Elliott Carter (1908 – 2012)
From his teenage years, Carter fell in love with modern music through hearing Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring at its first New York performance. He was also befriended by the great American com- poser Charles Ives, whose experiments with multiple orchestras were challenging the ears of music listeners of the time.
Carter studied with Nadia Boulanger in Paris, returning to the United States in the late 1930s to write works steeped in the neo- classical mold with flavors of the burgeoning American identity. By the mid-1940s he abandoned these efforts to find his own voice through investigating new, freer methods of form. He also carried forward the harmonic experiments which developed in the early twentieth century. His fascination with the possibilities of musical form and freedom continued and produced a remarkable body of work through the entire second half of the century. In the 1990s, a new playfulness of spirit imbued his works. His output accelerated until his death at the age of 103.
Chou Wen-chung (1923 – )
Chou grew up in China and came to study in the United States in the 1940s. Although he came to study civil engineering, his love of music changed the course of his life. In New York, he studied and worked with the great French-American composer Edgard Varese as well as Otto Luening—both exponents of electronic music. This new world put him in touch with all the avant-garde movements which were to be found in Manhattan in the 1950s—including the Electronic Music Center at Columbia University. To this mix, Chou added his long-standing love of traditional Chinese music. He has been able to develop a fusion of all the ideas he has encountered. He has been teaching at Columbia for many years and is active to this day with projects which take him to every part of the world.
Norman Dello Joio (1913 – 2008)
Norman Dello Joio came from a long line of church organists. He began his musical career at age fourteen as the organist at Star of the Sea Church in New York. Eventually he became fascinated by the magic in the notes and staves he saw on the printed page of the musical score. From that point on he was determined to become a composer. His main teacher was Paul Hindemith, who appreciated his special gifts and steered him toward self-discovery.
Dello Joio’s lyrical style won audiences for him from the start, and by the end of the 1940s he was acknowledged as a leading Ameri- can composer. His fame soon became worldwide, and he has won numerous awards, prizes, and citations. His output ranges across every musical genre: church music, choral works, orchestral pieces, ballets, operas, and numerous piano and chamber pieces. He also contributed a large number of scores for television documentaries, all attesting to the remarkable versatility of this man.
Lukas Foss (1922 – 2009)
Foss’s family was forced to flee Nazi Germany in the 1930s. They eventually settled in the United States when Lukas was fifteen. He had studied music since childhood and made many early tries at composition. He studied composition and conducting at The Curtis Institute, where his conducting teacher was Fritz Reiner. He contin- ued to study these two careers at Yale and Tanglewood: composi- tion under Hindemith and conducting under Koussevitzky. He went on to achieve great success in both fields. Soon, in the early 1950s, he himself was teaching, replacing Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA. His compositional style went through as many transformations as the times he lived through. Beginning with an “American” sound, he went on to experiment with serialism, improvisation, minimalism, and much more, all the while retaining his individuality. As a conductor, his tenures were marked by adventurous programming and ex- citing performances. He left his stamp on the Buffalo Philharmonic in the 1960s, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and Jerusalem Symphony in the 1970s, and the Milwaukee Symphony in the 1980s.
Ned Rorem (1923 – )
Born in Chicago, Rorem studied composition at numerous schools, including The Curtis Institute and Juilliard. He studied with and be- friended the major composers of the day, including Aaron Copland and Virgil Thomson. The ultimate cosmopolitan, Rorem lived in New York, Paris, and Morocco amongst a galaxy of notable artists. He is proficient in all forms of composition from symphonies and concertos to opera and chamber pieces. But his large output of ex- pressive and elegant songs set to very well chosen words are the works for which he is most well known. He has also written many books of diaries and observations filled with his searing and wag- gish memoirs.
Gunther Schuller (1925 – )
Gunther Schuller leads an extraordinarily active musical life as a com- poser, instrumentalist, and conductor. In the 1950s, as he was con- ducting ensembles in new music and playing jazz, he earned his living playing horn in the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Alongside these practical activities, he distinguished himself as a teacher of enormous influence in numerous venues. In the late 1950s he was mostly known for his experiments integrating jazz and classical idioms, which he called “Third Stream Music.” From that time to the present, however, his output has spanned all the musical forms. He has written over 180 orchestral works, which have been performed by orchestras all over the world. He rightly described himself to the interviewer as “the busi- est man in the world.”
Harold Shapero (1920 – 2013)
Harold Shapero studied with Nicolas Slonimsky, Ernst Krenek, Walter Piston, and Paul Hindemith (alongside his fellow student Norman Dello Joio). He studied further with Nadia Boulanger. His compositions mostly belong to the neo-classical tradition. They delight the ear and engage the mind. As a teacher, he founded the music department at Brandeis University and soon became its chair. He also founded the Electronic Music Center there. After retiring, he remained very active in musical activities and continued composing new works. In recent years, there has been a resurgence of recorded and live performances of his works.