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The Case of Martin Bresnick

Martin Bresnick turned 60 last month and he’s celebrating the event with two events at Zankel Hall this week.  One piece will be on the Bang on the Can All-Stars program on Tuesday night and, on Saturday, the Yale School of Music will devote an entire evening to Bresnick’s music, including choral songs, a concerto for two marimbas, and a multimedia piece for solo pianist.

Steve Smith has a splendid profile of Bresnick in the Sunday New York Times which acknowledges the perhaps unfortunate fact that Bresnick is best-known for being the teacher of other composers who are more famous than he is.  On the other hand, it’s hard to feel too bad for a guy who is the coordinator of the composition department at Yale, where he has taught since 1976.

I can’t recall ever hearing any of Bresnick music (an oversight I hope to correct on Tuesday night) but I suspect many of you have and perhaps some of you have even been his students.  What do you think about him as a composer and as a teacher?


Comment from Jerry Bowles
Time: December 4, 2006, 6:26 pm

In the process of fixing (finally) the category links I accidentally sent comments by Rodney and Evan off into the woods somewhere. You can read them here:

Comment from Peter Mueller
Time: December 4, 2006, 8:59 pm

Martin is a terrific teacher. As the Times article states, the variety of music that his students have created is astonishing. What I remember from lessons with him is that, while he had a definate oppinion on musical issues (is it possible to be a composer and not have strong oppinions?), Martin didn’t force them on me. Rather, he helped deffine, and invistigate the potentials and implications of whatever the language I was working in. I learned, and grew, a great deal.

Comment from derek bermel
Time: December 4, 2006, 9:43 pm

I was never a student of Martin’s (he didn’t teach undergrads!) but I’ve always admired his work as a composer. That said, I did study with one of his students, Michael Tenzer, so I may have inherited some Bresnick wisdom second-hand. Some of my favorites are on his double-disc set “Works of a Poor Music.” Some that spring to mind are: Follow Your Leader, Pigs and Fishes, *** (cl/vla), and Bird as Prophet (cl/vla/pno). On that disc Lisa Moore also plays a wonderful version of the Dream of the Lost Traveller, which I saw her perform at the Flea (premiere?) and again at a record release for the album at CRI before they went belly up. RIP CRI.

Comment from Rodney Lister
Time: December 4, 2006, 11:32 pm

I’ll just repeat what I said:

He’s a really wonderful composer. The Piano Trio is the first piece of his I heard, and is maybe still the one I like best. My Twentieth Century is also really good, as is ***. I like him alot, also.

Comment from Daniel
Time: December 5, 2006, 4:18 pm

Rodney Lister please send me an email. I’m playing some of your music on Brave New World.

Comment from Daniel
Time: December 5, 2006, 4:18 pm

Ooopss…the email is dgilliam (at) wuol (dot) org

Comment from Daniel
Time: December 5, 2006, 4:19 pm

Ooopss…the email is dgilliam (at) wuol (dot) org…Thanks

Comment from Tim Olsen
Time: December 29, 2006, 1:25 am

I started at Yale in 1986 and recall from my first semester a concert celebrating MB’s 40th birthday, and have heard a lot of his works over the intervening two decades. I find his music appealing in terms of organization, sound, and emotional affect. I studied with him for two semesters and found him challenging but supportive–offering useful advice for composers writing in all kinds of styles and idioms.

Comment from David Toub
Time: April 27, 2007, 3:05 pm

Unrelated to the post above, we have been getting hit by a spammer from Australia (at least that’s what the reverse DNS lookup indicates) called “anonymous” who keeps posting comments of praise. While we all appreciate great feedback, this is a bit excessive, and I’ll keep deleting these as I see them. Not that I don’t have better things to do, mind you…