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William Bolcom

William Bolcom

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William Elden Bolcom is an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 composer
Composer
A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...

 and pianist
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

. He has received the Pulitzer Prize
Pulitzer Prize
The Pulitzer Prize is a U.S. award for achievements in newspaper and online journalism, literature and musical composition. It was established by American publisher Joseph Pulitzer and is administered by Columbia University in New York City...

, the National Medal of Arts, two Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

s, the Detroit Music Award and was named 2007 Composer of the Year by Musical America. Bolcom taught composition at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

 from 1973–2008. He is married to mezzo-soprano
Mezzo-soprano
A mezzo-soprano is a type of classical female singing voice whose range lies between the soprano and the contralto singing voices, usually extending from the A below middle C to the A two octaves above...

 Joan Morris
Joan Morris
Joan Morris, is a mezzo-soprano,Born in Portland, Oregon, she is one half of the famous musical duo of Bolcom and Morris. Her musical partner and husband is composer/pianist William Bolcom...

.

Biography


Bolcom was born in Seattle, Washington. At the age of 11, he entered the University of Washington
University of Washington
University of Washington is a public research university, founded in 1861 in Seattle, Washington, United States. The UW is the largest university in the Northwest and the oldest public university on the West Coast. The university has three campuses, with its largest campus in the University...

 to study composition
Musical composition
Musical composition can refer to an original piece of music, the structure of a musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece of music. People who practice composition are called composers.- Musical compositions :...

 privately with George Frederick McKay
George Frederick McKay
George Frederick McKay was a prolific modern American composer.-Biography:McKay was born in the Far West of America in the small frontier wheat farming town of Harrington, Washington. His family later moved to the much larger town of Spokane, where he attended school up to his college years...

 and John Verrall
John Verrall
John Weedon Verrall was an American composer of contemporary classical music.-Life:Prior to his University studies, Verrall studied composition with Donald Ferguson, followed by studies with R. O. Morris in London and Zoltán Kodály in Budapest. He obtained a B.M. degree from the Minneapolis School...

 and piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 with Madame Berthe Poncy Jacobson. He later studied with Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud
Darius Milhaud was a French composer and teacher. He was a member of Les Six—also known as The Group of Six—and one of the most prolific composers of the 20th century. His compositions are influenced by jazz and make use of polytonality...

 at Mills College
Mills College
Mills College is an independent liberal arts women's college founded in 1852 that offers bachelor's degrees to women and graduate degrees and certificates to women and men. Located in Oakland, California, Mills was the first women's college west of the Rockies. The institution was initially founded...

 while working on his Master of Arts degree, with Leland Smith at Stanford University
Stanford University
The Leland Stanford Junior University, commonly referred to as Stanford University or Stanford, is a private research university on an campus located near Palo Alto, California. It is situated in the northwestern Santa Clara Valley on the San Francisco Peninsula, approximately northwest of San...

 while working on his D.M.A., and with Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen
Olivier Messiaen was a French composer, organist and ornithologist, one of the major composers of the 20th century. His music is rhythmically complex ; harmonically and melodically it is based on modes of limited transposition, which he abstracted from his early compositions and improvisations...

 at the Paris Conservatoire, where he received the 2ème Prix de Composition.

Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 for 12 New Etudes for Piano. In the fall of 1994, he was named the Ross Lee Finney
Ross Lee Finney
Ross Lee Finney Junior was an American composer born in Wells, Minnesota who taught for many years at the University of Michigan. He studied with Nadia Boulanger, Edward Burlingame Hill, Alban Berg and Roger Sessions...

 Distinguished University Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan
University of Michigan
The University of Michigan is a public research university located in Ann Arbor, Michigan in the United States. It is the state's oldest university and the flagship campus of the University of Michigan...

, a position which he still holds. In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts
National Medal of Arts
The National Medal of Arts is an award and title created by the United States Congress in 1984, for the purpose of honoring artists and patrons of the arts. It is the highest honor conferred to an individual artist on behalf of the people. Honorees are selected by the National Endowment for the...

. Notable students include John Edgar Berners, Gabriela Lena Frank
Gabriela Lena Frank
Gabriela Lena Frank is an American composer of contemporary classical music and pianist.- Biography :...

, and David Karl Gompper.

Performance career


As a pianist, Bolcom has performed and recorded frequently in collaboration with Joan Morris, whom he married in 1975 (Johnson 2001). Bolcom and Morris have recorded twenty albums together, beginning with After the Ball, a collection of popular songs from around the turn of the 20th century. Their primary specialties in both concerts and recordings are showtunes, parlour, and popular songs from the late 19th and early 20th century, by Henry Russell
Henry Russell (musician)
Henry Russell was an English pianist, baritone singer and composer, born into a distinguished Jewish family.-Biography:...

, Henry Clay Work
Henry Clay Work
Henry Clay Work was an American composer and songwriter.-Biography:He was born in Middletown, Connecticut, to Alanson and Amelia Work. His father opposed slavery, and Work was himself an active abolitionist and Union supporter...

, and others, and cabaret songs (often from failed musicals). As a soloist, Bolcom has recorded his own compositions, as well as music by Gershwin
George Gershwin
George Gershwin was an American composer and pianist. Gershwin's compositions spanned both popular and classical genres, and his most popular melodies are widely known...

 and Milhaud (Johnson 2001).

Works


Bolcom's earliest compositions employed serial technique
Serialism
In music, serialism is a method or technique of composition that uses a series of values to manipulate different musical elements. Serialism began primarily with Arnold Schoenberg's twelve-tone technique, though his contemporaries were also working to establish serialism as one example of...

, under the influence of Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez
Pierre Boulez is a French composer of contemporary classical music, a pianist, and a conductor.-Early years:Boulez was born in Montbrison, Loire, France. As a child he began piano lessons and demonstrated aptitude in both music and mathematics...

, Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen
Karlheinz Stockhausen was a German composer, widely acknowledged by critics as one of the most important but also controversial composers of the 20th and early 21st centuries. Another critic calls him "one of the great visionaries of 20th-century music"...

, and Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio
Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI was an Italian composer. He is noted for his experimental work and also for his pioneering work in electronic music.-Biography:Berio was born at Oneglia Luciano Berio, Cavaliere di Gran Croce OMRI (October 24, 1925 – May 27, 2003) was an Italian...

, whose music he particularly admired. In the 1960s he gradually began to embrace an eclectic use of a wider variety of musical styles. His goal has been to erase boundaries between popular
Popular music
Popular music belongs to any of a number of musical genres "having wide appeal" and is typically distributed to large audiences through the music industry. It stands in contrast to both art music and traditional music, which are typically disseminated academically or orally to smaller, local...

 and art music
Art music
Art music is an umbrella term used to refer to musical traditions implying advanced structural and theoretical considerations and a written musical tradition...

 (Johnson 2001).

Bolcom's setting of William Blake
William Blake
William Blake was an English poet, painter, and printmaker. Largely unrecognised during his lifetime, Blake is now considered a seminal figure in the history of both the poetry and visual arts of the Romantic Age...

's Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Songs of Innocence and of Experience
Songs of Innocence and of Experience is an illustrated collection of poems by William Blake. It appeared in two phases. A few first copies were printed and illuminated by William Blake himself in 1789; five years later he bound these poems with a set of new poems in a volume titled Songs of...

, a three-hour work for soloists, choruses, and orchestra culminated 25 years of work on the piece. Its premiere at the Stuttgart Opera in 1984 was followed by performances in Ann Arbor
Ann Arbor, Michigan
Ann Arbor is a city in the U.S. state of Michigan and the county seat of Washtenaw County. The 2010 census places the population at 113,934, making it the sixth largest city in Michigan. The Ann Arbor Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 344,791 as of 2010...

, Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

's Grant Park, the Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music
Brooklyn Academy of Music is a major performing arts venue in Brooklyn, a borough of New York City, United States, known as a center for progressive and avant garde performance....

, St. Louis
St. Louis, Missouri
St. Louis is an independent city on the eastern border of Missouri, United States. With a population of 319,294, it was the 58th-largest U.S. city at the 2010 U.S. Census. The Greater St...

, Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall
Carnegie Hall is a concert venue in Midtown Manhattan in New York City, United States, located at 881 Seventh Avenue, occupying the east stretch of Seventh Avenue between West 56th Street and West 57th Street, two blocks south of Central Park....

, and London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

's Royal Festival Hall
Royal Festival Hall
The Royal Festival Hall is a 2,900-seat concert, dance and talks venue within Southbank Centre in London. It is situated on the South Bank of the River Thames, not far from Hungerford Bridge. It is a Grade I listed building - the first post-war building to become so protected...

, the latter performed by the BBC Symphony Orchestra
BBC Symphony Orchestra
The BBC Symphony Orchestra is the principal broadcast orchestra of the British Broadcasting Corporation and one of the leading orchestras in Britain.-History:...

 under the direction of Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Slatkin
Leonard Edward Slatkin is an American conductor and composer.-Early life and education:Slatkin was born in Los Angeles to a musical family that came from areas of the Russian Empire now in Ukraine. His father Felix Slatkin was the violinist, conductor and founder of the Hollywood String Quartet,...

. In 2006, a recording of it won 3 Grammy Award
Grammy Award
A Grammy Award — or Grammy — is an accolade by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences of the United States to recognize outstanding achievement in the music industry...

s for Best Choral Performance, Best Classical Contemporary Composition, and Best Classical Album on Naxos Records
Naxos Records
Naxos Records is a record label specializing in classical music. Through a number of imprints, Naxos also releases genres including Chinese music, jazz, world music, and early rock & roll. The company was founded in 1987 by Klaus Heymann, a German-born resident of Hong Kong.Naxos is the largest...

.

He has composed three major operas, McTeague, A View From the Bridge, and A Wedding, all commissioned and premiered by the Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago
Lyric Opera of Chicago is one of the leading opera companies in the United States. It was founded in Chicago in 1952, under the name 'Lyric Theatre of Chicago' by Carol Fox, Nicolà Rescigno and Lawrence Kelly, with a season that included Maria Callas's American debut in Norma...

 conducted by Dennis Russell Davies
Dennis Russell Davies
Dennis Russell Davies is an American conductor and pianist. He studied piano and conducting at the Juilliard School where he received his doctorate...

. All were composed with librettist Arnold Weinstein
Arnold Weinstein
Arnold Weinstein was an American poet, playwright and librettist, who referred to himself as a "theatre poet"....

, sometimes in collaboration with other writers. McTeague, based on the 1899 novel by Frank Norris, with libretto by Weinstein, was premiered on October 31, 1992. A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge
A View from the Bridge is a play by American playwright Arthur Miller that was first staged on September 29, 1955 as a one-act verse drama with A Memory of Two Mondays at the Coronet Theatre on Broadway. The play was unsuccessful and Miller subsequently revised the play to contain two acts; this...

, with libretto by Weinstein and Arthur Miller
Arthur Miller
Arthur Asher Miller was an American playwright and essayist. He was a prominent figure in American theatre, writing dramas that include plays such as All My Sons , Death of a Salesman , The Crucible , and A View from the Bridge .Miller was often in the public eye,...

, was premiered October 9, 1999. A Wedding, based on the 1978 motion picture by Robert Altman
Robert Altman
Robert Bernard Altman was an American film director and screenwriter known for making films that are highly naturalistic, but with a stylized perspective. In 2006, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognized his body of work with an Academy Honorary Award.His films MASH , McCabe and...

 and John Considine, with libretto by Weinstein and Altman, was premiered on December 11, 2004.

He has also composed concertos such as Lyric Concerto for Flute and Orchestra for James Galway
James Galway
- External links : IMGArtists.com 15 September 2008. AllAboutJazz.com 5 August 2008.*...

, the Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra for Sergiu Luca
Sergiu Luca
Sergiu Luca was a Romanian-born American violinist, renowned as an early music pioneer who first introduced playing J. S...

, the Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra for Stanley Drucker
Stanley Drucker
Stanley Drucker is an American clarinetist. Of Ukrainian ancestry, he began clarinet studies at age ten with Leon Russianoff, and remained his student for five years. He attended the High School of Music & Art...

, and Concert Suite for alto saxophone
Alto saxophone
The alto saxophone is a member of the saxophone family of woodwind instruments invented by Belgian instrument designer Adolphe Sax in 1841. It is smaller than the tenor but larger than the soprano, and is the type most used in classical compositions...

 and band
Band (music)
In music, a musical ensemble or band is a group of musicians that works together to perform music. The following articles concern types of musical bands:* All-female band* Big band* Boy band* Christian band* Church band* Concert band* Cover band...

, composed for University of Michigan professor Donald Sinta
Donald Sinta
Donald Sinta is an American classical saxophonist, educator, and administrator.In 1969 he was the first elected chair of the World Saxophone Congress.-Teaching career:He serves as Earl V...

 in 1998. He composed his concerto "Gaea for Two Pianos Left Hand, and Orchestra
Gaea for Two Pianos Left Hand, and Orchestra
Gaea for Two Pianos Left Hand and Orchestra, also simply called Concerto for Two Pianos Left Hand, is a concert piece by American composer William Bolcom, written for Leon Fleisher and Gary Graffman....

" for Gary Graffman
Gary Graffman
Gary Graffman is an American classical pianist, teacher of piano and music administrator.Graffman was born in New York City to Russian-Jewish parents. Having started piano at age 3, Graffman entered the Curtis Institute of Music at age 7 in 1936 as a piano student of Isabelle Vengerova...

 and Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher
Leon Fleisher is an American pianist and conductor.-Early life and studies:Fleisher was born in San Francisco, where he started studying the piano at age four...

, both of whom have suffered from debilitating problems with their right hands. It received its first performance on April 11, 1996 by the Baltimore Symphony conducted by David Zinman
David Zinman
David Zinman is an American conductor and violinist.After early violin studies at the Oberlin Conservatory, Zinman studied theory and composition at the University of Minnesota and took up conducting at Tanglewood...

. The concerto is constructed so that it can be performed in one of three ways, with either piano part alone with reduced orchestra, or with both piano parts and the two reduced orchestras combined into a full orchestra. This structure mimics that of a similar three-in-one work by his teacher, Milhaud.

Bolcom's other works include eight symphonies
Symphony
A symphony is an extended musical composition in Western classical music, scored almost always for orchestra. A symphony usually contains at least one movement or episode composed according to the sonata principle...

, eleven string quartets, four violin sonatas, a number of piano rags
Ragtime
Ragtime is an original musical genre which enjoyed its peak popularity between 1897 and 1918. Its main characteristic trait is its syncopated, or "ragged," rhythm. It began as dance music in the red-light districts of American cities such as St. Louis and New Orleans years before being published...

 (one written in collaboration with William Albright
William Albright (musician)
William Albright was an American composer, pianist and organist.Albright was born in Gary, Indiana, and began learning the piano at the age of five, and attended the Juilliard Preparatory Department , the Eastman School of Music and the University of Michigan , where he studied composition with...

), four volumes of cabaret songs, three musical theater works ("Casino Paradise," "Dynamite Tonite," and "Greatshot"; all with Weinstein), and a one-act chamber opera, "Lucrezia," with librettist Mark Campbell. William Bolcom was also commissioned to write "Recuerdos" for Two Pianos by The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation
The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation
The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation is a Classical Music organization based in Miami, Florida.Throughout the years, its mission was to introduce, to educate and to invite the widest possible audience to the world of music, with special emphasis on four-hand chamber music for piano...

.

List of notable works

  • 1957: First Symphony
  • 1964: Symphony No. 2 "Oracles"
  • 1967: Black Host (Nonesuch H-71260)
  • 1970: Graceful Ghost Rag
  • 1971: Commedia (for "Almost" 18th Century Orchestra)
  • 1976: Concerto for Piano and Orchestra
  • 1979: Third Symphony (for Chamber Orchestra)
  • 1979-1984: Gospel Preludes http://pipedreams.publicradio.org/listings/2007/0715/ (Books 1-4)
  • 1984: Songs of Innocence and of Experience (William Blake)
  • 1984: Lilith for Alto Saxophone and Piano
  • 1984: Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra
  • 1977-85: Cabaret Songs (Vol. 1 and 2)
  • 1986: Fantasia Concertante, for viola, cello and orchestra
  • 1986: Fourth Symphony
  • 1977-86: Twelve New Etudes for Piano [Winner of 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music]
  • 1989: Fifth Symphony
  • 1990-92: McTeague
  • 1992-93: Lyric Concerto for Flute and Orchestra
  • 1993-96: Cabaret Songs (Vol. 3 and 4)
  • 1996: Gaea, Concerto for Two Pianos Left Hand, and Orchestra
  • 1996-97: Sixth Symphony
  • 1997-98: A View from the Bridge
    A View from the Bridge
    A View from the Bridge is a play by American playwright Arthur Miller that was first staged on September 29, 1955 as a one-act verse drama with A Memory of Two Mondays at the Coronet Theatre on Broadway. The play was unsuccessful and Miller subsequently revised the play to contain two acts; this...

  • 1998: Concert Suite (for alto saxophone and band)
  • 2000: Piano Quintet
  • 2002: Seventh Symphony
  • 2004: A Wedding
    A Wedding (opera)
    A Wedding is a comic opera based on Robert Altman's 1978 film A Wedding and was composed by William Bolcom with a libretto written by Robert Altman and Arnold Weinstein.-Performance History:...

  • 2005: Eighth Symphony
  • 2006: Canciones de Lorca
  • 2007: Lucrezia
  • 2008: First Symphony for Band
  • 2009: Prometheus
  • 2010: Romanza (for solo violin and string orchestra)
  • 2010: La fantome du Clavecin

Bolcom Festival in 2007


VocalEssence celebrated the music of William Bolcom with a two-week festival in Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota in April 2007. Nine different performances and a number of master class
Master class
A master class is a class given to students of a particular discipline by an expert of that discipline—usually music, but also painting, drama, or any of the arts....

es were part of the festival. The spotlight performance was of Bolcom's setting of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and of Experience, performed in Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis with over 400 musicians performing under projections of Blake's accompanying artwork by Wendell K. Harrington.

Music Now Fest 2009


Eastern Michigan University Celebrated its 16th Biennial Contemporary Music Festival by featuring William Bolcom as a guest composer. The three day festival showcased a range of Bolcom's compositions as well as a discussion on "Musical Grass-Roots" led by Bolcom himself.

External links