Kraft, William, American percussionist, composer, and conductor; b. Chicago, Sept. 6, 1923. His parental name was Kashareftsky, which his parents Americanized to Kraft. The family moved to Calif, and Kraft began to study piano. He took music courses at San Diego State Coll. and at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles, where he also had professional percussion instruction with Murray Spivack. In 1943 he was called to arms, and served in the U.S. forces as pianist, arranger, and drummer in military bands; while in Europe with the army, he attended music courses at the Univ. of Cambridge. Returning to the U.S. after discharge from military duty, he earned a living as percussionist in jazz bands. In the summer of 1948 he enrolled in the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, where he studied composition with Fine and conducting with Bernstein. In 1949 he entered Columbia Univ., where his instructors in composition were Beeson, Luening, Bingham, Ussachevsky, and Cowell; he also attended classes in musicology with Hertzmann and Lang (B.S., 1951; M.A., 1954). He continued to perfect his technique as a percussionist, and took lessons with Morris Goldenberg and Saul Goodman; he attained a high degree of virtuosity as a percussion player, both in the classical tradition and in jazz. In 1955 he became a percussionist with the Los Angeles Phil, retaining this position until 1981. In the meantime he developed his natural gift for conducting; from 1969 to 1972 he served as asst. conductor of the Los Angeles Phil.; in a parallel development, he composed assiduously and successfully. From 1981 to 1985 he was composer-in-residence of the Los Angeles Phil.; also founded the Los Angeles Phil. New Music Group, presenting programs of modern works for chamber orch. combinations. From 1988 to 1990 he was a visiting prof, at the Univ. of Calif, at Los Angeles. He held 2 Guggenheim fellowships (1967, 1972). As a composer, he explores without prejudice a variety of quaquaversal techniques, including serial procedures; naturally, his music coruscates with a rainbow spectrum of asymmetrical rhythms. There is a tendency in the very titles of his works toward textured constructivism, e.g., Momentum, Configurations, Collage, Encounters, Translucences, Triangles, and Mobiles; but there are also concrete representations of contemporary events, as in Contextures: Riots-Decade ’60.
dramatic: Music for Samuel Beckett’s radio drama Cascando (1988); film scores. orch.:A Simple Introduction to the Orchestra (1958); Variations on a Folksong (Los Angeles, March 26, 1960); Sym. for Strings and Percussion (N.Y., Aug. 21, 1961); Concerto grosso for Violin, Flute, Cello, Bassoon, and Orch. (1961; San Diego, March 22, 1963); American Carnival Overture (1962); Concerto for 4 Percussionists and Orch. (Los Angeles, March 10, 1966); Configurations, Concerto for 4 Percussionists and Jazz Orch. (Los Angeles, Nov. 13, 1966); Contextures: Riots-Decade ’60 (1967; Los Angeles, April 4, 1968); Piano Concerto (1972-73; Los Angeles, Nov. 21, 1973); Tintinnabulations: Collage No. 3 (Anaheim, March 22, 1974); Dream Tunnel for Narrator and Orch. (Los Angeles, May 12, 1976); Andirivieni for Tuba and Orch. (1977; Los Angeles, Jan. 26, 1978; rev. as Concerto for Tuba, 3 Chamber Groups, and Orch., 1979); Settlers Suite (Merced, Calif., March 10, 1981); Double Play for Violin, Piano, and Chamber Orch. (1982; St. Paul, Minn., Jan. 7, 1983); Timpani Concerto (1983; Indianapolis, March 9, 1984); Contextures II: The Final Beast for Soprano, Tenor, and Chamber Orch. (Los Angeles, April 2, 1984; also for Soprano, Tenor, Boy’s Chorus, and Orch., 1986; Los Angeles, April 2, 1987); Interplay (Los Angeles, Nov. 1, 1984); Of Ceremonies, Pageants, and Celebrations (Costa Mesa, Calif., Sept. 19, 1986; rev. 1987); A Kennedy Portrait for Narrator and Orch., in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy (Boston, Nov. 19, 1988); Veils and Variations for Horn and Orch. (1988; Berkeley, Calif., Jan. 27, 1989); Vintage Renaissance (Boston, June 10, 1989); Vintage 1990-91 (Costa Mesa, Calif., Oct. 9, 1990). wind ensemble:Games: Collage I (Los Angeles, Nov. 21, 1969); Dialogues and Entertainments (1980; Ann Arbor, Feb. 13, 1981); Quintessence, concerto for 5 Percussionists and Concert Band (1985; Washington, D.C., Nov. 5, 1986). chamber: Nonet for 2 Trumpets, Horn, Trombone, Tuba, and 4 Percussion (Los Angeles, Oct. 13, 1958); Triangles, concerto for Percussion and 10 Instruments (1965-68; Los Angeles, Dec. 8, 1969); Double Trio for Piano, Prepared Piano, Amplified Guitar, Tuba, and 2 Percussion (Los Angeles, Oct. 31, 1966); Mobiles for 3 Instrumental Groups (1970); Cadenze for Flute, Oboe, Clarinet, Bassoon, Horn, Violin, and Viola (1971; Los Angeles, March 20, 1972); In Memoriam Igor Stravinsky for Violin and Piano (1972–74); Des Imagistes for 6 Percussion and Reciter(s) (Los Angeles, March 12, 1974); Encounters V: In the Morning of the Winter Sea for Cello and Percussion (1975; N.Y., Jan. 6, 1976); Encounters IX for Saxophone and Percussion (Nuremberg, July 9, 1982); Melange for Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, Piano, and Percussion (1985; Dallas, March 10, 1986); Quartet for the Love of Time for Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (Portland, Ore., July 6, 1987); Quartet for Percussion (Sacramento, Calif., Nov. 7, 1988). percussion:Theme and Variations for Percussion Quartet (1956); Suite for 4 Percussion (1958; Los Angeles, Nov. 6, 1961); French Suite (1962); English Suite (1973); Soliloquy: Encounters I for Percussion and Tape (1975), VI, concertino for Roto-toms and Percussion Quartet (Atlantic City, N.J., March 10, 1976), VII for 2 Percussion (1977; Boston, Jan. 22, 1978), and VIII (1978); Images for Timpani (Los Angeles, Nov. 9, 1978); Variations for King George for Timpani (1980); Weavings for String Quartet and Percussion (San Francisco, Nov. 30, 1984). vocal:Silent Boughs for Soprano and String Orch. (Stockholm, Nov. 15, 1963); The Sublime and the Beautiful for Tenor, Flute, Clarinet, Percussion, Piano, Violin, and Cello (1979); Feerie for Mezzo-soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Viola, Cello, and Piano (1987; Los Angeles, Feb. 1, 1988); Mein Bruder for Soprano, Flute, Clarinet, Violin, Cello, and Piano (1988; Los Angeles, Jan. 25, 1989).
—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire