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This 35 message thread spans 3 pages:  < <   1   2  [3] 
  Re: American Composers at 20:27 on 22 September 2007

"And all the best composers play the viola..."

That may be true. My composition teacher Joseph Baber plays viola. He's an excellent composer of operas,symphonies, and chamber music. Baber's teachers were Howard Hanson and Mario Castelnuovo Tedesco. Tedesco tutored many prominent American film composers in Hollywood. Old world Italian/Spanish, Castelnuovo Tedesco is one of my favorites always.

John Hedger

  Re: American Composers  erasmusinfinity at 02:30 on 23 September 2007

I'm sure that you have noticed by now that different people have replied to your query with quite different answers. As an American composer, I am more than a bit tempted to list my name in hopes that it will boost my PR.

Putting good 'ol fashion American marketing aside, a listing of prominent American composers is doomed to be more subjective than a listing of prominent European composers. This is because culture is defined in substantially different terms in America than it is in Europe. The same can be said of musical tradition.

In Europe music is, more so, a direct extension of established national traditions. In America, opinions about what constitutes a shared national tradition are more hotly contested. Because America is a country that is made up almost entirely of immigrants, various imported traditions have established themselves and have remained somewhat separate. No single one of these traditions fully defines American music. Thus, for an American composer, the context for prominence is a bit more segmented.

Stravinsky, Bartok, Schonberg and Rachmaninov are all American composers because they lived in America, took part in musical life in America, and most certainly developed in a different artistic direction while living in America. This may seem absurd to many Europeans because Stravinsky, Bartok, Schonberg and Rachmaninov came from European countries. In America they are American AND they are French, Russian, Hungarian or Austrian. Americans often identify with other places in this way.

George Gershwin, Duke Ellington and a whole canon of jazz composers most certainly should not be left out. They are, after all, "composers" and they are quite distinctly American. And, jazz is not a "light" music in America. Gershwin used to play tennis with Shonberg and both Bartok & Stravinsky worked with Woody Herman, who they adored.

If you are asking, more specifically, about American contemporary CLASSICAL composers, I suggest you check out The American Music Center's composer directory at

This list will leave out virtually the entirety of composers currently working in Hollywood, and will probably not say much for jazz and third stream music.

Some more vital historical American composers... Charles Ives, Gunther Schuller. If you'll allow jazz names... Gil Evans & George Russell.

  Re: American Composers  Misuc at 08:59 on 23 September 2007

Just to say, I did mention George Russell (although I left out his final 'l', Im afraid). He is, I think, in the end more significant for his tremendously exciting, nervous energetic and 'content-ful' compositions for Dizzy Gillespie's big band and for his uniquely polyphonic bop sextet than for his later more grandiose efforts in 'Lydian tonality' etc. - but these too have interesting implications for composers with serious intentions.

  Re: American Composers  Dagfinn Koch at 11:44 on 25 September 2007

Georg Crumb is festival composer during the Trondheim Kammermusikkfestival in Norway in september. The american composers mostely known in Europe, have been living here. For me Ives, Carter and Crumb are great composers. Im trying to figure out what Morton Feldman is all about though...

  Re: American Composers  Maurice at 10:48 on 29 April 2008

have you heard about Arlene Elizabeth Sierra? She lives in England but is a native American from Florida rsp. New York. Her music is vivid, sometimes funny and often really beautiful!

See her homepage


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