Bolcom, William E(lden) 1938-
BOLCOM, William E(lden) 1938-
PERSONAL: Born May 26, 1938, in Seattle, WA; son of Robert (in sales) and Virginia (an elementary school teacher; maiden name, Lauermann) Bolcom; married Fay Levine, December 23, 1963 (divorced, 1967); married Katherine Agee Ling, June 8, 1968 (divorced, 1969); married Joan Morris (a mezzo-soprano singer), November 28, 1975. Education: University of Washington, Seattle, B.A., 1958; Mills College, M.A., 1961; Stanford University, D.M.A., 1964; attended Paris Conservatory of Music, 1959-61, postdoctoral study, 1964-65; attended Ferienkurse für neue Musik, Darmstadt, Germany, 1960; also studied piano under George Rochberg, 1966.
CAREER: Pianist, 1943—; composer, 1947—; recording artist, 1969—. University of Washington, Seattle, acting assistant professor of music, 1965-66; Queens College of the City University of New York, Flushing, NY, lecturer, 1966-67, assistant professor of music, 1967-68; Yale University, New Haven, CT, visiting critic in drama school, 1968-69; New York University, New York, NY, composer-in-residence, 1969-70; freelance writer and record producer, 1970-73; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, assistant professor, 1973-77, associate professor, 1977-83, professor of music, 1983—. Jury member for the National Endowment for the Arts, 1976-77, 1984-85. Member of board of directors, American Repertory Theatre, Charles Ives Society.
MEMBER: American Music Center, American Composers Alliance, American Academy of Arts and Letters, Azazels, Delta Omicron (national patron).
AWARDS, HONORS: BMI award, 1953; William and Noma Copley Award, 1960, for composition; Kurt Weill Award for composition, 1962; Guggenheim fellowships, 1965, 1968; second prize in composition, Paris Conservatory of Music, 1965; Marc Blitzstein Award (with Arnold Weinstein), American Academy of Arts and Letters, 1965, for opera Dynamite Tonite; Rockefeller Foundation grant, 1969-70; National Endowment for the Arts awards, 1974, 1975; Koussevitzky Foundation Awards, 1976, for First Piano Quartet, 1993, for Lyric Concerto for Flute and Orchestra; Henry Russel Award, University of Michigan, 1977, for teaching excellence; Pulitzer Prize for music, 1988, for Twelve New Etudes for Piano; Michigan Council for the Arts award; Governor's Art Award, state of Michigan. Honorary doctorates from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, the New England Conservatory, and Albion College; Alumnus Summa Laude Dignatus Award, University of Washington, 2003.
(With Robert Kimball) Reminiscing with Sissle and Blake, Viking (New York, NY), 1973, reprinted, Cooper Square Press (New York, NY), 2000.
(Editor and author of introduction) George Rochberg, The Aesthetics of Survival: A Composer's View of Twentieth-Century Music, University of Michigan Press (Ann Arbor, MI), 1984.
(With Paul Oliver and Max Harrison) The New Grove Gospel, Blues, and Jazz, with Spirituals and Ragtime, Norton (New York, NY), 1986.
Contributor to Grove's Dictionary. Contributor to music journals. Coeditor of Annals of Scholarship.
Dynamite Tonite (opera), first performed in New York, NY, December 21, 1963.
Greatshot (cabaret opera), first performed, 1969.
Theatre of the Absurd, first performed in San Francisco, CA, March 2, 1979.
The Beggar's Opera (adaptation of a work by John Gray), first performed in Minneapolis, MN, January 27, 1979.
Casino Paradise, first performed in Philadelphia, PA, April 4, 1990.
McTeague (opera), first performed in Chicago, IL, October 31, 1992.
Medusa (opera), libretto by Arnold Weinstein, first performed as concert version in Evanston, IL, March 5, 2003, first performed as stage version in Cincinnati, OH, June 26, 2003.
Session I: Symphony No. 4, New World Records (New York, NY), 1988.
Twelve New Etudes, New World Records (New York, NY), 1988.
(With wife, Joan Morris) Let's Do It: Bolcom & Morris at Aspen, Omega (New York, NY), 1989.
Casino Paradise, Koch International Classics (Westbury, NY), 1991.
Violin Concerto; Fantasia Concertane; Fifth Symphony, Argo (London, England), 1992.
Symphony No. 1; Symphony No. 3; Seattle Slew; Orchestral Suite, Louisville Orchestra (Louisville, KY), 1992.
(With Joan Morris) Silver Linings: Songs by Jerome Kern, Arabesque, 1994.
(With Joan Morris) Orchids in the Moonlight: Songs of Vincent Youmans, Arabesque, 1996.
(With Joan Morris) The Carioca: Songs of Vincent Youmans, Arabesque, 1997.
(With Joan Morris) Moonlit Bay: Songs As Is and Songs As Was, Albany, 1998.
William Bolcom: The Complete Rags for Piano, Albany, 1998.
Scherzo Fantasy, Koch International Classics (Port Washington, NY), 2000.
A View from the Bridge (two-act opera, libretto by Arnold Weinstein and Arthur Miller), New World Records (New York, NY), 2001.
(With Joan Morris) Cabaret Songs, Volume 3-4, Centaur, 2001.
(With Joan Morris) George Frederick McKay, Naxos, 2001.
Concerto-Serenade, Albany, 2001.
The Miracle, Gospel Preludes, Praeludium, Ethereal, 2002.
Contributor to numerous other recordings. Also composer of numerous musical scores for orchestral works, symphonies, chamber music, vocal/choral music, and movie scores.
SIDELIGHTS: William E. Bolcom is a composer and pianist who is a professor of music at the University of Michigan. He has composed and recorded a wide range of music, including operas, orchestral pieces, symphonies, and a number of records with his wife, singer Joan Morris. As a composer, he has become well known for pieces that draw from American music of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, such as ragtime and music from the Vaudeville era, which he then combines with more modern and postmodern elements that at times become highly experimental.
Bolcom once told CA: "I am vitally interested in the American musical language in all its forms. All my literary activity, as well as my activities as a composer and performer, has been involved with its study and pursuit. I have been interested in the 1920s black musical because it defined our musical stage as something different from English sources. As a composer of words and music I am naturally interested in how American prosody was affected by this development.
"With one limitation—that my music be comprehensible to others, though not overly simplified—I have forged a style that encompasses everything from jazz and folk elements to extreme dissonance, depending on what the music is meant to express. Many American musicians have slighted the simpler and most basic efforts of our musical language. Without this basis, the most complex piece remains incomprehensible; with it, any complexity is eventually understandable."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Prospect, February 14, 2000, Matthew Miraxpaul, "American Dream, American Opera," p. 42.
Billboard, August 21, 1999, Fred Child, "Keeping Score," p. 31.
Commentary, March, 2000, Terry Teachout, "American Era in Progress," p. 56.
Musical America, September, 1978.
Newsweek, October 18, 1999, David Gates, "Doo-Wop Hits the Opera: Arthur Miller's 'View from the Bridge' in Full Voice," p. 76.
Opera News, February 27, 1993, John Von Rhein, "Bolcom: McTeague," p. 37; January, 2000, Lawrence A. Johnson, "From around the World: Chicago," p. 84; October, 2001, Lawrence A. Johnson, "Bolcom: A View from the Bridge,"p. 74.
Time, October 25, 1999, Terry Teachout, "Doo-Wop and Knife Fights: Bolcom's View from a Bridge Packs the Punch of a Boilermaker," p. 125.
Variety, November 1, 1999, Chris Jones, review of A View from the Bridge, p. 100.
William Bolcom Home Page,http://www.williambolcom.com/ (September 11, 2003).