show scores; many songs

- operas Blue Monday (135th Street) and Porgy and Bess

- songs for film scores

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recommended works:

An American in Paris (1928) for orchestra

Rhapsody in Blue (1924) for piano and orchestra or jazz band

opera Porgy and Bess (1934-1935)

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bibliography:

E. Jablonski              Gershwin, 1988

C. Schwartz  Gershwin, 1973

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GLASS Philip                                                                                                                            

born 31st January, 1937     at Baltimore Ma.

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Philip Glass is unquestionably the most successful serious American composer of the present day, at least in terms of contemporary public reaction, commanding an international audience that includes music lovers of all hues, classical, pop and jazz. He is also the popular leader of the reaction to post-serialism and the 1960s avant-garde, and which has become known as Minimalism, developed in Glass's case in small-scale works, mainly for dance, before he turned to opera. The essence of his Minimalist style is a series of repeating patterns, usually based on the traditional diatonic harmonic triad, that undergo changes by the addition or subtraction of different instrumental colours, sometimes with sharply contrasting dynamics, changes in speed, and sudden gear shifts in the harmonic patterns. A favourite device is the change from a minor triad to the major triad a major third below (since two of the three notes are common to each triad, this means a semitonal [minor second] shift in the third note), prominent in the haunting Glassworks (1981), written like many of his smaller-scale works for his own ensemble, a kind of atmospheric Minimalist tone-poem, whose success launched his world-wide fame and which is this best introduction to those new to his music.

At his best, these procedures can create mesmerizingly effective atmospheres that are whipped up into ecstatic excitement, often with a fabulous sense of timing, especially in the placing of brass. At his worst (which is often) his music can be horrendously banal and infuriatingly trite; unfortunately many of his works include passages of both. He has tried to broaden his techniques and range throughout his career, but eventually has seemed trapped in his own success, each repetition of the formula becoming less original and inventive.

His large output is so divergent in quality that this entry concentrates on the more interesting works, especially his major achievements in opera. The early works are best avoided, except by Glass aficionados. The mind-numbing simplicity of Dance 1-5 (1978-1979) for small ensemble serves as an example. A set of mechanistic pieces designed for dance, it shows all Glass' hallmarks of repetitive patterns with additive rhythms, bright colours, rapid rising arpeggios, tonal harmonies rocking on major seconds, and simplistic syncopations, intentionally hypnotic, with characteristic gear-shifts. The music will repeat apparently endlessly, and then (with a change of colour, key, or ostinati length) shift into another extended repeat (sometimes emphasized by a change in instrumentation), usually eventually shifting back again. With Glassworks he started to integrate rhythmic and harmonic changes in a more unified fashion, especially in the operas.

Glass's first three operas developed into a trilogy based on historical figures. The first, Einstein on the Beach, explored the philosophical and poetical concept of the scientist, the second, Satyagraha, that of the humanist, and the third, Akhnaten, that of the religious thinker. Theatrically, especially in terms of stylistic ritual, they show a clear thread of development, but musically, Einstein on the Beach represents a culmination of Glass's idiom to that point and the next two operas the development of a new musical maturity.

Einstein on the Beach (1975), written in collaboration with Robert Wilson, revolves around images connected with Einstein and delves into a post-Modernist enquiry into the scientist: trains, a bed, a spaceship, Einstein playing the violin. It is the most disjointed of Glass's operas, and is best heard (as opposed to seen) section by section. The second work in the trilogy, Satyagraha (1979-1980) is stylistically considerably more unified and developed, while acting as a prelude to the full maturity of Glass's idiom in Akhnaten. The basis of the opera, to a libretto by Constance de Jong, is the development of Gandhi's concept of `Satyagraha' (resistance by non-violence) during his period in South Africa, and including a number of incidents in his resistance to the treatment of Indians there. The actual text to this plot is in Sanskrit, drawn from the Bhagavad-Gita, and each of the three acts has a non-singing symbolic mentor: Leo Tolstoy and Rabindranath Tagore (both major influences on Gandhi), and, in the third act, Martin Luther King Jr., representing `satyagraha' after Gandhi's death. The use of the archaic language, its marriage to the plot, and the symbolic figures create a kind of philosophic mystery-play of an opera, with a strong ritualistic element. Musically there are obvious echoes of Glassworks, and a distinctive orchestral colour, using only strings, woodwind and organ. Glass builds terrific energy, especially in Act II, using longer vocal lines with echoes of chant, often in combination or with chorus, over the characteristic repetitive pulses of the orchestral writing. The seams between musical changes, and the long-term movements of the music are not as assured as in Akhnaten (Satyagraha was the first Minimalist work on so large a scale and time-span), but the opera remains a compelling experience.

The final work of the trilogy is Glass's masterpiece, where he found a ritualistic stage format that merged completely with both the subject-matter and the mesmerizing qualities of his musical style. Akhnaten (1982-1983) to a libretto by the composer, Shalom Goldman, Robert Israel and Richard Riddell, based on ancient Egyptian texts, opens with the funeral procession of the Pharaoh Amenhotep IV in 1375 B.C. It then presents in three acts the ascending to the throne of his son Akhnaten, the revolutionary changes during his reign (including the first concept of a monotheistic, abstract god), and his downfall, culminating in tourists visiting the ruins of his city while he and his family join his father's funeral procession. Its central theme is that of a revolution in philosophical thought, eventually overcome by inherent forces of conservatism. The main protagonist is essentially the orchestra; merged into its ever-unravelling web are large choruses and ritualistic solo vocal lines, with the title-role given to a counter-tenor. The languages are ancient Egyptian, Akkadian and Hebrew, with the linking narration and Akhnaten's central hymn of praise in the language of the audience. The progress of the piece evolves over long time-scales, changes to the overall tone created by changes of long-term colours (such as adding drums, the use of solo bells, diminution of forces into a chamber-ensemble). The Ancient Egyptian setting, with its strong visual symbolism, its direct, yet allusive, verbal imagery, its sense of huge time-spans, and its ritualistic emphasis, finds its mirror-image in Glass's music, and the work is less an opera than a ritualistic event in which music, words, and visual effect merge. Consequently, readers are advised to seek out the video of the opera if they are unable to attend a performance, where the full impact of the conjunction of these elements is better experienced. However, a recording is still a compelling experience, with such moments as the Act II love-duet between Akhnaten and Nefertiti having a sense of the purity of a Renaissance madrigal combined with the insistent repetition of Glass's orchestral writing, Akhnaten's haunting hymn, or the poignancy of the Pharaoh's deserted official, writing for military help, followed by the massed choral and orchestral power of the mob attacking the Pharaoh's palace.

Glass' other stage works have had less impact. The Making of the Representative for Planet 8 (1987) was based on a sci-fi novel by Doris Lessing where an ice-age on a temperate planet destroys its people, ennobling them in the process, but it missed the symbolism and the distancing of settings of archaic languages of the earlier operas. The Photographer (1982) is a combination of play, concert music and dance; the final pages of Act III of the suite arranged from it for orchestra have a terrific excitement. The Voyage (1991-1992) was commissioned by the New York Metropolitan Opera to celebrate the 500th anniversary of Columbus' transatlantic voyage. Conventionally laid out in three acts with a prologue and an epilogue, it equates a space voyage in 2092 to Columbus' voyage, with the central act concerning 16th-century Spain, and the two framing acts the space voyage, the last dominated by a statue of the earlier adventurer. The chief interest is in the scenario and the libretto: the music, with its repetitive schemes, forms a large-scale underframe for the scenarios rather than itself creating subtleties of depth of character or personal interactions. The choral writing, characteristically ecstatic, is effective, but in spite of the ending (the heads of the earth states are assassinated) and the trendy allusions (figures reminiscent of both Stephen Hawkins and Mrs.Thatcher appear), one can't help feeling that this is yet another example of American easy fare for the masses, whose ultimate lack of musical content is conveniently overlooked because of its immediacy and potential for visual appeal.

Of his other works, perhaps the most successful is the String Quartet No.2 `Company' (1983), where the lack of contrasting instrumental colours forces a concentration on the subtleties of other aspects of Glass' repetitions, with most appealing results. The song-cycle Hydrogen Jukebox (1989-1990) for narrator, vocal and instrumental ensemble, promised more than it delivered, being a collaboration with the poet Allen Ginsberg to create a `portrait' of America from the 1950s to the 1980s through Ginsberg's inimitable poetry. The best parts are the actual narration of poems (by Ginsberg in the Nonesuch recording), at one point against quasi-improvisatory piano, and the insidious pulse of a setting of part of The Green Automobile. A trio of symphonically conceived "portraits of nature" appeared in the late 1980s; of these, Itaipú (1989) for chorus and orchestra is the most ambitious, Glass at his swirling best in the opening, building power in a work concerned with a hydro-electric dam on the Paraná river, and with joyful, ecstatic, exciting triumph in the end, though let down by a trite middle movement that treads a path already covered by David Bedford's equally trite The Odyssey and by an opening to the third that is a cross between Handel's Zadok the Priest and Bernstein's Mass. The Canyon (1988) is a huge orchestral ritual dance, effective as such, but not quite achieving the grandeur of its aims. Some of Glass' most effective music is to be found in film scores, notably Koyaanisqatsi (1981) and Powaqqatsi (1987).

Philip Glass occupies a special place in modern American music. He has filled a void left by the virtual demise of the American musical and of `popular' opera and operetta, as the former was taken over by the huge-scale, usually British, spectacular, and the latter simply disappeared. His formula has been wildly popular, and deservedly so: it appeals to a much wider audience than the general repertoire of operas. Unfortunately, this has been promoted as something it is not, with the possible exception of Akhnaten: great 20th-century opera. This is hardly the fault of Philip Glass, who does what he does with panache and effect; but it is a sad commentary on current critical and intellectual thoughtfulness that something that should be celebrated for its particular general appeal should instead be pumped up into masquerading as a challenging and thought-provoking creation, extending the audience through the music as well as the drama into complex regions of emotional, intellectual, or personal experience that they would not otherwise have thought of entering, the prerequisite of any great opera. It does, however, make for good box-office.

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works include:

- violin concerto

- The Canyon, The Light and Music from the Civil Wars for orch.

- Strung Out for amplified violin; 4 string quartets (No.2 Company, No.3 Mishima, No.4 Boczak) and other chamber works; Music in Eight Parts, Music in Fifths, Music in Similar Motion, Music with Changing Parts and other works for ensemble

- How Now for piano; Two Pages for electronic keyboards

- Habeve Song for soprano, clarinet and bassoon; Hydrogen Jukebox for six singers and instrumental ensemble; Fourth Series Part I for chorus and organ; Itapú for chorus and orch.; Three Songs for chorus

- operas Akhnaten, Einstein on the Beach, The Fall of the House of Usher, The Juniper Tree, The Making of the Representative of Planet 8, Satyagraha, The Voyage and 1000 Airplanes on the Roof; madrigal opera The Panther; music-theatre The Civil Wars; hybrid play/music/dance The Photographer

- much incidental music and many film scores

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recommended works:

opera Akhnaten (1982-1983)

Glassworks (1981) for ensemble

Itaipú (1989) for chorus and orchestra (see text)

opera Satyagraha (1979-1980)

String Quartet No.2 Company (1983)

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bibliography:

P. Glass         Opera on the Beach, 1988

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HANSON Howard                                                                                                                     

born 28th October 1896      at Wahoo (Nebraska)

died 19th February 1981    at Rochester (New York)

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Howard Hanson was one of the major figures of American music, especially through his activities as teacher, conductor, and enthusiast for American music and younger American composers. His own compositions stand on the cusp of the development of American classical music, its late-Romantic idiom drawing on the Scandinavian symphonic tradition (his parents were immigrant Swedes): he was the last of the American Romantics whose models were primarily European, and he is the only one of real stature.

His earlier symphonies are the works most likely to be encountered. The Symphony No.1 `Nordic' (1921-1922) sets the tone: a large-scale three-movement work of vitality and colour, soaring tunes, a luxuriant slow movement and a big, brassy finale that turns into an American equivalent of an Elgarian march to emphasize the sombre undercurrent of the work. The Symphony No.2 `Romantic' (1930) is warmer and more mellow than the first, with a swaying lyricism that suggests (as often in Hanson's music) the motion of the sea, and with a motto theme linking the three movements. The Symphony No.3 (1936-1938) recalls Sibelius in its use of development from germinal cells and a build-up and flow over pedal points. More linear than its predecessors, it includes a touch of the light-hearted, a second movement of smooth textures, an almost primitive effect in the repetitions of the third, and an uplifting finale. The Symphony No.4 `The Requiem' (1943), using a cyclical structure in its four movements, was written in response to the death of the composer's father. The Symphony No.5 `Sinfonia sacra' (1954) is short - a single 15-minute movement - and inspired by St.John's account of the Resurrection, dark in hue, rugged in effect. The Symphony No.7 `The Sea' (1977) for chorus and orchestra draws on the same group of Whitman texts as the sea symphonies of Vaughan Williams and Harris; its main tone is of joyous affirmation. Of his other orchestral works, Mosaics (1956) for orchestra is a set of variations that covers most of Hanson's colours and idioms, including a distinct touch of the English pastoral and a moment of the exotic, besides the Nordic sense of space and ruggedness. The Piano Concerto (1948), coming in and going out gently and with often an improvisatory feel to the solo writing, is entertaining but not especially distinctive.

Hanson's major choral work is The Lament for Beowulf (1925) for chorus and orchestra. A long orchestral introduction with a repetitive throbbing rhythmic idea and fanfares creates the Nordic mood, and the movement of the sea again infects the linear vocal and orchestral writing, both often bare and exposed. Many of Hanson's other choral works are well worth the encounter, especially his only a cappella work, a setting with rich dense textures of a 9th-century prayer A Prayer of the Middle Ages (1976); works such as his settings of psalms would make an effective and less well-known alternative in Anglican services. His opera Merry Mount (1933), based on Hawthorne, was well-received at its original Metropolitan premiere, but has disappeared from the repertoire apart from an orchestral suite drawn from the opera.

Hanson's influence on younger American composers was considerable, for his encouragement to experiment and develop and an absence of any attempt to impose his own conservative idiom. He started teaching at the College of the Pacific in San José in 1916, becoming the Dean of its school of music in 1919, at the age of 23. He was the director of the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester from 1924 to 1964, and his American Music Festivals included works by all the important younger American composers.

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works include:

- 7 symphonies (No.1 Nordic, No.2 Romantic, No.4 The Requiem, No.5 Sinfonia sacra, No.7 Sea, with chorus)

- Concerto for Organ, Harp and Strings; piano concerto; Fantasy-Variations on a Theme of Youth for piano and orch.; Pastorale for oboe, harp and strings; Serenade for flute, harp and strings

- symphonic poems Exaltation (with piano viola obbligato), Lux aeterna (with viola obbligato), Pan and the Priest (with piano viola obligato); Bold Island Suite, Dies natalis I, Elegy, For the First Time, Mosaics and Summer Seascape I and II for orch.

- string quartet; Concerto da camera for piano and string quartet; Elegy for viola and string quartet; Young Person's Guide to the Six-tone Scale for piano, wind and percussion

- Yuletide Pieces and other works for piano

- songs; oratorio New Land, New Covenant; Psalm cxxi and Songs from Drum Taps for baritone, chorus and orch.; The Mystic Trumpeter for narrator, chorus and orch.; The Cherubic Hymn, The Lament for Beowulf, Song of Democracy, Song of Human Rights and Streams in the Desert for chorus and orch.; How Excellent Thy Name for female voices and piano

- opera Merry Mount

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recommended works:

The Lament for Beowulf (1925) for chorus and orchestra

Symphony No.1 Nordic (1921-1922)

Symphony No.2 Romantic (1930)

Symphony No.3 (1936-1938)

Symphony No.5 Sinfonia sacra (1954)

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bibliography:

H. Hanson     Music in Contemporary American Civilization, 1951

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HARRIS Roy                                                                                                                              

born 12th February 1898                at Chandler, Oklahoma

died 1st October 1979         at Santa Monica, California ───────────────────────────────────────

One of the finest American composers, Harris is still too little known both inside and outside his own country, partly due to the reaction against the mainstream American evocative composers during the avant-garde period of the 1960s and 1970s. He is the composer of the wide open American landscapes, expansive, with a quiet strength. He drew material from cowboy songs, the music of the American Civil War, and American hymn tunes, to forge it into an idiom that reflects American rural, rather than urban, life. His contrapuntal idiom is predominately tonal, with long flowing melodies, but always has an edge sharpened by dissonances and polytonality, and by irregular rhythms, and occasionally by modal harmonies.

Although his output covers a wide range of genres, including much band music, it is as a symphonist that he is chiefly to be valued. Like a number of composers of his generation, he studied (none too successfully) with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, and among his more important early works is the Concerto for Piano, Clarinet and String Quartet (1927). But his first symphony, titled Symphony 1933 (1933), is a landmark in the history of American music, the first American symphony unmistakable in its cultural origins. From the vigorous opening onwards, it has a sense of the expansiveness of the American landscape, and a rough pioneer spirit in spite of the sophisticated and characteristic sense of counterpoint. It was also the first American symphony to be recorded, and has a similar position in the history of the American symphony to Walton's first in the British. With its vitality and touches of the American folk tradition, it still has impact, in spite of moments where the counterpoint seems to be in danger of stalling the momentum. The second symphony is not a conventional symphony at all, but a fifteen-minute, three-movement work for a cappella choir based on texts by Walt Whitman, and one of Harris' most successful works. Titled Symphony for Voices (1935), it is vocally challenging, with eight-part writing, ostinati lines regularly rising in step-like motion with dissonant consequences, and speech-like moments in the middle movement that provide a close match with the essence of the texts. The first movement provides a fascinating contrast with Vaughan Williams's setting of the same lines in the Sea Symphony.

However, it was the Symphony No.3 (1938, usually known as the Third Symphony) that instantly became Harris' best-known work, and which became established as one of the central symphonies in the American repertoire. Its one movement is divided into five contrasting sections, themselves characteristic of Harris' general concerns ('Tragic-Lyric-Pastoral-Fugue-Dramatic-Tragic'). It opens with a typical long expansive and almost hymn-like tune, its dark orchestral colours anticipating the more tragic elements of the work. The ease of its flowing construction has gained the admiration of critics. To a wider public, its various moods, from dark expansive sonorities expressive both of the American landscape and the hardships of the pioneer world, through a gentle lyricism, a jaunty boisterousness reminiscent of traditional cowboy music idiom, to the rugged and dramatic assertion, have seemed quintessentially to reflect the American spirit, its idiom identifiable with the American soil and pioneer values. On both levels, it remains as powerful today.

The Symphony No.4 (1939) extends that sense of connection with the soil, for it is properly titled Folk-Song Symphony, and is a fantasia for chorus and orchestra rather than a symphony, its material based on popular American traditional tunes. The Symphony No.5 (1942, later revised and shortened) is intentionally heroic, to express the "will to struggle" inherent in the American dream. In idiom, it is similar to the third; however, the material is not developed along traditional thematic lines, but by metamorphosis of initial motives. The orchestral colours are dominated by horns, and a march-like quality adds spice and piquancy to the otherwise characteristic style. It is well worth hearing in its own right, and some may prefer its more monumental directness, although the final movement almost tips into bombast. The Symphony No.6 (1943-1944, subtitled Gettysburg) was a war-time symphony, dedicated to the armed forces, and was inspired by Lincoln's address. The opening movement, a long crescendo, is atmospherically inspired, the vibraphone adding a brightness to colours centred on string-tones, its motion in search of a key belying its purposefulness. The second picks up the same mood, opening with a long brass tune over a sonorous pulse of a drone in the strings before dissolving into gesture (with fanfare whoops). With a curious lack of contrast, the rich sonorities are extended in the slow movement. The impression is of a deeply flawed work, especially in the moments of almost populist rhythms in the finale, that is nonetheless strangely compelling.

Considerably more successful is the Symphony No.7 (1951), where there is a much stronger sense of an internal tension and turmoil. Harris reverted to the one-movement form; the rhythmic drive remains, as does moments of atmospheric sonority. But there are 12-tone elements in the melodic cast, with considerable more acerbity than his earlier symphonies, the orchestration more wide-ranging in short phrases and motifs. In spite of a lighter dance-lilt in the centre of the symphony, and the move towards a brighter, more monumental horizon at the close, the overall impression is of the threat of the fragmentation of the American dream. This symphony may not be so immediate, or so obviously American, as the third, but it is perhaps a finer creation. None of his later symphonies have been as successful. The Symphony No.10 is for chorus, brass, amplified pianos and percussion, while in the numbered sequence, there is for superstition's sake no No.13.

Of his concertante works, the most appealing is the Violin Concerto (1949, first performed in 1984 - the orchestration of an earlier violin concerto was never completed), which shares some material with the Symphony No.7, though to quite different ends. With a typically exciting, driving opening followed by a rhapsodic violin, there are strong modal influences, the bouncing feel of the popular, rural dance, and an essentially lyrical view, not unlike the concertos of Vaughan Williams. The Concerto for Piano and Strings (1960) is a reworking of the 1936 Piano Quintet.

The traditional American tune When Johnny Comes Marching Home provided the basis for two attractive works of the same title, the first (1934) a deservedly popular set of symphonic variations subtitled an 'American overture', its boisterousness mixed with more contemplative and expansive moments, and the second (1937) a short and effective choral work for a cappella choir, a much more dissonant treatment that is virtually a very sophisticated round.

Harris taught at the Juilliard School (1932-1940), at Colorado College (1940-1946), at various other institutions, and then at UCLA (University of California in Los Angeles) from 1961 to 1973. He directed the music section of the Overseas Division of the Office of War Information in 1945.

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works include:

- 14 symphonies (No.1 Symphony 1933, No.2 Symphony for Voices, No.4 Folk-Song Symphony, No.6 Gettysburg; No.10 for chorus, brass, amplified pianos and percussion; no symphony numbered 13, therefore last two numbered 14 and 15)

- Cumberland Concerto for orch.; accordion concerto; concerto for piano, clarinet and string quartet (Piano Concerto No.1); piano concerto (No.2); concerto for amplified piano, brass and percussion; Fantasy for Piano and Orchestra; Elegy and Paean for viola and orch.

- Acceleration, American Creed, American Portraits, Epilogue to Profiles in Courage: J.F.K., Evening Piece, Kentucky Spring, Ode to Truth, Time Suite, Quest, Toccata, overture When Johnny Comes Marching Home for orch.

- Andante for Strings; Chorale for strings; Rhythm and Spaces for string orch.

- Soliloquy and Dance for viola and piano; piano trio; 4 string quartets; piano quintet; string quintet; piano sextet; string sextet

- piano sonata; concerto for two pianos

- cantata Give me the Splendid Silent Sun for baritone and orch.; Western Challenge for baritone, chorus and orch.; chamber cantata Abraham Lincoln Walks at Midnight; cantata Canticle to the Sun for soprano and chamber orch.

- ballets From this Earth, What so proudly we hail, and Western Landscape

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recommended works:

'American overture' When Johnny Comes Marching Home (1934)

Symphony No.3 (1939)

Symphony No.5 (1942)

Symphony No.7 (1952)

Symphony for Voices (1935) for a cappella choir

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bibliography:

D. Stehman Roy Harris: An American Musical Pioneer, 1984

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HARRISON Lou Silver                                                                                                             

born 14th May 1917  at Portland (Oregon)

died 2nd February 2003, Columbus (Ohio)

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Lou Harrison is one of the few composers who has made a virtue out of extreme eclecticism, ranging widely for the sources of his own distinctive sounds. His music might be better known if he had been identified with a particular area of contemporary music, for his works are almost always inventive and interesting, and almost invariably breathe a sense of grace and fun. Impressed by the cultural diversity of the San Francisco area (where he grew up), from Cantonese opera to Mexican music, his own sources range from the Baroque through 12-tone techniques (he was a pupil of Schoenberg), to Eastern musics (especially gamelan music), which is perhaps the most obvious feature of his own style. Tuning is an important concern to the quality of his sound: often he will require `just' intonation (as opposed to the normally used `equal temperament' tuning), where the intervals within the octave vary slightly. Some of his works (such as the anti-nuclear war Novo Odo, 1961-1963, for chorus and orchestra) have a strong political and pacifist content.

Harrison was one of the earlier explorers of the potential of percussion, influenced by Cowell and working with Cage. In the First Concerto (1939) for flute and percussion (two players) rhythm is the main motivator, the flute melodies woven from the rhythmical patterns, each of three short movements using different percussion, with the Eastern flavour emphasised in the use of gongs. Suite for Percussion (1941) used a number of found and home-made percussion instruments, and metrical modulation (altering the pulse by the over-lapping introduction of a new rhythmic idea); the winsome second movement opens and closes with rustling sounds and is otherwise pared to a minimum, with an `aria' for temple-blocks. Canticle #3 (1941, revised 1989) for a terra-cotta flute (the ocarina), guitar and five percussionists is a gently attractive, musing work when the ocarina is playing, otherwise with a clockwork-like percussion insistency that will appeal to those who enjoy similar works by Cowell or Cage.

Although Harrison's music on a chamber scale is the most likely to be encountered, he has written a number of larger-scale works. The ritualistic and gently paced ballet Solstice (1949), usually heard in its concert suite, has a newly-invented myth as its basis, pitting darkness against light. Its feel of simplicity, delicacy and strong colours is most attractive, with prepared (`tack') piano in its octet forces, and Chinese and gamelan inflections in its idiom. The Suite for Symphonic Strings (1930-1942), like many of his larger works written over a long period, includes a wide range of styles in its nine movements, from medieval dances to a Romantic nocturne. The Symphony on G (1948-1954) uses 12-tone techniques while maintaining a tonal base. The Symphony No.3 (1937-1982) is in six movements, the second, third and fourth short and grouped into a dance section (a reel, a waltz and an estampe). It opens in the grand, almost Romantic manner, with just a hint of the Oriental, but its moods and idioms are wide-ranging, more of a suite than a symphony. The attractive Concerto in slendro (1961) for violin and ensemble of specially tuned celesta, two prepared pianos and two percussionists has a strong Eastern flavour, especially in the simple contemplative violin melody against gentle comments from individual members of the ensemble in the second of three movements; the violin writing has the flavour of Eastern folk-singing.

His later music has included many works written for gamelan orchestras, for which some of the first American gamelan instruments were made. La Koro Sutro (1972) is a rather simplistic extended work for 100 singers, harp, organ and gamelan orchestra, the vocal lines based on chanting, and in its own fashion anticipating the slightly later New Age movement; the text is the `Heart Sutra' translated into Esperanto. A similarly home-made quality innocently pervades Varied Trio (1986) for violin, piano and percussion (including chopsticks and bakers' pans). A set of three pieces for gamelan written in 1978 and 1979 highlight soloists, including a French horn retuned to match gamelan tuning in Main bersama-sama (1978) and creating unexpectedly effective contrasts of timbres, and violin in Threnody for Carlos Chávez (1979). He has also used the gamelan for concertos: the Double Concerto (1981-1982) is for violin, cello and Javanese gamelan. In the Piano Concerto (1985) the black keys are tuned to mathematically precise intervals, the white keys to `just' intonation, and sections of the orchestra are tuned to one or the other; gamelan is again a strong influence. A Summerfield Set (1987, revised 1988) for piano, on the other hand, shows no Eastern influence at all, but is entirely neo-Baroque. String Quartet Set (1978-1980) looks back to earlier musics: a 12th-century tune, a stamping peasant's dance, the French baroque and the music of the Turkish court; where appropriate, the body of the string instruments are used as percussion.

Harrison was critic for the New York Herald Tribune (1945-1948), and a notable champion for the revival of the music of Charles Ives. He has taught widely, notably at San Jose State College, California (1967-1980).

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works include:

- Elegiac Symphony, Symphony on G, Symphony No.3 and The Last Symphony

- concerto for organ, percussion and orch.; piano concerto; 2 concertos for flute and percussion; concerto for violin and percussion; Double Concerto for violin, cello and large Javanese gamelan orch.; Suite for violin and American gamelan; Suite for violin, piano and small orch.; Seven Pastorales for 4 woodwind, harp and strings

- Alleluia 1944 for orch.; Pacifika rondo for chamber orch., Western and Oriental instruments; 2 Suites and Suite for Symphonic Strings for strings; Simfony in Free Style for 17 flutes, 5 harps, 8 viols, trombone, celesta, prepared piano and percussion; At the Tomb of Charles Ives for chamber ensemble; Labyrinth for 91 percussion, 11 players

- many works for gamelan orch.

- Grand Duo for violin and piano; string trio; String Quartet Set; Canticle #3 for a ocarina, guitar and 5 percussion; much other chamber music, often for unusual instruments or combinations

- A Summerfield Set, Three Sonatas and other works for piano; Six Sonatas for Cembalo

- Piece Piece Two for tenor and ensemble; other songs with instruments

- Four Strict Songs for 8 baritones and orch.; La Koro Suite (1972) for chorus, harp, organ and gamelan orch.; Mass for chorus, trumpet, harp and strings; Piece Piece One for voices and ensemble; Scenes from Cavafy for baritone, male voices and large Javanese gamelan; other choral works

- many dance pieces

- puppet opera Young Caesar; opera Rapunzel; incidental and film music

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recommended works:

Harrison's works with gamelan ensembles are recommended, in addition to the following:

Canticle #3 (1941, revised 1989) for ocarina, guitar and five percussionists

Concerto in slendro (1961) for violin and ensemble

First Concerto (1939) for flute and percussion

Symphony No.3 (1937-1982)

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bibliography:

L. Harrison    Music Primer: Various Items About Music to 1970, 1971

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HOVHANESS Alan (Chakmakjian)

born 8th March 1911 at Somerville (Massachusetts)

died 21st June 2000 at Seattle ───────────────────────────────────────

Hovhaness is quite easily the most disappointing composer listed in this section of American composers. He would not appear in this book at all, were it not that a large number of recordings have been devoted to his works, and he has a following in the U.S.A. Therefore readers may be curious about this composer and his works.

His music can only be described as musak with a sophisticated veneer It is a mishmash of strong Armenian influences (Hovhaness is of Armenian origin) spiced by the occasional exoticism, served with a sauce of pseudo-philosophizing, spread over a tonal base. This conglomeration is ill-digested. The same Armenian tinge appears again and again in the majority of his works, as do the rather plodding square rhythms, and almost invariably there is a long brass line floating somewhere over strings, and usually bells. Occasionally (as in Khaldis op.91, 1951, for piano, four trumpets and percussion) there is an attempt at a more contemporary rhythmic moment or harmonic combination, but with integration into the general idiom. Trite dances, often with a folk or exotic flavour, regularly appear, usually with ostinato effects in the strings. Hovhaness is an extremely prolific composer, and it shows. His works sprawl, without any sense of purposeful construction, and sections of works seem to have been plonked alongside each other, like random patches.

This is all the more regrettable, because, just occasionally, Hovhaness will produce an effect or a sonority that can grippingly capture the imagination, in the manner of a good film score. The opening of Fra Angelico op.220 (1968) for orchestra, for example, has a hushed sense of atmospheric magic. Similarly, the main theme of the Concerto for Horn and String Orchestra 'Artik' is gloriously expansive and affecting. This quality is most notable in climactic moments, when Hovhaness has the ability to create a noble statement of brilliant orchestral colours, especially in the timing of harmonic resolutions. Examples of this include the ending of Fra Angelico and the bright, visionary feel of the ending of the Symphony No.11 `All Men Are Brothers' op. 186 (1960, revised 1969). Unfortunately, the rest of these works show such a complete lack of self-discipline or structural judgement as to nullify these moments. Worse, many of his works are intended to reflect philosophical or religious concerns, from Eastern mysticism, to 15th-century European artists and Christian themes. One could therefore expect some kind of insight, elucidation, or exploration of those themes. However, no such illumination emerges at all.

The one work that rises out of this general mediocrity is the short continuous Symphony No.2 `Mysterious Mountain' op. 132 (1955), which is as much an extended tone-painting as a symphony. Here Hovhaness's hallmarks are contained within a convincing, linear structure, with a modal edge to the harmonies. The contrapuntal writing with scurrying strings, a Hovhaness hallmark, has a sense of drive and purpose, and the nobility of the climaxes is satisfying. The slow section, with string voices gradually entering and rising over quiet sonorities from horn and harp, has an atmospheric magic. Many will derive considerable pleasure from this symphony. The other work that has attracted wider attention is And God Created Great Whales (1970) for orchestra with taped whale songs, but Crumb's Vox Balaenae is an infinitely more thoughtful contemplation of the same subject.

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works include: (from a huge output)

- at least 52 symphonies (No.2. Mysterious Mountain, No.4 for wind ensemble, No.9 Saint Vartan, No.11 All Men Are Brothers, No.19 Vishnu, No.21 Symphony Etchmiadzin for 2 trumpets, timpani, percussion and strings, No.23 Ani for band, No.24 Majnun Symphony for violin, string orch. and chorus, No.25 Odysseus); chamber symphony for 10 players Mountains and Rivers

- 8 concertos for orch. (No.1 Arevakal); concerto for horn and strings Artik; concerto for piano, 4 trumpets and percussion Khaldis; Elibris (Dawn God of Urardu) for flute and orch.; Lousadzak for piano and orch.; Prayer of St.Gregory for trumpet and string orch.

- And God Created Great Whales and Fra Angelico for orch.

- Alleluia and Fugue, 3 Armenian Rhapsodies for string orch.; Moss Garden for chamber orch.

- Requiem and Resurrection for wind band

- solo flute sonata; solo harp sonata; Three Vision of St.Mesrob for violin and piano; The Garden of Adonis for flute and harp; Duet for violin and harpsichord; The Spirit of Ink for three flutes; Tzaikerk for flute, violin and drums; 2 piano trios (No.1 Tumburu, No.2 Varuna)

- 12 Armenian Folksongs, Fantasy, Jhala, Komachi, Orbit (2), suite Shalimar, Suite for Piano, Visionary Landscapes and other works for piano

- Spring Music with Wind for piano and voice; Flute Player of the Armenian Mountains for bass and piano; O Lady Moon for soprano, clarinet and piano; cantata Avak, the Healer for soprano, trumpet and strings and other vocal works

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recommended works:

Symphony No.2 Mysterious Mountain op.132 (1955)

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IVES Charles Edward                                                                                                              

born 20th October 1874      at Danbury (Connecticut)

died 19th May 1954 at New York

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Charles Ives is the supreme individualist of American music, a pioneer whose worth was not fully recognized until some 30 years after his works had been written. He is also among the most American of composers in that the inspiration of his music is deeply rooted in the landscape and history of the United States, and his musical sources in its vernacular musical traditions, especially band and hymn music.

Ives' experimentation came almost entirely from his childhood. His father, a bandmaster, so encouraged his son's musical activities that by the age of 13 Ives was a church organist. More important, his father was ceaselessly curious about sounds of every type, acoustics, clusters, quarter-tones and unusual tunings, and included his children in his experiments. This curiosity was inherited by Ives, and increasingly in his own music he experimented, on a traditional base, with effects originally instilled in these experiences: atonality, polytonality, unusual rhythms, spatial effects, collage effects of widely differing materials, often in different keys and rhythms - all techniques widely incorporated into music later in the 20th century, but at its beginning virtually unheard-of. In addition, he was little exposed to orchestral music of the European tradition then dominant in American music, and thus could develop these ideas relatively unhindered. Much has therefore been made of Ives the innovator, claiming for him a place in the development of 20th-century music analogous to that of Schoenberg or Stravinsky. This, however, is misleading. First, his isolation extended to performance (he was much more famous in his lifetime as the author of the manual on insurance salesmanship). Little of his music was heard until the late 1930s (he stopped composing after 1926), and the full value of his achievement was not recognized until the 1950s and 1960s, by which time these innovatory procedures had been independently developed elsewhere and were in general usage. Second, and perhaps more important, Schoenberg was consciously and intellectually attempting to create a system that would extend the development of music, as was, in a very different fashion, Stravinsky in his stylistic changes. There is little sense of such an intellectual conceit in Ives, but rather an instinctive attempt to translate the sounds he heard inside his head in the most accurate form possible, with a largely emotive rather than intellectual intent. Consequently the cast of his music broadly follows the general practices of the late-19th century - almost all his works have a programmatic content, and are vividly descriptive - while its techniques belong firmly to the 20th century. None of this diminishes Ives' place: rather it makes him unique, and the effect of the combination of late-Romanticism and modern effects is extraordinary, producing strong reactions both for and against. His works are also depictions of the memories of childhood, and their effects on the adult life, that is rare in concert music; on the evidence of the music, there is a strong suggestion that the need for such recollections may have been a primary motivation for his composition.

The symphonies and descriptive orchestral evocations form the core of Ives' output. The Symphony No.2 (1900-1901, first performed 1951) best shows Ives' musical origins, a too-diffuse Romantic work in five movements, with a touch of Beethoven here, and more of Dvořák there, though unexpected modernisms slice in, such as a polyrhythmic side-drum, the injection of fife and drum music, or the hideous final musical joke. But much of it has an attractive clarity and a Transcendental gentleness. The much more effective Symphony No.3 (1902-1904, revised 1909, first performed 1947) uses a small orchestra, and might be sub-titled the `hymn' symphony, for it is based on hymn tunes (from the 1830s and 1860s) and church organ pieces. Sometimes subtitled `The Camp Meeting', its three movements represent old folks gathering, children's day and communion, and, devoid of Ives' experiments in harmonies and rhythms, this genial work looks forward to Copland and Schuman, its dominant string sonorities emulating its inspirations. The Symphony No.4 (1909-1916, first performed in full 1965) for chorus and orchestra is the most startling and the most original, scored for a very large orchestra with two conductors and piano, a Modernist work that parallels the aesthetic of such writers as James Joyce. Predominant is collage: the second movement is a huge conglomeration of juxtaposed ideas, images and colours, resolved in the fourth. The opening movement uses the chorus, setting a poem by Lowell Mason that poses the philosophical basis of the symphony (questioning the meaning of life); the third movement is a more restrained adagio for strings. More conservative critics have hated it, and indeed there is a sense that Ives' fertile imagination is out of control, but ironically it should present no problems to those used to the superimposed collage effects of the avant-garde period. Some of its effects are striking, such as sudden movements from loud passages to ghostly ideas as if heard at a distance or in memory, a technique that came into widespread usage in the 1970s. It is throughout a fascinating work, Ives' most ambitious and a summation of his musical development.

Perhaps his most frequently heard work is Three Places in New England (1903-1914) for orchestra (formally titled Orchestral Set No.1). The first movement is an evocation of a procession of dead souls from the Civil War on Boston Common, ghostly, rhythmically and harmonically in flux, the web of misty orchestral swirl highlighted by the emergence of individual instruments, including the piano. The second depicts Putnam's Camp, commemorating a winter military camp in 1778-1779, full of marches, quotations from `The British Grenadiers', and bouncing band music that is combined with completely contrasting material in clashing keys to give a bright, dream-like effect. This collage-juxtaposition effect was extraordinary for its time, a technique that was not fully employed until the avant-garde 1960s. The third depicts the misty morning river at Stockbridge, with distant singing in the church; the orchestral palette remains thick, swirling, again pinpointed with isolated instrumental touches like a fusion between Impressionism and pointillism, and the harmonies of the climax go beyond chromaticism into clusters. The Orchestral Set No.2 (1909-1915, partly based on earlier material) for orchestra and chorus, has a similar pattern, but is more extreme in its experimentation, the second movement remarkable for its disjointed rhythmic effects within a general flow that suggests popular music, the third an extraordinary concept inspired by hearing people singing after receiving the news of the sinking of the Lusitania, starting with a distant chorus and continuing with a threnody of different simultaneous orchestral layers and ending with an almost Mahlerian climax before the long fade. The Holidays Symphony (1904-1913) is also in the same vein of experimentation and description, and is more of a suite than a symphony, each of the four movements celebrating a national holiday: Washington's Birthday, Decoration Day, The Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. It includes a jews' harp in its orchestration, and the wild and swirling `Decoration Day' is often heard on its own. Of his other orchestral works, The Unanswered Question (1906, performed as theatre interlude, 1907, concert premiere 1946), with its quiet strings, questioning trumpets, and answering flutes, and Central Park in the Dark (1906, same performance history) are the most gratifying.

Of the two string quartets, the String Quartet No.1 (1896) is a conventional early work with echoes of Dvořák in its four movements, although the key structures are not traditional, and there are moments of polytonality and echoes of American hymns; the fugue was reused in the Symphony No.4. The String Quartet No.2 (1907-1913) is quite different: Ives described it as a discussion among four men who converse, discuss, argue and fight, make up (movements one and two), and eventually walk up the mountain to view the firmament (the third movement). There are quotations from Beethoven, hymns, and Civil War songs, and the harmonic idiom is largely atonal in a complex work, difficult to assimilate, but leading to a transcendental close. Of his piano music, the Three Page Sonata (1905), in three clearly defined sections, is remarkable for its compression, for its creation of emotional and musical expectations only to follow other directions, and for its feeling of unreality, created by layers of different harmonies and rhythms. The huge Piano Sonata No.2 `Concord' (1911-1915, partly based on earlier music, then revised many times; first performed 1939; full subtitle Concord, Massachusetts, 1840-1860) with flute and viola (sometimes omitted) is Ives' summation of his philosophy and his admiration for the American Transcendentalists; its many revisions have left various alternatives open to performers, and it remains his finest work and a major contribution to 20th-century piano music. Each of its four movements pays tribute to one of the Transcendentalists from the town of Concord (Emerson, Hawthorne, The Alcotts, and Thoreau), a motto from the four-note opening of Beethoven's fifth symphony pervades the work, and well-known American tunes occasionally make their appearance. `Emerson' surveys powerful contemplation and complex thought occasionally leavened by more musing moments; the viola makes a tiny but telling appearance. `Hawthorne' veers wildly in mood, regularly returning to a mysterious melancholic atmosphere, `The Alcotts' is delicate, fragrant, counterpoised by passion stirred by the Beethoven motto. `Thoreau' is the most transcendental of the movements, with the flute representing the mist over Walden Pond; throughout the sonata the piano writing is usually dense and of considerable virtuosity; those listening to the work for the first time might consider taking one movement at a time. Ives' songs also include fine works; he wrote some 200, ranging from the sweetly sentimental to the acerbically complex.

Ives is a composer best taken in small doses. He is uneven in his inspiration; some of the effects sound just that; and his emotional range is essentially limited to those half-dreamt integrations of childhood memories. Occasionally one wishes for tauter formal structures to bind works together. But at his best his musical visions are compelling, and when rediscovered he made an indelible mark on American music and on American composers of the second half of the 20th century.

The insurance agency he co-founded, Ives and Myrick, eventually became the largest in the United States.

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works include:

- 4 symphonies (No.2 Holidays Symphony, No.3 The Camp Meeting)

- Central Park in the Dark, Chromâtimelôdtune (also brass quintet and piano), The Gong on the Hook and the Ladder, Orchestral Set No.2, Over the Pavements, Overture `1776', The Pond, The Rainbow, Robert Browning Overture, Set for Theatre Orchestra, Tone Roads No.1 and No.3, Three Places in New England (Orchestral Set No.1) and The Unanswered Question for orch.

- From the Steeples and the Mountains for trumpet, trombone and bells; 2 string quartets; Holding Your Own for string quartet; In re con moto et al for piano quintet; The Innate for string quartet, double-bass and piano and other chamber music

- 2 piano sonatas (No.2 Concord); Three-Page Sonata; Andante maestoso-Allegro vivace, The Anti-Abolitionist Riots, Set of Five Take-Offs, Some Southpaw Pitching and Varied Air and Variations for piano; Three Quarter-Tone Pieces for 2 pianos

- Prelude on `Adeste fideles' and Variations on `America' for organ

- around 200 published songs; The Celestial Country for soloists, chorus and 8 instruments; December for unison voices and wind; Lincoln for unison voices and orch.; The New River for unison voices and orch.; Processional for four voices and organ or brass; Three Harvest Home Chorales for chorus, brass and organ; choral psalm settings

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recommended works:

Piano Sonata No.2 Concord (1911-1915, often revised)

String Quartet No.2 (1907-1913)

Symphony No.3 (1902-1904, revised 1909)

Symphony No.4 (1909-1916)

Three Page Sonata (1905) for piano

Three Places in New England (1903-1914) for orchestra

The Unanswered Question (1906) for orchestra

Central Park in the Dark (1906) for orchestra

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bibliography:

C.Ives             Essays before a Sonata, 1961

H. and S. Cowell      Charles Ives and his Music, 1952, 1969

V. Perlis                     Charles Ives Remembered, 1974

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PISTON Walter                                                                                                                          

born 20th January 1894     at Rockland (Maine)

died 12th November 1976  at Belmont (Mass.)

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Piston, who trained as a painter before becoming a composer, is best known for his suite from the ballet The Incredible Flutist. However, his reputation rests more securely on the eight symphonies which are at the heart of his output. All his works are for orchestral or instrumental forces; there is no vocal music. He was one of the first American symphonists for whom the evocation of the American spirit was less important than the more abstract exploration of the form. He has been called a 'neo-classicist', and although such a title contains an element of truth, there is a rugged individuality in his music, combined with concentration on formal devices, that is reminiscent of Hindemith. An elegance is at the heart of his output, and a self-contained unity in the architecture. He studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, like so many of his generation of American composers, and elements of American popular influences do appear, particularly in echoes of jazz (especially syncopated rhythms), but they are integrated into his abstract goals, and became less obvious as he explored more complex harmonic ideas in the 1960s. Yet their very presence removes from his work the label of 'Parisian neo-classicism' that has so often been attached to him.

Although interested in the pattern of thinking of 12-tone composers and in some of their formal devices, his harmonic language remained essentially traditional, based on tonality, and linear counterpoint predominates. The use of particular intervals as a basis of form is a common feature (for example, the rising sixth in the first movement of the Symphony No.7, or the relationship between the intervals of the 12-note row in the slow movement of the Symphony No.3 with those of the principal theme of the first movement). Piston is also the most widely known of American theorists, and his textbooks on harmony, counterpoint and orchestration are still standard university works. Some of that academicism perhaps raises its head in his music. The regular presence of passages which are impeccable in their academic credentials, yet fail to have impact beyond that (notably meandering strings), have probably prevented his music from reaching a wider dissemination. To offset that, his textural clarity, sense of rugged assertion, and moments of a very objective contemplation are far removed from any academic overtones. His melodic lines have an inevitability about them, sometimes forcefully so, without the tuneful flow of such American contemporaries as Harris or Copland.

The rather dour Symphony No.1 (1937) is, with the seventh, the most obviously neo-classical of the symphonies. Characteristic are the rigid rhythms, offset by syncopations and giving a rugged directness to the expression. Predominant are forceful strings, and there is an affinity with the hardened steel and concrete purposefulness of the architecture of the period; this symphony is worth revival. The next three symphonies probably remain the best known. The three-movement Symphony No.2 (1943) extends this rather direct and limited vision, adding a sense of lyrical warmth and much more varied material, including suggestions of the 'cowboy' musical inheritance in the first movement. This adds a touch of optimism that is generally apparent in Piston's output, while maintaining a largely sombre mood until the end: the gentle slow movement becomes more impassioned and persuasively pastoral, but the last movement is short and somewhat facile, an example of Piston at his less inspired. The Symphony No.3 (1947) uses a large orchestra, with a notable part for two harps, and a favourite fugato texture in the finale. The key is the optimistic one of C major (with a conventional progression of C-F-G-C in the four movements, and an overall structure of slow-fast-slow-fast), though it also opens in a solemn and subdued mood with dark orchestral colours, with solo lines (especially woodwind) or blocks emerging from a dense, atmospheric texture. The slow movement has a hymnal quality to its expansiveness, a monumental quality to its climax. In total contrast is the energetic, highly contrapuntal scherzo, jerky and piquant in intent (apart from a meditative central section with solo flute), with touches of the Mexican bounce that Copland had developed. A similar tone is adopted in the finale, complete with a march-tune, the orchestration reminiscent of the harmonium, and this is the most obviously 'American' of Piston's symphonies. The similarly orchestrated Symphony No.4 (1950) has at its close a different, though related, tonal centre from that of its opening. It starts in quite a different mood, light and lyrical, and the whole feel is more relaxed, almost to the point of what the English would call 'light' music, dance dominating the scherzo (titled `Ballando'), the meandering of the strings never more obvious. The slow movement reverts to contemplation with a massed crescendo, but to less effect than the earlier symphonies, and in spite of its superficial attractions, this is the least successful of Piston's symphonies.

With the three-movement Symphony No.5 (1954), Piston extended the range of his idiom, maintaining the strict classical structures, but adding the use of a tone-row in the opening of the slow movement, and binding the structure with melodic elements that appear throughout (he had used all twelve notes in the slow movement of Symphony No.3, but the usage is lost in the purely tonal goals). The effect is both more obviously abstract, and at the same time grittier, with a consistent argument between diatonic and chromatic material, and more spare and pointed textures. The Symphony No.6 (1955) is a return to the rather vacuous idiom of the fourth. The three-movement Symphony No.7 (1960), on the other hand, is much more lithe and angular in its material, more obviously neo-classical, and with particularly clean textures. The orchestra is used sparingly in clearly differentiated lines, often reduced almost to chamber-size. The harmonic exploration, still rooted in tonality, is tense and chromatic, and the finale, for all its brashness, has an acerbic edge. The final Symphony No.8 (1964-1965), again in three movements, maintains that harmonic edge, but combines it with the sense of the monumental observable in earlier works.

Surveying the symphonies as a whole, it is difficult not to come to the conclusion that their details and individual moments are more impressive than their overall impact, either as single symphonies or as an overall achievement. The development of the idiom from first to last is consistent, but limited. They are almost all rewarding in one way or another (with the exception, perhaps, of the fourth and sixth), and are interesting in the honesty of their construction and their clarity of idea. Those interested in the techniques of music will find the fifth perhaps the most appealing, those more receptive to emotional impact, the third. The final two symphonies, in the tension of their harmonic material and its application to so many of Piston's characteristics, are perhaps the most fascinating.

However, the work most likely to be encountered is the completely uncharacteristic suite (1938) from the ballet The Incredible Flutist (1938). The scenario is a sleepy village that wakes up to the arrival of a circus band, including the Incredible Flutist. Both his dalliance with the Merchant's daughter and his own playing unite the Widow and her object of passion, the Merchant himself. The suite uses about half the full ballet, and largely follows the same action. It is Piston at his most unexpectedly populist, boisterous and colourful. After a characteristically neo-classical start, the idiom ranges the gamut from pseudo-Spanish, through Broadway waltz, quasi-Mexican, a touch of the 19th-century virtuoso piano, hoe-down ideas, to circus music, complete with all the appropriate orchestral colours, unashamedly American in its melting-pot. With its distant echoes of The Sorcerer's Apprentice, it is a happy reminder that Piston was at one time a pupil of Dukas, and a marvellous compendium of the popular influences on American serious music in mid-century.

The five string quartets share many stylistic features of the symphonies, argued with great craftsmanship, but possesses a more luminous, interior quality. The String Quartet No.1 (1933) is essentially lyrical (in spite of the chromatic elements of the first movement) and ruminative, the two outer movements using material that oscillates on a C-D flat axis. The String Quartet No.2 (1935) is in much the same vein, but with a haunting and beautiful slow opening to a long first movement that has a wide variety of moods and material. Both works are effective on a purely emotional, as well as intellectual level. The String Quartet No.3 (1947) and String Quartet No.4 (1953) are more discursive. Both have extremely slow, long-lined slow movements, and the latter a scherzo with something of Shostakovich's mawkish humour. The String Quartet No.5 (1962), shows the more astringent, almost atonal harmonies that Piston had by then developed, but otherwise follows similar lines. If none of these works are particularly gripping in their entirety, none should fail to please, particularly in their clarity of intellectual construction. However, perhaps Piston's finest chamber work is the Flute Quintet (1942). Written for the unusual combination of flute and string quartet, it has a delightfully wispy and flowing opening, the sunlight of Ravel's Provence looking over Piston's shoulder, with the flute integrated into the general string texture while providing a parallel colour (the relationship had been foreshadowed in the flute solo passages of The Incredible Flutist). The scherzo is spiky, typical of Piston's rhythmical insistence but with colourful flute writing, and a scurrying finale.

Piston was a celebrated teacher (at Harvard, 1929-1960), and among his pupils were two of the most distinguished (and most contrasted) of American composers, Bernstein and Carter. His writings on theory are Counterpoint (1947), Harmony (1941), Orchestration (1955) and Principles of Harmonic Analysis (1933).

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works include:

- 8 symphonies; sinfonietta for chamber orch.

- clarinet concerto; flute concerto; two-piano concerto; concerto for string quartet, wind and percussion; viola concerto; 2 violin concertos; concertino for piano and chamber orch.; Capriccio for harp and string orch.; Fantasia for violin and orch.; Fantasy for English horn, harp and strings; Variations for cello and orch.

- Lincoln Center Festival Overture, 3 New England Sketches, Pine Tree Fantasy, Ricercare, Serenata, 2 Suites, Symphonic Prelude and Toccata for orch.

- flute sonata; Suite for oboe and piano; violin sonata; sonatina for violin and harpsichord; 2 piano trios; Three Counterpoints for string trio; 5 string quartets; flute quintet; piano quintet; wind quintet; string sextet

- Improvisation and Passacaglia for piano

- ballet The Incredible Flutist

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recommended works:

Flute Quintet (1942)

ballet The Incredible Flutist (1938)

String Quartet No.2 (1935)

Symphony No.1 (1937)

Symphony No.2 (1943)

Symphony No.3 (1947)

Symphony No.5 (1954)

Symphony No.7 (1960)

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bibliography:

H.Pollack Walter Piston, 1981

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REICH Steve                                                                                                                              

born 3rd October 1936        at New York

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Steve Reich has emerged as the most serious composer of the Minimalist movement, and perhaps the one most deserving of attention. His idiom, more uncompromising than that of Glass, less populist than that of Adams, not only uses slowly unfolding repetitive patterns for effect, but also as solutions to abstract problems, often at the service of descriptive intent. The result is often both intellectually and emotionally mesmerizing.

His version of minimalism was initially influenced by La Monte Young (born 1935), who experimented with Minimalist repetitive ideas and `happenings', and by Terry Riley's In C (Reich took part in the first performance). Its essence is movement within the repetition by shifts of rhythmic patterns of one or more of the instruments or voices at different times, creating gradual overlapping patterns of changes. This is in contrast to the abrupt gear changes of Glass, and although abrupt changes do regularly occur in Reich's music, they usually appear first in one voice alone to create a new strand in the weave. These changes are often subtle (the replacement of a rest by a beat, for example), and the overlap of the same rhythmic patterns out of phase with each other, with one of them then changing position for a new overlap, has become known as `phase shifting', analogous to the traditional technique of canons, or indeed double canons when one voice of the pattern moves slowly, another fast (first employed by Reich in the Octet). Gradually through his output he has extended these techniques to more complex harmonic as well as rhythmic patterns.

Of his early works, It's Gonna Rain (1965), using only the recorded voice of a black preacher, Brother Walter, is fascinating less for its musical effects than as an example of Reich's first experiments with phase shifting. Using only a single spoken phrase endlessly repeated, a second recording gradually moves out of synchronicity with the first, creating deepening echo and rhythmic effects. Violin Phase (1967) for a violinist playing against one and then two and three prerecorded tracks of him- of herself, is typical of the early works evolving the phase shifting, the prominence and changes of the resulting patterns being emphasized by the simple device of lowering the volumes of the tape tracks. With its rigid note patterns and singularity of timbre it seems crude compared with later works.

With Drumming (1970-1971) for various drums, instruments and voices, Reich took a major step to remedy some of the monotony evident in the earlier works, partly as a result of studies in Africa of Ghanaian drumming. This long work takes in its entirety 1½ hours, but is divided into parts, often heard on their own. By substituting beats for rests as the piece progresses, a series of shifting patterns are created, and with the resonant and timbral effects of a battery of drums, the result is mesmerising. It progresses from small forces (two bongos) to the full ensemble. The technique was further developed, with a much wider range of colour, in Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973). It is based on two rhythmic cells, whose note values are subject to lengthening and shortening, creating changing patterns of colour, with three abrupt changes of direction. The effect is unexpected: rather than the feeling of rhythmic shifts and overfolding of ideas in Reich's later work, the various individual colours of his forces emerge and recede against the ostinato patterns, like parts of a tapestry coming into focus and then fading. Stockhausen had achieved similar effects in Stimmung four years earlier. However, with its small but abrupt harmonic shifts, and the feeling of always being on the edge of tonal resolution, Music for Mallet Instruments (as it is usually known) is the work that brought Reich attention world-wide, and comes closest to the idiom of Philip Glass.

With Music for Eighteen Instruments (1976), with suggestions of jazz, and Music for a Large Ensemble (1978, revised 1979), which again uses wordless voices as part of the instrumental texture and changes signalled by the vibraphone, Reich reached a public that included followers of popular music as well as those following the latest classical music. Variations (1979) for orchestra of winds, strings and keyboards, was Reich's first piece for such large forces. While using subtle shifts of phase, it has considerably more melodic movement, with the emphasis on overlapping and slowly shifting layers of melodic ideas, propelled by the bass lines of long held notes, essentially static against the higher ostinato layer as a kind of cantus firmus. This technique and pattern of sound proved to be a point of departure for another Minimalist, John Adams.

The Octet (1979) for string quartet, two pianos, two clarinets (doubling bass clarinet, flute and piccolo; ten musicians may be used if necessary, but only eight play at any one time), one of Reich's most impressive and closely argued works, is built around complex writing for two pianos (four hands). The sense of stasis inherent in repeated phrases slowly undergoing transformation is relieved by the wide leaps of the melodic fragments, giving a feeling of expansion and contraction, and by the dense and tight focus and yet wide range of instrumental colour afforded by the instrumentation. The movement between each of the five sections is also more securely handled, creating an almost unnoticed change and overlap rather than a more abrupt gear-change, and this better suits the complex interlocking of rhythmic ideas that is basic to his idiom. The Octet was orchestrated for an ensemble of ten strings by Ransom Wilson, with Reich's supervision, and in this version it is known as Eight Lines.

Reich moved to the actual setting of words (as opposed to voiceless chorus, or speech on tape) in Tehillim (1981) for voices and instruments, a Psalm setting that draws on his Jewish heritage, including a melodic influence. There is no fixed metre or metrical pattern, but merely the metre of the text, which is constantly changing. In it, Reich starts to move away from a `pure' minimalism, the repetitions turning to variations and canons in a beautiful flowing tapestry of voices, the instruments providing a slower grounding. The next major work was The Desert Music (1982-1984), for chorus and orchestra, a long work based on excepts from poetry by William Carlos Williams. The structure is an arch form, with the five movements played continuously, the first matching the last, the second the fourth; the central movement is in A-B-A form. The longer melodic lines, initiated in Tehillim, are further developed. The effect is less busy than his earlier works, with a spaciousness that matches the title, and new textures are introduced: a wailing siren imitated on the violas, and signalling a shift to a different movement (rather than the overlaps of the Octet) that is smoother and more convincing than those in the works of the 1970s. Much of the sense of being on the edge of harmonic resolution has gone; instead the colours are darker and more chromatic. Some of the rhythmic devices (in particular a beat of 3 against 2) have jazz origins, and, in spite of the respect with which this work was received, sound pedestrian in comparison with some of Reich's other works, and the realisation of the essence of the poetry is less effective than in Tehillim.

In the Sextet (1984-1985) for percussion instruments, two pianos and two synthesizers, Reich returned to a purer, abstract palette, but with greater harmonic complexity, the changes of tempo made abruptly at the beginning of each of the five movements by metric modulation. Different Trains (1988) for string quartet and tape is Reich's masterpiece to date, and a change in direction. It is a music docu-drama evoking trains in three eras each filling a movement: the great intercontinental American trains before the war, the trains transporting Holocaust victims during the war, and trains after the war. Its basis are repeated snippets of spoken words on tape (looking right back to It's Gonna Rain), by Reich's childhood governess, a retired Pullman porter, and Holocaust survivors, and recordings of trains from the periods; the string quartet, over-recorded four times to create dense patterns, matches the rhythms and speech-melody patterns of these taped snippets and adds its own commentary. From the opening bars one knows Reich has moved into a denser, far more expressive world while retaining the main features of his idiom; the effect is both exciting and moving, the three atmospheres clearly delineated, the effects of the train whistles (used as an integral part of the patterns) and the voices haunting and hard-hitting, the multi-tracked string quartet layers propulsive, descriptive, evocative and gripping. In 1993 his first full length `documentary music theatre', the opera-length The Cave, was premiered, in part building on his experience in Different Trains. The three acts focus on the common ancestor of Abraham in three religions, Jewish, Muslim and Christian, using taped interviews as well as extensive quotations from religious texts. The static, oratorio-like nature of the libretto was countered by extensive and integral use of video techniques.

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works include:

- Clapping Music; Drumming for wordless voices and ensemble; Music for Large Ensemble; Music for Mallet Instruments; Music for Pieces of Wood; Variations for winds, strings and keyboards

- Electric Counterpoint for guitar, multi-tracked; Violin Phase for violin, multi-tracked; Vermont Counterpoint for flutes and piccolos (or one player, multi-tracked); sextet; Six Marimbas (originally Six Pianos); Octet; Music for Eighteen Musicians

- Piano Phase for piano; Eight Lines for pianos

- Desert Music for voices and instruments; Different Trains for taped speaking voices and instruments; Tehillim for voices;

- opera The Cave

- tape Come Out and It's Gonna Rain

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recommended works:

Different Trains (1988) for string quartet and tape

Drumming (1970-1971) for various drums, instruments and voices

Music for Mallet Instruments, Voices and Organ (1973)

Octet (1979)

Tehillim (1981) for voices and instruments

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RIEGGER Wallingford                                                                                                             

born 29th April 1885            at Albany (Georgia)

died 2nd April 1961 at New York

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Wallingford Riegger belongs to that generation of American composers who forged an American music, utilizing new ideas while casting them in more traditional forms. He developed a free and unschematized use of 12-tone techniques, often using the initial row to generate ideas to be used in conventional structures; sometimes this is combined with a sense of tonality, and some works are almost entirely tonal. The chief features of his music are a sense of directness, clarity and logic (sometimes expressed in such forms as the fugue or the passacaglia), and a drive based on forceful rhythms. These were in part the result of his considerable experience writing for dance; between 1933 and 1941 he wrote nothing else, producing scores (mostly with piano and drums) for most of the notable American modern dancers, including Martha Graham. After this period he concentrated on abstract orchestral and chamber works.

His earliest music was entirely traditional, in the line of Brahms (he admitted to hissing at the first Berlin performance of Scriabin's Poème de l'Extase), but between 1923 and 1926 he withdrew from composing to rethink his musical stance. He then joined a group of forward-thinking American composers, and became involved in the advanced Pan-American Association of Composers. The first major compositional results of this self-examination were the Study in Sonority (1926-1927) op.7 for ten violins or any multiple thereof, and Dichotomy (1931-1932) op.12 for chamber orchestra. The former, a very advanced and austere American work for its time, shows the influence of Schoenberg in its dissonant textures and its wide leaps, and of Bartók in its percussive use of string instruments and incorporation of folk-like thematic fragments; the impulse is of an atonal lyrical flow, the textures getting progressively thicker. The vibrant Dichotomy was one of the first American works to use tone-rows, using two of 11 and 10 notes each, and including their standard manipulations (inversion, retrograde inversion [backwards], inverted plus retrograde), although Riegger was unaware at the time of Schoenberg's formal 12-tone theories (whatever some American commentators may have later claimed). However its percussive energy, leading to a furious ending, is much more apparent than any dissonance, and Riegger does not adhere strictly to his rows, anticipating his later use of the formal 12-tone system.

The Fantasy and Fugue op.10 (1930-1931) for orchestra and organ is ostensibly atonal, though in its carefully matched sonorities (the organ colours being integrated with the orchestra, rather than concertante), its dance-like rhythms, and melodic flow it rarely feels dissonant. In contrast, the Canon and Fugue op.33 (1941) for either string or full orchestra is representative both of his interest in counterpoint and his occasional writing in an entirely tonal manner. Riegger withdrew his first two numbered symphonies, and it was with the Symphony No.3 (1946-1947) that he became known to a wider audience. It has that rugged intensity characteristic of mid-century American symphonies and is perhaps his finest work. The Symphony No.4 op.63 (1957) is a more diffident work, in a tonal idiom centred on keys without a strong sense of resolution (it ends on a major seventh); the rhythmic sense is here rather nervous, the scoring spare and often assigned to solo woodwinds. The Variations for Violin and Orchestra op.71 (1959) is the best known of the works based on variations (others include the Variations for Piano and Orchestra op.54, 1953, and the Variations for Violin and Viola op.57, 1956). With twelve variations and a cadenza, it is based on 12-tone principles (although with some deviations), with a predominantly lyrical singing line for the violin, and more aggressive interpolations from the chamber-sized orchestra. Of his other works, he produced two important scores for brass ensembles, Music for Brass Choir op.45 (1948-1949) and the Nonet for Brass op.49 (1951), both of which include cluster effects.

Where Riegger differs from the Viennese practitioners of 12-tone technique (apart from his free use of the system) is the lack of the heightened extremes of Expressionism. Instead his idiom appears direct and thoughtfully rugged, individual in its personal use of 12-tone idioms and their combination with more traditional harmonic and formal patterns. Among his few pupils was Morton Feldman, among his output a large number of commercial arrangements (with a variety of pseudonyms) done for financial necessity in the years of the Depression. He died from injuries received falling over a dog's leash in a snowstorm.

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works include: (75 opus numbers)

- 4 symphonies (Nos. 1 & 2 withdrawn); sinfonietta

- Duo for piano and orch.; Fantasy and Fugue for orch. and organ; Variations for piano and orchestra; Variations for violin and orch.

- Dance Rhythms, Festival Overture, Music for Orchestra, and New Dance for orch.; Canon and Fugue for string orch. (also full orchestral version); Dichotomy for chamber orch.

- Study in Sonority for 10 violins or multiples thereof; Music for Brass Choir; Quintuple Jazz for ensemble; Introduction and Fugue for violin and wind instruments (also for cello and wind)

- Music for Flute Alone; Sonatina for violin and piano; Variations for violin and viola; Divertissement for flute, harp and cello; Duo for three woodwinds; 2 string quartets; piano quintet; woodwind quintet; concerto for piano and wind quintet; brass nonet

- piano works

- cantata In Certainty of Song for chorus and chamber orch. and other vocal works

- many works for dance with small ensembles

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recommended works:

Dichotomy op. 12 (1931-1932) for chamber orchestra

Study in Sonority op.7 (1926-1927) for 10 violins or multiples thereof

Symphony No.3 op.42 (1946-1947)

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SCHUMAN William Howard                                                                                                    

born 4th August 1910         at New York

died 15th February 1993    at New York

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William Schuman was one of the major figures in the mainstream of American music, continuing the tradition of American symphony as the vehicle for the abstract expression of American life. He had an unusual apprenticeship, writing popular songs (usually arranged by others) before starting a serious study of music at the age of 23. Although most highly regarded for his ten symphonies, he is also noted in America for his choral works. His development was one of consistent extension of his idiom, rather than any radical changes of style.

There is a strong and vital urgency about his music, and he was a public composer in the sense that the bulk of his works seem the expression of outward events and situations rather than of inward emotions. He explored no new boundaries, but extended traditional forms with a strong consensus between form and content - rarely does anything sound out of place in Schuman's work. Within an essentially tonal framework (though usually without key signatures, and with sometimes dissonant counterpoint or polytonal moments, and with characteristic use of leaping sevenths and triads) the most immediate aspect of his music is its rhythmic intensity, preferring a steady pulse overlaid with cross-rhythms, sometimes with spectacular rhythmic shifts (as at the end of the Symphony No.3). Dance rhythms also appear in some of his later works, and behind all lies the rhythmic example of jazz. On this rhythmic base he places long, often cantabile melodies, allowing broad conceptions. His orchestration often divides the orchestra into groups, and he delights in the sonorities of solo strings. A favourite technique, particularly in the middle and later works, is the overlay of two or more concepts moving at different paces and sometimes in different keys. As a framework for this melodic and rhythmic motivation, he preferred neo-classical forms.

It was with the powerful Symphony No.3 (1941) that Schuman came to prominence (he withdrew the previous two symphonies, the second of which was admired by Copland but was a disaster at its premiere). Divided into two movements, each of two parts, it shows Schuman's fondness for ordered neo-classical forms, here the toccata, chorale, passacaglia, and especially the fugue, which unusually among 20th-century composers Schuman regularly used with a strong sense of freedom and lightness as an integral structural catalyst. It is a pulsing, vital work, using its formal framework for vivid shifts of colourful expression and its nocturnal slow section. The Symphony No.4 (1941) is more thinly textured, less substantial and less inventive in its combination of three-movement form and outgoing content than its predecessor, in spite of the impressive fugal work of the finale and the driving pulse of the opening movement. The most neo-classical of the symphonies is perhaps the rather intense Symphony No.5 (Symphony for Strings, 1943), for strings alone, with very broad melodic lines and throughout an energetic pulse. The Symphony No.6 (1948) is considered by some to be his finest. It is a powerful and densely argued work, in which one plane is dominated by strings and timpani, in long lines or powerful statements, another by the brighter colours of woodwind and solo brass, rhythmically more fragmentary. Its construction is unusual: cast in one movement, two outer slow sections frame four central ones, which themselves have echoes of classical construction (fast opening, scherzo, adagio and finale). The violent, punctuating nature of the Presto is particularly effective. This fine achievement is let down, perhaps, only by the rather aimless wandering of the strings at its centre.

Schuman did not then produce a symphony for another twelve years, but the Symphony No.7 (1960) re-established his position as a symphonic composer. Building on a mood suggested by the sixth symphony, it is darker, more anguished and personally intense than the earlier symphonies, the harmonies often uncomfortable (pitting upward sevenths against thirds), the orchestral colours brightly embittered by brass fanfares, and with a yearning slow movement - cantabile intensamente - for strings alone. It is one of the finer American symphonies, an uncomfortable and compelling work. The three-movement Symphony No.8 (1960-1962) has a massive, sometimes harsh feel, the string lines long and thick-textured, offset by woodwind and brass layers, as in the sixth symphony. It creates a sense of slabs grinding against each other, like a geological fault. Its slow movement is equally firm and insistent rather than lyrical, with characteristic short chattering notes in the brass at its climax. The dark Symphony No.9 `Le fosse ardeatine' (1968) was a reaction to a visit to the site in Rome of Nazi atrocities, again using a slow-fast-slow construction.

Of his concertante works, the discursive and extended fantasy for cello and orchestra A Song of Orpheus (1961), written just after the seventh symphony, is deeply lyrical. Schuman's characteristically long melodic line is fully extended for the solo instrument, pitted against solo woodwind over a neo-classical orchestra before moving to more positive assertion and some deeply expressive writing. His most unusual concertante work is the Concerto on Old English Rounds (1973) for viola, women's chorus and orchestra, where the basic lyricism is tempered by harsher sections, unexpected sonorities are set up by the combination of women's chorus and the solo instrument, and the nature of the material demands constant transformation - in idiom perhaps an old-fashioned work, but nonetheless effective and individual. The Violin Concerto, originally (1950) in two movements, was revised in 1956, and was then cast again as a two-movement work in 1959; it opposes energetic moments with more contemplative ideas, characteristically using fourths and sevenths. It is a sometimes forceful, sometimes lyrical work of considerable impact, with few concessions to any virtuoso Romantic tradition in form or in content.

Two of Schuman's most successful works were written for the choreographer and dancer Martha Graham. The scenario of Night Journey (1947, concert version subtitled 'Choreographic Poem' for fifteen instruments, 1980-1981) is based on the Oedipus legend, but seen from the point of view of Jocasta. It combines motoric moments with drawn-out ideas of a neo-classical character, and something of the spare, semi-static nature of Greek drama. Judith (`choreographic poem' for orchestra, 1949), was based on the biblical story of Judith, with overtones of earlier fertility rituals. Two clearly different strands of musical line work independently but set up polytonal effects. Within the atmosphere of a rather ritualistic drama, Schuman uses the full orchestra for a wide range of effect, from an intimate chamber quality to large sonorous climaxes. Two other ballets for Martha Graham (Voyage for a Theater, 1953, and The Witch of Endor, 1965), have been withdrawn. Of his other orchestral music, the Credendum (Article of Faith, 1955) for orchestra was the first piece of music to be commissioned directly by a department of the U.S. Government, while his American Festival Overture (1939) has retained its popularity. New England Triptych (1956) for orchestra is also in Schuman's more popular vein, using hymn tunes by Billings, with a lovely second movement (`When Jesus Wept'), and a blockbuster of a finale (`Chester').

A Free Song (1943), the second of two Secular Cantatas for chorus, won the first Pulitzer Prize in music. His major choral work is perhaps the Carols of Death (1958), to three poems by Walt Whitman. Written for a cappella choir, the actual rhythms of the words are used to govern the structure. With contrasts between broader swathes of choral sound combined with rhythmic detail, and darker harmonies always suggesting an eventual resolution, this short intimate work is unassumingly effective. His two single-act operas are both light-weight but entertaining. The Mighty Casey (1951-1953), to a libretto by Jeremy Gury is based on the most famous of all baseball stories (Casey at the Bat by Ernest Lawrence Thayer), which will need no introduction to baseball fans but will probably mystify others. Full of vocal lines that verge on the idiom of the Broadway musical, it is colourful, boisterous, gently humorous, and in a style designed to appeal to a wide audience: in a word, fun, with a little home-spun philosophizing and a touch of the bitter-sweet at the end. It was revised as a cantata Casey at the Bat for soprano, baritone, chorus and orchestra in 1976. A Question of Taste (1987-1988) is based on a story by Roald Dahl, with a libretto by J.D.McClatchy, and is a little comedy of manners centred around a bet on recognizing a fine wine at a dinner-party: the bet is the hand of the daughter of the host against half-a-million dollars. The idiom is again easy-going, but darker-hued. Schuman wrote relatively little chamber music, and virtually no piano music. Four of his five string quartets are earlier works, and the String Quartet No.1 (1936) was withdrawn. The String Quartet No.3 (1939) has cyclical elements, material from the first movement being developed and restated in the next two.

Schuman was a particularly prominent figure in American musical life. At the age of 35 he became the director of the Julliard School (1945-1962), where he was an innovative administrator. From 1962 to 1969 he was president of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, and he was chairperson of the MacDowell Colony from 1973. Columbia University named the William Schuman Award for lifetime achievement as a composer in his honour.

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works include:

- 10 symphonies (No.1 for 18 instruments, withdrawn, No.2 withdrawn, No.5 Symphony for Strings, No.9 Le fosse ardeatine, No. 10 American Muse)

- piano concerto; violin concerto; Concerto on Old English Rounds for viola, women's chorus and orch.; fantasy Song of Orpheus for cello and orch.

- American Festival Overture, Circus Overture, Three Colloquies, Credendum, New England Triptych, Newsreel, canticle In Praise of Shahn, A Prayer in Time of War, and overture William Billings for orch.

- Prelude to a Great Occasion for brass and percussion

- Amaryllis for string trio (also arranged for string orch.); 5 string quartets (No.1 withdrawn); Dances for wind quintet and percussion

- Three Moods and Voyage for piano

- cantata Casey at the Bat; Carols of Death; Prelude for voices; Prologues for chorus and orch.; Requiescat; 2 Secular Cantatas (No.1 This is Our Time, No.2 A Free Song); Te Deum; choral fantasy To Love; other vocal and choral music

- song cycle The Young Dead Soldiers for soprano, horn, woodwind and strings

- ballets Judith, Night Journey and Undertow (two later ballets withdrawn)

- operas The Mighty Casey and A Question of Taste

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recommended works:

Carols of Death (1958) for unaccompanied chorus

opera Casey at the Bat (1951-1953) (see text)

Concerto on Old English Rounds (1973) for viola, women's chorus and orchestra

choreographic poem Judith (1949)

Symphony No.3 (1941)

Symphony No.5 (for strings) (1943)

Symphony No.6 (1948)

Symphony No.7 (1960)

Symphony No.8 (1960-1962)

Violin Concerto (1950-1959)

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bibliography:

C. Rouse       William Schuman: Documentary, 1980

F.R. Schreiber and V. Persichetti William Schuman, 1954

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SESSIONS Roger Huntington                                                                                               

born 28th December 1896 at Brooklyn (New York)

died 16th March 1985                     at Princeton

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Roger Sessions was perhaps the most highly regarded American teacher of composition of his generation, but his own music, so prized by a few, has never received the wider attention and exposure that might have been expected. His sympathies were on the one hand with a classical sense of order and of music being primarily an abstract and technical art (consequently he worked in traditional forms, notably the symphony) and on the other with a Expressionist appreciation of the power of music to reveal the subconscious emotions, the "energies which animate our psychic life". His best music keeps the two in balance, with an emphasis on rhythmic energy and variety; during the late 1950s, his technique threatened to suppress the expression, notably in the middle symphonies, but he redressed the balance in the middle 1960s.

His early works were influenced by Bloch and then by neo-classicism, and one of these early works, the imposing suite The Black Maskers (1923, suite 1928) remains one his most often heard works. It was reworked from the incidental music to the symbolic play by Andreyev dealing with the dark forces of the unknown, and the music matches the demonic undercurrents, generally late-Romantic in idiom, with dark, clear-cut orchestral colours that are characteristic of his orchestration. From the 1930s he developed an harmonic idiom that was increasingly atonal, and in the early 1950s embraced 12-tone technique, though his usage is not strict. Elastic rhythms, often varying rapidly and used organically in carefully organised structures, were a major feature of his music, with a continuous flow in which events (as Copland pointed out) come to the surface and then submerge. This can create a long-breathed overall continuity; at times it only emphasises an academic angularity. His orchestral colours are hard-edged, sometimes suggesting a monumental cast; his music is rarely `easy', but it is an idiom that increases in effectiveness as one becomes more used to the details and their imagery.

Sessions' development is best seen through his symphonies. The Symphony No.1 (1926-1927, revised 1929) is the work of a composer trying out his voice, drawing on Stravinsky, Copland and neo-classical elements, rhythmically energetic, especially in the outer of the three movements, with a key structure but much harmonic wandering, a slow movement of rather ponderous but attractive lyricism, and a wildly exotic and quixotic finale with jazzy features. The Symphony No.2 (1944-1946) occupies quite a different sound-world, anguished, dense, swirling, harmonically unstable, regularly losing any sense of basic key, the textures maintained in the slow movement and the finale, where the undercurrent of Expressionist monumentality against a nebulous surface is confirmed. By the Symphony No.3 (1957) he had fully adopted his own brand of 12-tone technique. The Symphony No.4 (1958) uses much leaner textures and more pointed orchestration; its three were movements originally conceived as character pieces. It has a nervous, angular cast, with fragments of high colour in the central elegy. The Symphony No.5 (1964) retains the angularity and the leaner textures, but is more compressed, the movements played without a break, changes of mood more swiftly juxtaposed, the opening figure recurring throughout the work, which has a hard-edged monumentality, more successful in integrating procedure and expression than its predecessor. The next three symphonies were written under the impetus of the Vietnam war, and by the Symphony No.7 (1967) he had restored a feeling of expressive dynamic purpose, unsettled and with thick textures and urgent, varied rhythms and an elusive, long-breathed angular slow movement. His last symphony is also one of his finest. The Symphony No.8 (1968) is in one continuous movement, scored for a large orchestra, and it appears to reconcile Session's symphonic make-up, in the easier flow, the less extreme angular leaps, the almost Romantic moment of violin solo, and in the arch of quietly atmospheric opening and close (strings against hushed percussion), while retaining the dark hues, the rhythmic interest, and a tone of melancholy that may be tense, but is no longer anguished.

Of his other works, the Violin Concerto (1930-1935), the work with which he gained a mature style, is perhaps the finest. The long phrasing of the solo line is usually set very high in an elliptical, energetic and expressive work with clean orchestral colours (omitting violins) and edges, an angular lyricism and a sometimes sharply chromatic harmonic language. The Piano Sonata No.1 (1927-1930) includes dissonant and chromatic passages handled with clarity as Sessions was developing his harmonic language. The Piano Sonata No.2 (1946) is aggressive, restless, elusive, sometimes quasi-humorous, harmonically unsettling with near-cluster effects in the opening. The Sonata for Violin (1953) for solo violin was his first work to use a 12-tone structure, with an elusive melancholic lyricism. His two operas have not maintained a place in the repertoire: The Trial of Lucullus (1947) has been eclipsed by the treatment of the Brecht play by Dessau; Montezuma (1941-1963, later revisions), following the overthrow of the Inca Montezuma by the Spanish conquistadors, was more theatrically imposing. The large cantata When Lilacs In The Dooryard Bloom'd (1964-1970, but conceived in 1927) for soloists, chorus and orchestra, to words by Walt Whitman, is one of his finest later works, the music often vividly reflecting the descriptive images of the poetry.

Sessions taught at Smith College (1917-1921), at the University of California, Berkeley (1945-1952), at Princeton (1935-1945 and 1953-1965) and then Berkeley (1966-1967), Harvard (1968-1969) and at the Juilliard. He co-founded the Copland-Sessions concerts that introduced new American composers,

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works include:

- 9 symphonies

- piano concerto; violin concerto; concerto for violin, cello and orch.

- Divertimento, Rhapsody, Scherzino and March for orch.; Concertino and Five Pieces for chamber orch.

- Six Pieces for solo cello; sonata for solo violin; Duo for violin and piano; 2 string quartets

- 3 piano sonatas; From My Diary and other piano works

- Idyll of Theocritus and Psalm 140 for soprano and orch.; cantata When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd; mass for male voice choir and organ; Turn O Libertad for chorus and piano, 4 hands;

- ballet The Black Maskers

- operas Montezuma and The Trial of Lucullus

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recommended works:

suite The Black Maskers (1923, suite 1928) for orchestra

Symphony No.2 (1944-1946)

Symphony No.7 (1967)

Symphony No.8 (1968)

Violin Concerto (1930-1935)

When Lilacs Last In The Dooryard Bloom'd (1964-1970) for soloists, chorus and orchestra

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bibliography:

R.Sessions   The Musical Experience of Composer, Performer, Listener, 1950

                        Roger Sessions on Music: Collected Essays, 1979

A. Olmstead Roger Sessions and his Music, 1985

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THOMSON Virgil                                                                                                                       

born 25th November 1896 at Kansas City

died 30th September 1989 at New York

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Virgil Thomson contribution to American music lay as much in his work as a critic (notably with the New York Herald-Tribune, 1940-1954) and writer as through his own composition. His music, in a very large output (much of it short works), embraced a wide range of styles, but throughout is characterized by a wit (sometimes ironic) and piquant view of life and a delight in a quasi-naive simplicity and directness derived in part from the influence of Satie, and in part from the writer Gertrude Stein, whom he met in Paris in 1926. His earliest works used jazz (Two sentimental Tangos, 1923, for piano or band), a dissonant neo-classicism (the Sonata da chiesa, 1926, for clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone and piano), and modal and Gregorian chant hues in choral works, but he also turned to the American heritage of hymn music that was an abiding thread through his output (Symphony on a Hymn Tune, 1928). In the 1930s he concentrated on chamber and string works, including the Violin Sonata (1930), the String Quartet No.1 (1931) and String Quartet No.2 (1932). The last has all the ethos of Schubert's Vienna, with a classical structure and tonality, charm, grace and clarity, and a waltz for a second movement (one wonders how he could have thought it modern, as he did, but that may have been part of his impish humour). He orchestrated it into his Symphony No.3 in 1972, in which guise it takes one a completely different character due in part to the use of percussion and brass, the charm turning into a kind of forcefulness; the two make a fascinating comparison. In the late 1930s he returned to American themes, especially in his film scores. Much of the 1940s and 1950s were taken up with his critical activities, but he returned to full-time composing in 1955, consolidating his style and reworking a number of earlier works into new compositions. In Five Songs of William Blake (1951) for baritone and orchestra or piano he applied the simplicity and directness of the American 19th-century parlour song to Blake (including settings of `Tiger, Tiger' and `Jerusalem', a delightful, ironic, contrary setting with a sparkling ripple of an accompaniment), an unexpected but effective combination that only briefly flirts with a more complex art-song idiom. Recordings of this work have omitted the fourth song as being racially insensitive, though the censors have missed the irony of the words and the setting, which has the strong flavour of a Stephen Foster song. The fine Feast of Love (1964) for baritone and small orchestra, setting translations of Latin texts, ranges from a Stravinskian cast, with a lively pulse in the accompaniment set against the counter-rhythms of the long vocal lines at the opening, to a Romantic hue. The lovely concertino Autumn (1964) for harp, strings and percussion, opens with the broad chordal movement of a Copland work, and the last three of its four movements are reworkings of the Piano Sonata No.2 (1929) - the last movement, with bumptious tuned percussion, is a little gem.

However, Thomson's music is now most likely to be encountered in three areas: his operas, his series of `portraits', and his suites from film scores. His most important work is undoubtedly the opera Four Saints in Three Acts (1927-1928, orchestrated 1933). The libretto by Gertrude Stein, with Cubist juxtapositions of word and image that follow little linear pattern, is less obtuse than it at first appears: in a Prologue and four acts (there is a discussion between the third and fourth as to whether the fourth will take place), it is fanciful, with a huge conglomeration of different images, periods, and symbols, but with an undercurrent that is both serious (touching on spirituality and religious ecstasy) and ironic. Two of the four saints are genuine (St.Teresa of Avila and St.Ignatius Loyola) and two are invented, and there are host of minor saints. There is no plot as such, but a series of choreographed scenarios, ranging from a monastery and a garden party to the opera house and heaven. Thomson's score is equally eclectic in its inspiration, including suggestions of American folk and hymn tunes, and an actual quote from `America'; throughout it bubbles with brightness, gentle humour, rhythmic bounce and choral writing of simplicity and vitality. The orchestral writing is deliberately kept undecorated to support the vocal lines and to provide aural simplicity and clarity. Not the least of its achievements is a close association between vocal writing and the inflections of American speech; this, together with its original structure in part dictated by the libretto makes it the first American opera to entirely depart from the European operatic tradition, a feat not again matched until the operas of Glass. The first production also unprecedentedly used an all-American Black cast (a year before Gershwin's Porgy and Bess). It was followed by The Mother of Us All (1946-1947), which followed a similar vein, except that the libretto by Stein is more concerned with actual events, centred around the suffragette Susan B. Anthony, its fantastical elements introducing figures from American history and legend, including John Adams, Indiana Elliott and Ulysses S. Grant, and using quotations from literature, speeches and letters. The score has more dissonant elements than its predecessor. Thomson's final opera, Lord Byron (1961-1968), to a libretto by Jack Larson, was more direct, but failed to achieve the impact of the earlier works.

Throughout his life, and especially in the 1940s, Thomson wrote `portraits' (the idea was inspired by Stein) for a wide variety of forces and in a diversity of styles. These miniatures range from the angular dissonance of Bugles and Birds (Portrait of Pablo Picasso) (1940, orchestrated 1944) for piano, and the contrapuntal severity of Persistently Pastorale (Portrait of Aaron Copland) (1941, orchestrated 1945) for piano, through the Family Portraits (1972-1975) for brass quintet to the Eight Portraits for Violin Alone (including a portrait of Gertrude Stein as a young girl). The best have a Satiesque quirkiness; among the portraits are those of Harrison and Sauguet. Thomson's film music is distinguished (he wrote with Marc Blitzstein the score for the unforgettable documentary Spanish Earth, 1937, drawing on Spanish folk music), and three in particular stand on their own as orchestral suites. The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936, suite 1942) and The River (1937, suite 1957) were both written to accompany Department of Agriculture films, and allowed Thomson to express a feel for the American landscape in a broad pictorial style that has affinities with Copland. The former includes genuine cowboy songs and a jazz movement, the latter the swagger of the `Old South', the exuberance of `Industrial Expansion in the Mississippi Valley', a slow movement (`Soil erosion and Floods') with funereal undertones, and references to well-known American tunes. Louisiana Story (1948, and the only film score yet to have won a Pulitzer Prize) was written for another documentary about the oil industry in the bayou, and includes touches of Impressionism, a folk-tune set against a chorale, and a passacaglia and a fugue for the last two of the four movements.

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works include:

- 3 symphonies (No.2 from Piano Sonata No.1, No.3 from String Quartet No.2)

- violin concerto; concertino Autumn for harp, strings and percussion

- Fantasy in Homage to an Earlier England, The Lively Arts Fugue, Three Pictures (The Seine at Night, Wheat Field at Noon and Sea Piece with Birds) and other works for orch.

- many `portraits', including Eight Portraits for Violin Alone, Family Portraits for brass quintet, Five Portraits for 4 clarinets, Four Portraits for Violin and 32 Portraits (4 vols.) for piano. many orchestrated.

- sonata for solo flute; violin sonata; 2 string quartets; Sonata da chiesa for 5 instruments and other chamber works

- 4 piano sonatas; Five Inventions, Nine Etudes, Ten Easy Pieces and a Coda and Ten Etudes for piano

- Church Organ Wedding Music, Fanfare, Passacaglia, Pastorale on a Christmas Plainsong, Prelude, and Variations and Fugues on Sunday School Tunes for organ

- Collected Poems for soprano, baritone and orch.; The Feast of Love for baritone and orch.; Four Songs to Poems of Thomas Campion for mezzo-soprano, clarinet, harp and viola; Five Songs of William Blake for baritone and orch.; Mass for lower voice or unison chorus and piano; [three] Old English Songs for soprano and piano; [four] Old English Songs for baritone and piano; many individual songs

- Cantata on Poems of Edward Lear for 2 sopranos, 2 baritones, chorus and orch.; Missa pro defunctis for chorus and orch.; Missa brevis and Seven Choruses from the Medea of Euripides for female voices and percussion; other choral works including Hymns from the Old South for unaccompanied chorus

- ballet Filling Station

- operas Four Saints in Three Acts, Lord Byron and The Mother of Us All

- incidental music

- film scores including Louisiana Story, The Plow that Broke the Plains and The Spanish Earth (with Blitzstein)

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recommended works:

concertino Autumn (1964) for harp, strings and percussion

opera Four Saints in Three Acts (1927-1928)

opera The Mother of Us All (1947)

suite from film The Plow that Broke the Plains (1936, suite 1942)

`portraits' (see text)

suite from film The River (1937, suite 1957)

String Quartet No.2 (1932)/Symphony No.3 (1972) (see text)

───────────────────────────────────────

bibliography:

V. Thomson  Virgil Thomson, 1966

K. Hoover and J. Cage        Virgil Thomson, 1959

───────────────────────────────────────

WUORINEN Charles                                                                                                                

born 9th June 1938 at New York

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The prolific Charles Wuorinen was the major American composer after Babbitt to develop the heritage of European models (in spite of his nationalist views on American music), specifically building on the aftermath of 12-tone techniques and serialism, as opposed to following an American tradition or idiom, and his music has been widely heard in the States. His influence as a teacher and (on other academic composers) as a composer has been considerable, but his music lacks a distinctive individuality or idiomatic personality (apart from the technical facility and fertility) that distinguishes such contemporaries as Ferneyhough, or indeed Babbitt himself. There have been claims of a baleful influence of Wuorinen on American music, and one can't help but feel they have a point, for the ultimate impression of his music is one of sterility.

In his earlier music (represented by such works as the spiky Flute Variations, 1963) he developed an idiom that not only systematized the intervals of the row and the rhythm (as Babbitt had done), but also the larger structures of a piece, and this has remained a cornerstone of his technique. These works have abrupt changes of pace and dynamics, block-like effects, darting figures, and a rather severe cast. The Chamber Concerto (1963) for cello and ten players exemplifies this idiom, in five movements, each with a different tone for the soloist. The String Trio (1967-1968) is the best of these earlier works, still exceptionally severe, but with the changes less abrupt.

Wuorinen came to wider notice with the electronic Time's Encomium (1968-1969), commissioned by Nonesuch records, in which he applied similar techniques (especially the control of duration from the smallest event to overall form) in the electronic medium. It now sounds terribly dated, and excruciatingly dull in comparison to the European electronic works of the 1960s, as if he was doodling with his idiom on the Moog - in part because of the very synthesized sound of the RCA synthesizer on which it was realised, and which was prejudiced towards the use of 12-tone equal temperament. The Piano Sonata No.1 (1969) effectively applied the spiky leaps and sudden shifts to the piano in fast, darting writing with spare textures. Ringing Changes (1969-1970) for percussion ensemble is too anonymous in character to be of real interest. In the String Quartet No.1 (1970-1971) the sudden changes are turned to a more theatrically dramatic cast, with different characterization for each instrument. When these characters become more homogeneous, the sense of a dramatic conversation is maintained, leading to almost minimalist repetitions of great energy, and this work is a rewarding place to start for those wishing to sample Wuorinen's music. This shift to the less severe in Wuorinen's idiom was continued in the timbral musings of the Bassoon Variations (1971-1972) for bassoon, harp and timpani. Grand Bamboula (1971) for strings further eroded the severity by combining an energetic Stravinskian neo-classicism with the gestural effects and a more avant-garde harmonic palette, and is worth the encounter. The Concerto for Amplified Violin and Orchestra (1971-1972) is big and aggressive, again concerned with timbre, the potential lyricism of the solo instrument expunged by the amplification. The Percussion Symphony (1976) for 26 players, including (like Ringing Changes) pianos used as tuned percussion, returns to severity in its first movement, and in spite of some delicate sounds in the slow movement and a momentary echo of jazz in the last, is too cerebral, too academic, to lift off a plane of aggressive self-consciousness. Its three movements are divided by transcriptions of a Dufay setting of Petrarch, providing a restful contrast of mood, like eating a sherbet between courses. However, in more recent works Wuorinen has developed a more direct sound-world, building on his technical experience, retaining the complex rhythmic shifts and drive, but smoothing out the disjointed effects of his style so that the vertical components have started to serve a more linear flow. The Piano Concerto No.3 (1982-1983) has a furious first movement initiated by the piano and joined by percussion and, gradually, by other members of the orchestra, a slow movement of angular ideas that builds in complexity after the establishment of the distinctive colours of cow-bells, tom-toms, timpani and drums, and an ebullient, crowded finale. The title of The Golden Dance (1986) for orchestra (including piano) refers not only to Californian history, but also the `Golden section' (the ratio of 2:1) followed by the duration and, inversely, by the tempi of the two movements. Its 12-note row is derived from a hymn melody by St.Thomas Aquinas; the first movement shifts from tone-painting of colours and textures to a more detailed focus of dense, complex elements, its idiomatic anonymity eventually becoming wearisome, the second more furious but equally vacant.

Wuorinen has taught at Columbia University (1964-1971) and at the Manhattan School of Music, and was appointed composer-in-residence to the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in 1975.

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works include:

- 3 symphonies; Percussion Symphony; Two-Part Symphony

- 3 piano concertos (No.2 for amplified piano); Chamber Concerto for cello and 10 instruments; Chamber Concerto for oboe and 10 players; Concerto for Amplified Violin; Concertante IV for violin, piano and chamber orch; Five for amplified cello and orch.; Prelude to Kullervo for tuba and orch.; Rhapsody for violin and orch.; Tashi for clarinet, violin, cello, piano and orch.

- Astra, Contrafactum, Crossfire, The Golden Dance, Movers and Shakers, Music for Orchestra, Overture, Short Suite for orch.; Bamboula Squared for orchestra and electronic sound; Orchestral and Electronic Exchanges for orchestra and synthesized sound; Alternating Currents, Ancestors, An Educator's `Wachet Auf', Evolution transcripta and Galliard for chamber orch.; Grand Bamboula for strings; Concertino for large chamber ensemble

- flute sonata; violin sonata; piano trio; 2 string trios; 3 trios for flute, cello and piano; 3 string quartets (2 numbered); wind quintet; string sextet; octet and a very large number of other chamber works

- 3 piano sonatas; Bagatelle, Capriccio, Twelve Short Pieces, Variations and other works for piano

- Six Songs for counter-tenor, tenor, and chamber ensemble; oratorio The Celestial Sphere for chorus and orch.; oratorio Genesis for chorus and orch.; Mass for soprano, chorus, violin and organ; Symphonia sacra for three male soloists, 2 oboes, 2 violins, double bass and organ and other songs and vocal works

- masque The Politics of Harmony; opera The W. of Babylon

- electronic Consort from Instruments and Voices and Times Encomium

───────────────────────────────────────

recommended works:

Grand Bamboula (1971) for strings

String Quartet No.1 (1970-1971)

String Trio (1967-1968)

──────────────────────────────────────


 

 


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