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. Last Friday I published an annotated list of the first week’s posts, providing a little more background for each composer.
Below is a list of the composers I featured this past week.
Benjamin Carr (1768–1831)
– Benjamin Carr came from a distinguished musical family. His father was a prominent music publisher in Boston, and both Benjamin and his brother Thomas were organists, music teachers, and composers. Carr published over 60 works, mostly art songs. He also composed works for the stage. His most popular work is the 1794 Federal Overture, which incorporates well-known American tunes.
George Frederick Bristow (1825–1898)
– The son of a renowned conductor and pianist, George Bristow received a first-rate musical education. He joined the New Your Philharmonic Society Orchestra as a violinist at 17, and became concertmaster at 25. Bristow thought that American classical music should be firmly rooted in American culture. Works such as the Rip van Winkle cantata, The Pioneer a Grand Cantata, The Great Republic, and the Niagara Symphony show Bristow’s interest in American themes.
Dudley Buck (1839–1909)
Dudley Buck studied in Leipzig, Dresden, and Paris before returning to the States. He was a professional organist, as well as a conductor and composer. Buck wrote two operas (one only surviving in fragments), a symphony and many other works for orchestras, choruses, and organ. His Concert Variations on the Star-Spangled Banner, Op. 23 was his most popular organ work.
Edgar Stillman Kelley (1857–1944)
– Edgar Kelly was a Midwestern composer who was a colleague of Edward MacDowell (he later spent time at the MacDowell Colony). Kelly often used music from other cultures in his music (China, Arabia, Greek modes, American Indian melodies, etc.). His goal, both as a teacher and composer, was to have American classical music accepted as equal to the music of European countries — both in those countries and with American audiences.
Symphony No. 1 “Gulliver’s Voyage to Lilliput”, Op. 15
Harry Lawrence Freeman (1869–1954)
– Harry Freeman was an opera composer, conductor, teacher — and an African-American. He’s credited with being the first such to have an opera produced (Epthalia, 1891). Freeman had to create his own companies to perform his works. At the time of his death, Freeman had composed over twenty operas, as well as other orchestral and choral works. Freeman was inspired to compose after hearing Tannhäuser at age 18. His inspiration did not go unnoticed. Freeman was known in his lifetime as “the black Wagner.”
George Frederick McKay (1899–1970)
– George McKay was born in Washington state and remained in the Pacific Northwest throughout most of his career. He incorporated American folk elements into his work, including jazz, folk songs, and Native American melodies. McKay founded the Composition Department at the University of Washington. William Bolcom and John Cage were some of his more famous students.
Evocation Symphony “Symphony for Seattle”
Elinor Remick Warren (1900–1991)
– Elinor Remick Warren studied piano with Leopold Godowsky, and composition with Nadia Boulanger. Warren wrote over 200 compositions, most in a new-Romantic style. Her works include several large-scale choral works and symphonic pieces. Towards the end of her life, Warren’s music began to reach a larger audience through recordings.
Gail Kubik (1914–1984)
– Like many American composers of the mid-Twentieth Century, Gail Kubik studied with Nadia Boulanger. He also studied with Leo Sowerby and Walter Piston. Kubik was a staff composer for NBC Radio and served as music director for the Motion Picture Bureau at the Office of War Information. As a result, Kubik’s style, while progressive and original, is always accessible. He wrote the score for Gerald McBoing-Boing and won the Pulitzer in 1952 for his Symphony Concertante.
Yehudi Wyner (born 1929)
– Yehudi Wyner spent most of his childhood and a good deal of his professional life in the greater New York City area. Wyner often celebrates his Jewish heritage in his music. His 1963 “Friday Evening Service” is among his best-known works. I’d personally describe his style as a post-serial romanticism. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for his Piano Concerto, “Chiavi in Mano,” which includes some jazz influences.
Thomas Oboe Lee (born 1945)
– Lee’s family left Communist China in 1949. They eventually made their way to the United States. Lee has won many awards for his music, including the Rome Prize. Lee writes in a modernist post-tonal style. While immediately accessible, his works also push beyond the limits of traditional classical forms.
Roger Bourland (born 1952)
– Roger Bourland was part of the Boston-based Composers in Red Sneakers, along with Thomas Oboe Lee. His music combines advanced compositional techniques with accessible melodies and usually strong tonal centers. Bourland’s written operas and cantatas as well as works for orchestra and chamber groups. A student of Gunther Schuller, Bourland’s comfortable with incorporating elements of popular music into his works.
Annotated List for Week 1: Charles Theodor Pachelbel through Roger Zare