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William Bolcom (1938-     )

William Bolcom, composer William Bolcom is one of the most versatile contemporary American composers, writing chamber music, piano works, song cycles, concertos, music theatre, opera, and symphonies, displaying a mastery of many different compositional styles. Although not given to radical experimentation, he consciously avoids blindly following European styles, whether old or contemporary. He describes Charles Ives as his greatest influence, and in his operas and stage works he chooses to set pieces about American characters by American authors, and includes idioms such as ragtime and jazz in his works. In addition to this wide stylistic diversity, his works often display a trenchant sense of humor. Bolcom began studying composition with John Verrall at the age of 11. After receiving his bachelor's degree from the University of Washington, he studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College. In 1960, Milhaud took Bolcom to Paris, where he also worked with Olivier Messiaen. In 1961 Bolcom went on to study with Leland Smith at Stanford. After earning his doctorate in composition there in 1964, he won the Marc Blitzstein Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for Dynamite Tonite, a piece that shows the influence of Milhaud and the Parisian cabarets. Bolcom has received two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Koussevitzky Foundation Awards, as well as the 1988 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his 12 New Etudes for Piano. He has been commissioned by many of America's greatest musical institutions, including the orchestras of Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, New York, Baltimore, Boston, and the Lyric Opera of Chicago. His commissions include a number of works for some of the greatest singers of our time, including Placido Domingo, Marilyn Horne, and Catherine Malfitano. Since 1973, Bolcom has taught at the University of Michigan. He became a full professor there in 1983, and in 1994 he was named the Ross Lee Finney Distinguished University Professor of Music. Bolcom also holds honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Albion College. He is also a noted performer, and in 1973 his recording of the complete piano music of Gershwin was named Stereo Review's Record of the Year. He and his wife mezzo-soprano Joan Morris have made over 20 recordings of American popular song.
-  Anne Feeney/AllMusic

COMPOSITIONS                                                            Bolcom Links     ~ ~ ~     Works by Genre    ~ ~ ~    Bolcom on Bolcom
[under construction]

WORKS BY GENRE                                                            Bolcom Links    ~ ~ ~    Bolcom on Bolcom    ~ top of page ~
[under construction]
Dynamite Tonite, actor's opera in 2 acts (1963) [text: Arnold Weinstein]
Greatshot, cabaret/theater opera for 2 actors (1967-69)
Theatre of the Absurd, paraphrase for live actor, taped actors, electronic tapes, wind quintet and piano (1970)
The Beggar's Opera [adapted by Darius Milhaud (1937) and William Bolcom (1978)]
Casino Paradise, musical theater opera, 13 singers and 7 instrumentalists (1986-90)
    - Casino Paradise, cabaret version, 3 or 4 singers and 2 keyboard players
McTeague, opera in 2 acts, 9 soloists, chorus and orchestra (1991-92) [libretto: Arnold Weinstein, Robert Altman]
A View from the Bridge, opera in 2 acts (1998-99) [libretto: Arthur Miller and Arnold Weinstein]
A Wedding, opera in 2 acts (2002-04) [libretto: Arnold Weinstein and Robert Altman]
Lucrezia, 5 singers and 2 pianos (fp. 2008)

Symphony No. 1, orchestra (1957)
Symphony No. 2, "Oracles", orchestra (1964)
Commedia for "Almost" 18th Century Orchestra (1971)
Summer Divertimento, chamber orchestra (1973)
Symphony No. 3, orchestra (1979)
Ragomania: A Classical Overture for Orchestra (1982)
Fourth Symphony, orchestra, w/mezzo-soprano (1986) [text: "The Rose" by Theodore Roethke]
Seattle Slew (Dance Suite), orchestra (1986)
Fifth Symphony, orchestra (1989)
MCMXC Tanglewood, orchestra (1990)
Three Delgado Palacios Dances, orchestra (1995) [arr. of music by Ramon Delgado Palacios, 1863-1902]
Sixth Symphony, orchestra (1996-97)
    - Molto Adagio, orchestra (1996) [from Sixth Symphony]
Classical Action Samba, orchestra (1997)
A Gentle Little Fanfare, orchestra (1997)
Seventh Symphony, orchestra (2002)
Inventing Flight, orchestra (2003)
Eighth Symphony, chorus and orchestra  (2005) [text: William Blake, from "Prophetic Books"]
A Seattle Overture, orchestra (2005)

Graceful Ghost Rag (1970) [arr. for Grade 4 band, 2010]
Liberty Enlightening The World, band (1985)
Machine, band (1989/99) [from Symphony No. 5; arr. by Paul Lavender, 1999]
Fanfare for a New President, band (1997)
Concert-Suite, alto saxophone and band (1998)
Song (for Band) (2000)
Concerto Grosso, saxophone quartet and band (2000; arr. for band, 2011)
First Symphony for Band (2008)

Soloist(s) w/Orchestra
Concertante, violin, flute, oboe and orchestra (1961)
Concerto Serenade, violin and string orchestra (1964)
Fives, violin, piano and 3 string orchestras (1966)
Humoresk, organ and orchestra (1969)
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra (1975-76)
Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra (1983)
Fantasia Concertante, viola, cello and orchestra (1985)
Spring Concertino, oboe and chamber orchestra (1986-87)
Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (1990)
Lyric Concerto, flute and orchestra (1993)
Gaea, 2 pianos left-hand and orchestra (1996)
    - Concerto 1: first pianist and chamber orchestra
    - Concerto 2: second pianist and chamber orchestra
    - Concerto 3: 2 pianists and full orchestra
Concerto Grosso for Saxophone Quartet and Orchestra (2000) [also arr. w/band]
Serenata Notturna, oboe and string orchestra (2005)
Romanza, concerto for violin and string orchestra (2009)

Chorus w/Orchestra
Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 9 solo voices, chorus & orch (1956-82) ["A Musical Illumination of William Blake Poems"]
Eighth Symphony, chorus and orchestra  (2005) [text: William Blake, from "Prophetic Books"]

Satires, for madrigal group/SSAT(Bar.)B(T/often CT) (1970) [text: Bolcom]
Vocalise (from Songs of Experience), chorus (1977) [included in "Songs of Innocence and of Experience, 1956-82]
Carol (from "The Wind in the Willows"), chorus and pf (1981-82) [text: Weinstein after Grahame] [co-composed w/Joan Morris]
Chorale on St. Anne's Hymn, soprano, chorus and organ (1988)
The More Loving One, male chorus and piano (1989) [text: W.H. Auden]
Maha Sonnet, male chorus (1990) [text: Arnold Weinstein]
The Mask, a cycle on 5 African-American poets, chorus and pf (1990) [text: T. J. Anderson III, Bennett, Bruce, Dunbar, Thomas]
Simple Stories (1979 & 1991) [a setting of 2 poems by Donald Hall]
    - Dancers, soprano and chorus (1979)
    - Wheel of the Oxcart, chorus, and flute, clarinet, horn, cello and piano (1991)
Alleluia, chorus (1992)
The Miracle, male chorus, woodwind quintet and 2 perc (1999) [9 madrigals after Giovanni Pascoli] [text: Arnold Weinstein]
May-Day, chorus and piano (or organ) (2002) [text: Ralph Waldo Emerson]
The Rhodora, chorus and organ (2002) [text: Ralph Waldo Emerson]
Two Meditations (on poems by George Herbert), chorus and organ (2006)
    - Vertue
    - Love Bade Me Welcome
Four Piedmont Choruses, chorus and piano (2007) [text: Kathryn Stripling Byer]
Lady Liberty, chorus and piano (2008) [text: Arnold Weinstein]
A Song for St. Cecilia's Day, chorus and organ (2008) [text: John Dryden]
Searchlight Soul, male chorus (2009) [texts: University of Michigan poetry students]

Black Host, organ, chimes, cymbals, bass drum and tape (1967)
Praeludium, organ and vibraphone (1969)

Solo Instrument

Piano/Harpsichord   -  see also "Organ"
Romantic Pieces, piano (1959-60) ["being an oeuvre of the years of our Lord 1958-1960"] -  multiple pieces?
Fantasy-Sonata No. 1, piano (1961)
Interlude, 2 pianos (1963)
12 Etudes, piano (1959-64)
Dream Music No. 1, piano (1965)
Black Host, organ, chimes, cymbals, bass drum and tape (1967)
Brass Knuckles, piano (1968) [co-composed with William Albright]
Garden Of Eden (Suite), piano (1969) [also arr. for 2 pianos] [also found in "Complete Rags"]
    - Old Adam
    - The Eternal Feminine
    - The Serpent's Kiss
    - Through Eden's Gates
Three Ghost Rags, piano (1970-71) [also found in "Complete Rags"]
    - Graceful Ghost Rag (1970)
    - The Poltergeist
    - Dream Shadows
Frescoes, 2 keyboard players [2 pf/hpcd/harm.] (1971)
Abendmusik, 2 pianos (1973)
Revelation Studies, carillon [2 players] (1976)
Monsterpieces (and Others), piano (1980) [children's pieces]
    - The mad monster
    - The sad monster
    - The bad mister
    - The glad minister
    - The plaid miss
    - Badminton
    - Big mountain
    - A boating tune
    - The bitty town
    - Finale: The big bad Mr. Monster strikes again
Dead Moth Tango, piano (1983-84)
12 New Etudes, piano (1977-86) [winner of the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Music]
Three Dance Portraits, piano (1986)
    - Dead Moth Tango
    - Knock-stück
    - Abbacadabra
Cadenzas for Beethoven Concerto No. 4, Op. 58 (1986)
Recuerdos, 2 pianos (1991)
    - Chôro
    - Paseo
    - Vals Venezolano
Dedicace: A Small Measure of Affection, piano 4-hands (1992)
Sonata for Two Pianos in One Movement (1993)
A Haunted Labyrinth, piano (1994)
Nine Bagatelles, piano (1996)
A 60-second Ballet (for chickens), piano (1997)
Collusions, piano (1998) [co-composed with Curtis Curtis-Smith]
Bird Spirits, piano (1999-2000)
New York Lights, concert paraphrase for piano (2003)
Le Fantôme du Clavecin, harpsichord (2005)
Nine New Bagatelles, piano (2006)
Ballade, piano (2007)
Knockout: A Rag, piano (2008)
7 Easy Pieces for Piano ("For Joan") (pub. 2010)
    - Pussycat waltz: No. 1
    - Winter trek
    - Little song
    - Pussycat waltz: No. 2
    - Little French invention: L'Orangerie
    - Carillon
    - Pussycat waltz: No. 3
Piano Rags: A Folio of 15 Original Rags (????) [all found in "Complete Rags"]
    - California Porcupine Rag
    - Incineratorag
    - Lost Lady Rag
    - Tabby Cat Walk
    - Raggin Rudi
    - Epitaph for Louis Chauvin
    - Seabiscuits Rag
    - The Garden of Eden
            - Old Adam
            - The Eternal Feminine
            - The Serpent's Kiss
            - Through Eden's Gates
    - Three Ghost Rags
            - Graceful Ghost Rag
            - The Poltergeist
            - Dream Shadows
    - Last Rag
Complete Rags (compiled 1999)
    - Eubie's Lucky Day
    - Graceful Ghost Rag
    - The Poltergeist
    - Dream Shadows
    - Raggin' Rudi
    - The Gardenia
    - Tabby Cat Walk
    - California Porcupine Rag
    - Rag-Tango
    - Last Rag
    - Knight Hubert
    - Glad Rag
    - Epitaph for Louis Chauvin
    - Incineratorag
    - Seabiscuits Rag
    - Fields of Flowers Rag
    - Old Adam
    - The Eternal Feminine
    - The Serpent's Kiss
    - Through Eden's Gates
    - Lost Lady Rag
    - Epithalamium

Praeludium, organ and vibraphone (1969)
Chorale Prelude (on Abide With Me), organ (1970)
Hydraulis, organ (1971)
Mysteries, organ (1976)
    - The endless corridor
    - Eternal flight
    - La lugubre gondola
    - Dying star
Gospel Preludes, organ (1979-1984)
    - Book 1: Three Gospel Preludes
            - What a Friend We Have in Jesus!
            - La Cathedrale engloutie (Rock of Ages)
            - Just As I Am
    - Book 2: Gospel Preludes
            - Jesus Loves Me
            - Shall We Gather at the River (Fantasia)
            - Amazing Grace
    - Book 3: Gospel Preludes
            - Jesus Calls Us; O'er the Tumult
            - Blessed Assurance
            - Nearer, My God, to Thee
    - Book 4: Gospel Preludes
            - Sometimes I Feel
            - Sweet Hour of Prayer
            - Free Fantasia on "O Zion, Haste" and "How Firm a Foundation"
Borborygm. organ (2001) [co-composed with William Albright]
Four Preludes on Jewish Melodies, organ (2005)

A Whitman Triptych, mezzo-soprano and orchestra (1997) [text: Walt Whitman]
    - Come Up from the Fields Father
    - Scented Herbage of My Breast
    - Years of the Modern
Medusa, dramatic soprano and string orchestra (2002)
Canciones de Lorca, tenor and orchestra (2006)



BOLCOM  LINKS                                                            Works by Genre    ~ ~ ~    Bolcom on Bolcom     ~ top of page ~
[under construction]
An Interview with William Bolcom (David Bundler)
Rags to Riches (John  Marmor, University of Washington/Columns Magazine)
A Style Analysis of William Bolcom’s Complete Rags for Piano (Yeung Yu, OhioLINK ETD)
The Unrepentant Eclectic - An Interview with American Composer William Bolcom (Christopher M. Wright)

Composer's website    . . .   contact William Bolcom:  here
Bolcom and Morris

Bolcom @ Wikipedia
Bolcom @ American Ballet Theatre
Bolcom @ American Music Center
Bolcom @ Andy Pease
Bolcom @
Bolcom @ Art + Culture
Bolcom @ Classic Cat
Bolcom @ Classical Archives
Bolcom @ Classical Composers Database
Bolcom @ Classical Connect
Bolcom @ Classical Net
Bolcom @ ClassicsToday
Bolcom @ composition:today
Bolcom @ Dr. Estrella's Incredibly Abridged Dictionary of Composers
Bolcom @ The Dranoff International Two Piano Foundation
Bolcom @ Facebook
Bolcom @ I Hear America Singing/PBS
Bolcom @ IMDb (Internet Movie Database)
Bolcom @ InstantEncore
Bolcom @ Ithaca College Library
Bolcom @ Los Angeles Philharmonic
Bolcom @ Modern Classical
Bolcom @ MSN Music
Bolcom @ MusicWeb International
Bolcom @ MySpaceMusic
Bolcom @ Naxos
Bolcom @ The New York Times
Bolcom @ NNDB
Bolcom @ Nonesuch Records
Bolcom @ W.W. Norton
Bolcom @ NPRmusic
Bolcom @ Piano Society
Bolcom @ The Pulitzer Prizes
Bolcom @ REC Music Foundation /The Lied and Art Song Texts Page
Bolcom @ Song of America
Bolcom @ University of Cincinnati/College Conservatory of Music
Bolcom @ University of Michigan
Bolcom @ US Opera
Bolcom @ Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary
Bolcom @ Wind Repertory Project

Bolcom @ Composer's website    also     here
Bolcom @ Bowdoin College Music Press
Bolcom @ Carlton Music Service
Bolcom @ Jobert
Bolcom @ Edward B. Marks Music Company
Bolcom @ Merion Music
Bolcom @ Edition Peters
Bolcom @ Theodore Presser    also     here  -  and search under "William Bolcom"

Streaming Audio
Bolcom @ Classical Archives
Bolcom @ Classical Connect
Bolcom @ The Classical MIDI Resource
Bolcom @
Bolcom @ MySpaceMusic
Bolcom @ NPRmusic
Bolcom @ PRX (Public Radio Exchange)
Bolcom @

Bolcom @ Composer's website
Bolcom @ ArkivMusic
Bolcom @ ClassicsOnline
Bolcom @ Discogs

Bolcom @ YouTube
Bolcom @ Google Video
Bolcom @ Vimeo

                                                                                                                                                                                             ~ top of page ~
Bolcom on Bolcom: Featured Composer/New Century Ensemble (VIDEO)

Bolcom on Bolcom: A2SO Backstage Pass Bolcom & Morris (VIDEO)

. . . and check out more    Composers Speak on the Web    at Pytheas


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