IHAS: Composer
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(1938- )

The eclecticism at the heart of American music takes a vital new twist in the work of contemporary composer, William Bolcom, for whom non-specialization has become a raison d'être. A composer of songs, operas, and instrumental works, a pianist of distinction who frequently accompanies his wife mezzo-soprano Joan Morris in recital, an artist who has worked in a variety of idioms from classical to cabaret, Bolcom is a fresh voice on the American music scene.

Born in Seattle on May 26, 1938, Bolcom studied at Stanford University, with Darius Milhaud in 1958 and with Olivier Messiaen in Paris afterwards before settling in New York in the 1960's, where he immersed himself for a time in the ragtime of Scott Joplin and Eubie Blake, as well as pursuing a fascination for another Blake: the mystical English Romantic poet, William. This latter interest culminated in 1984 with Bolcom's powerful cycle, SONGS OF INNOCENCE AND EXPERIENCE, in which he set forty-six Blake poems for solo voice and piano, orchestra and chorus.

Demonstrating a flair for the dramatic, a fondness for experimentation and combination of pre-existing styles with his own dissonant textures and jaunty vernacular idiom, Bolcom's catalogue encompasses the Pulitzer Prize-winning 1988 TWELVE ETUDES FOR PIANO, VIOLIN, CLARINET, FLUTE, AND PIANO, ten string quartets, and five piano concerti. For the stage he has composed a chamber opera, DYNAMITE TONIGHT (1963), GREATSHOT (1969), THEATRE OF THE ABSURD (1970), as well as the highly acclaimed opera based on Frank Norris' novel, MCTEAGUE, which had its premiere at Chicago's Lyric Opera in 1992, and he has constructed many a delightful cabaret evening of his songs, among them the winning AMOR. Since 1973 Bolcom has taught at the University of Michigan.

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