Archive for the “Deaths” Category

Composer Jeffrey Mumford remembers the recently departed Pauline Oliveros in the following obituary.

I had the honor of being a TA for Pauline Oliveros during my graduate studies at the University of California, San Diego from 1979-81.

Our worlds couldn’t have been more different.

I was deeply discovering the endless inventiveness and poetry in the music of Elliott Carter, with whom I would soon study, and was also working with Bernard Rands as my major teacher at UCSD.

A composer of color, I came from Washington, D.C. steeped in the music of among others, Count Basie, which resonated throughout our house in my youth.

I also loved (and still do) Brahms for many reasons, not the least of which is his sense of expansiveness and sweep, yet without one wasted note. He along with Schumann make me feel at home.

I had heard of Pauline and a bit about her early experimental work, before I came to UCSD.

What I found I got there and started working with her, was another kind of inventiveness in her approach to her work and most important for me, the permission to be myself, whatever that was and whatever that would be.

I was also impressed with her centeredness and sense of humor, an enduring whimsy not often found in our business.

She was at home with herself.

She left me alone to discover aspects of group improvisation and to impart what I was discovering to the students with whom I worked, and of course to deeply hear sound and its implications on its own terms.

Her’s was a quiet yet strong voice, who was the embodiment of integrity, holding true to her convictions, but always open.

She was always there, offering strength of creative purpose. She will be missed.

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I’m sad to report that composer Einojuhani Rautavaara has passed away at age 87. He continued to be active until the very end, with a premiere just last month. Orpheus singt (video), a setting of Rainer Maria Rilke for a cappella chorus, was performed by SWR Vokalensemble Stuttgart, directed by Marcus Creed.

 

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Gregg Smith, one of the most prominent choral conductors in the United States, has passed away at the age of 84. With his Gregg Smith Singers, Smith brought a wide variety of repertoire to all corners of the US and abroad. In particular, he specialized in American music – folk songs, spirituals, hymns, and contemporary repertoire. As a young singer, I had the privilege of singing under Smith’s direction on several occasions. He was an extraordinary teacher.

It seems appropriate to include this particular selection, performed by the Gregg Smith Singers, in an arrangement by Virgil Thomson.

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I’m sad to learn of the passing of Ursula Mamlok, a persuasive composer of elegant post-tonal works. Like Ralph Shapey and Stefan Wolpe, her compositions referred to serialism while also retaining pitch centricity as a unifying principle.One can hear a particularly compelling example, her Concerto for Oboe and Chamber Orchestra, below.

I met Ms. Mamlok twice, once at a concert and once at a grad school audition at MSM. I was struck by her keen intellect and insightful comments.

 

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Photo: David Rose

Peter Maxwell Davies

English composer and conductor Peter Maxwell Davies died on Monday, March 14th 2016. At the age of 81, Davies passed away in his Orkney home. The cause of death was leukemia. In 2004, Davies was appointed Master of the Queen’s Music.

Farewell to Stromness is one of Davies most popular works for solo piano. The piece is a piano interlude from his work The Yellow Cake Revue, a work he created for the campaign against the proposed uranium mine on the Oakley Isles.

In this recording of his Symphony No. 7, Davies displays his skills as both composer and conductor with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

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Eminent composer, college professor, and Lutoslawski scholar Steven Stucky has died, aged 66. The cause was brain cancer. Below, listen to one of his beguiling works, the Notturno movement from Serenade for Wind Quintet.

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Pierre Boulez, one of the great composers and conductors of our time, has passed away.

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The extraordinary pianist and composer Paul Bley, has passed away. 

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Saddening news. Gunther Schuller has died at the age of 89. A musical polymath, Schuller was active as a composer, conductor, arranger, historian, educator, arts administrator and, earlier in his career, French horn player. He pioneered the concept of “Third Stream” music: works that combine influences and materials from jazz and classical music.

In Schuller’s honor, today I’m listening to a Boston Modern Orchestra Project recording of his pieces for jazz quartet and orchestra. Given all of the attempts over the years to synthesize jazz and classical, it is amazing how fresh these pieces remain, how effortlessly Schuller (and BMOP) move from one style to another, and how seamlessly they blend the two.

I was looking forward to this summer’s tribute to Schuller at the Festival of Contemporary Music at Tanglewood. Now this concert, with Magical Trumpets, a new work by Schuller, as well as his formidable Concerto da Camera, will serve as an elegy in memory of an extraordinary man of extraordinary talents.

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“One chord is fine. Two chords are pushing it. Three chords and you’re into jazz.”

– Lou Reed

Much of my music passes the above “into jazz” marker. That said, Lou Reed taught me a great deal about productivity, creativity, and the maxim that “sometimes, less is more.”

Sad tonight for Laurie Anderson, and for us, who are deprived of more “more with less.”

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