US composer and critic. His music is notable for a refined absence of expression, his criticism for trenchant matter-of-factness, both at odds with the prevailing US musical culture. He is best known for his opera Four Saints in Three Acts (1927–33) to a libretto by Gertrude Stein, and the film scores The Plow That Broke the Plains (1936) and Louisiana Story (1948).
After studying in France with Nadia Boulanger 1921–22, he was organist at King's Chapel in Boston 1923–24, and returned to Paris 1925–40, mixing with Gertrude Stein and her circle. From 1940 he was music critic to several papers and periodicals in the USA, becoming known for his perceptive views. The most important influences on his music were Satie and the neoclassical Stravinsky.
WorksOpera and stageFour Saints in Three Acts (1934), The Mother of us all (1947) (libretti by Gertrude Stein), Byron (1972); ballet The Filling-Station; incidental music for Euripides' Medea, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and other plays; film music.
Orchestral two symphonies, suite The Plough that Broke the Plains (1936), two Sentimental Tangoes, Portraits, Symphony on a Hymn-Tune (1948), Sonata da Chiesa for orchestra.
Vocal with orchestra or ensembleOraison funèbre (Bossuet) for tenor and orchestra; 2 Missae breves, three Psalms for women's voices, Capital Capitals (Gertrude Stein) for men's chorus and piano; Stabat Mater for soprano and string quartet, Five Phrases from the Song of Solomon for soprano and percussion.
Chamber two string quartets (1922, 1932), 5 Portraits for four clarinets; 50 Portraits for violin and piano, sonata for violin and piano; piano music, songs.
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