Friday, May 10, 2013

May is Jewish American Heritage Month

What would American music be without the Jewish composers who helped define it?  Many of American's most famous and innovative composers are of Jewish heritage, thought not necessarily religious.  Several were also New Yorkers who both inspired and were inspired by the creativity of the country's largest and most creative city.  Others came to the United States to escape Nazi Germany and the freedom the found here.

Milton Babbitt  (1916 - 2011) Composer of electronic music.  His famous essay, "Who Cares if you Listen," defined the rarified experimentalist atmosphere of midcentury composition within academia.

Leonard Bernstein

Leonard Bernstein's (1918 - 1990) recasting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet as a battle between ethnic groups in New York is the famous West Side Story.  He conducted the New York Philharmonic for many years and appeared in a series of televised Young Peoples Concerts for children.

Aaron Copland

Aaron Copland's (1900 - 1990) "Appalachian Spring" is perhaps the quintessential sound of Americana.  He collaborated with dance troupes and frequently conducted his own works with orchestras around the country.

Jacob Druckman (1928 - 1996) worked in electronic music as early as the 1950s, long before digital audio workstations were a compositional commonplace!

Morton Feldman (1926 - 1987) is known for his work in indeterminacy, or chance music

Leo Ornstein (1893 - 2002) was born in Russia then migrated to the Lower East Side.  He pioneered the tone cluster, close-knit groups of notes with a harsher sound than traditional chords.
Leo Ornstein

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951) was an Austrian Jew who migrated to California when Hitler rose to power in 1933.  His twelve-tone serial technique ushered in a new era of musical aesthetics, and would have been suppressed by the Nazis.  In California he was free to develop it further and teach it to others.  His influence is still felt and heard today.

Morton Subotnick (1933 - ) was a pioneer of multimedia and electronic music in San Francisco.

Kurt Weill
Kurt Weill (1900 - 1950) trained as a classical composer in Germany, and fled to the United States because of Nazi persecution.  He embraced the musical theatre style of his adopted country.

John Zorn (1953 - ) blends popular music genres with classically-derived forms in experimental music.  He has also composed film scores.

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