One of the ongoing Twitter hashtag groups I participate with is #ClassicsaDay. For July 2017, I decided to use the theme #USclassics, and present an entire month of American composers with examples of their music.
Twitter only allows 140 characters, pretty much limiting my tweets to the composer’s name, the title of the work, links, and hashtags. Below is an annotated list of those posts, providing a little more background for each composer.
Charles Theodore Pachelbel (1690–1750)
– Like his father Johann Pachelbel (writer of the Canon), Charles Theodore was an organist and composer. He emigrated from Germany in 1733. He first settled in Boston but soon moved to Charleston, South Carolina, where he spent the rest of his life. There he was at the center of one of the most sophisticated musical communities in the colonies.
Supply Belcher (1751–1836)
– The Second Great Awakening (1790-1820) was an American spiritual revival movement that resulted in a huge increase in Baptist and Methodist congregations. Demand for music was met by, among others, the First New England School of self-taught composers. Supply Belcher was a member of that school, writing hymns for amateur and often musically illiterate small church choirs. Nevertheless, the “Handel of Maine” produced well-crafted works that are still being performed today.
William Henry Fry (1813–1864)
– William Henry Fry holds the distinction of being the first native-born American to compose for symphony orchestra and the first to have an opera performed. Fry was also the first music critic for a major American newspaper (Greeley’s New York Tribune). Fry continually encouraged the support of American music by American audiences.
Charles Lucien Lambert (1828–1896)
– Charles Lambert was born a “free person of color” in New Orleans. He moved first to France in 1854 then to Brazil in the 1860s. Abroad Lambert enjoyed a successful concert pianist and composer, which he couldn’t do in America. He was a contemporary and colleague of Louis Moreau Gottschalk.
Eugene Thayer (1838–1889)
– Eugene Thayer was an organ virtuoso and composer. Like many organists, his compositions are almost exclusively for his instrument. Thayer’s career mainly revolved around Boston and New York City. Thayer’s most performed composition is the fugue on “America,” from his second organ sonata.
Avery Claflin (1898–1979)
– Like Charles Ives, Avery Claflin’s professional career was in business, which left him freed him from commercial reasons to compose. Claflin studied with Satie, whose influence can be heard in his music. After retiring in 1959, Claflin devoted himself to composition full-time.
Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901–1953)
– Ruth Crawford Seeger started her musical career as a contemporary composer, part of a group labeled the “ultramoderns.” She eventually married one of her composition teachers, Charles Seeger. Seeger was an early ethnomusicologist, and Ruth Crawford Seeger came to embrace her husband’s passion for traditional folk music. It was something her children, son Mike Seeger and stepson Pete Seeger would become famous for.
Vivian Fine (1913–2000)
– Vivian Fine wrote over 140 compositions. A student of Roger Sessions, her works were often dissonant though her style softened over time. She was also a master of counterpoint, as well as orchestration.
Karel Husa (born 1921)
– Karel Husa was born in Czechoslovakia. He emigrated to the US in 1854 and became a citizen in 1959. Husa won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 1969. His work often incorporated avant-garde techniques, such as serialism or microtonality. Husa’s primary concern was communication, and his works often have a dramatic impact.
Roger Zare (born 1985)
– Roger Zare is an American composer and pianist currently based in Chicago. He’s primarily known for his orchestral and wind ensemble works.