Pollack, Howard 1952-
Pollack, Howard 1952-
Home—Houston, TX. Office—School of Music, University of Houston, 4800 Calhoun Rd., Houston, TX 77004. E-mail—[email protected].
Musicologist, educator, and writer. University of Houston, Houston, TX, assistant professor, 1987-93, then associate professor of music and John and Rebecca Moores Professor of Music, 1993—. Also has lectured at colleges and arts organizations in England, Germany, the Czech Republic, Australia, Mexico, and across the United States.
American Musicological Society, Sonneck Society.
Irving Lowens Award, Society for American Music, and Deems Taylor Award, American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), both for Aaron Copland; Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research, Association for Recorded Sound Collections, for George Gershwin; National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship; Research Excellence Award, University of Houston; Newberry Library fellowship.
(Editor, with Claus Reschke) German Literature and Music: An Aesthetic Fusion, 1890-1989, Fink (Munich, Germany), 1992.
Skyscraper Lullaby: The Life and Music of John Alden Carpenter, Smithsonian Institution Press (Washington, DC), 1995, published as John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 2001.
Music critic, Houston Press; articles and reviews have appeared in journals and encyclopedias,
Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man, Howard Pollack's biography of American composer Aaron Copland, is "an exhaustive study," according to a contributor to for PublishersWeekly. Over 600 pages in length, the book especially examines Copland's impressive body of work, including such well-known pieces as "Fanfare for the Common Man" and "Appalachian Spring." Pollack argues especially for Copland's ability to meld modern musical theory with folk tunes, jazz, and other popular forms to create a particularly "American" music.
Copland's private life, including the homosexuality that he kept private throughout his career, is also examined. Pollack includes short biographies of Copland's male lovers to provide an insight into this aspect of his life. Copland's politics—he was a strong supporter of communism during the 1930s—and his heritage as a Jew are also examined. Bonnie Jo Dopp in the Library Journal wrote that Pollack allows "his ideas about Copland's identity as an American, a Jew, and a homosexual to emerge where appropriate." Alan Hirsch in Booklist found the book to be an "honest, exhaustive, well-written, and loving biography." "Pollack has built a structure meant to last," noted John Rockwell in the New York Times Book Review. "This is a professional, open-minded and understanding look at a composer and a man who epitomized those qualities himself."
Among Pollack's earlier works is Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and His Students, from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski. Walter Piston was an American composer and musical theorist who taught many generations of talented composers, including Leonard Bernstein, Irvine Fine, and John Harbison, among others. He also authored three noted textbooks on musical theory. In his biography, Pollack focuses on Piston's teaching and the seminal values of composition that he instilled in his students. "Anyone interested in the composers discussed in Pollack's book will find it worthwhile; my favorite section, however, is Pollack's comparison of Piston and his contemporary, the novelist James Gould Cozzens," wrote Mark L. Lehman in the American Record Guide. Lehman went on to write that "the similarities that Pollack discovers between these two New England artists are persuasive and revealing." Joshua Berrett noted in American Music that the author "has cogently defined Piston's place as a composer and teacher."
Skyscraper Lullaby: The Life and Music of John Alden Carpenter is a biography of the U.S. composer whose works encompassed jazz and ballet. Among Carpenter's most noted ballet's is Skyscrapers, which was inspired by his life in Chicago. A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that Pollack "shows that Carpenter … was one of our first composers to be considered uniquely American."
In his 2006 book, George Gershwin: His Life and Work, Pollack paints an intimate portrait of one of the twentieth century's most noted composers, who wrote both classical compositions and Broadway musicals with his brother, the lyricist Ira Gershwin. Among Gershwin's most noted classical pieces is "Rhapsody in Blue" and his Broadway scores included scores for the musicals Funny Face, Girl Crazy, Of Thee I Sing, and the opera, Porgy and Bess. Among the host of Gershwin's notable songs are "The Man I Love" and "I Got Rhythm." Robert Croan, writing in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette noted that Pollack "successfully dispels the myth of the starving composer, Gershwin having become rich and successful early on, socializing with and romancing the glamorous smart set of his day."
In addition to chronicling Gershwin's life, Pollack delves into the author's many musical compositions. Peter Keepnews wrote in the New York Times Book Review that that the author "seems to have read, and reflected on, pretty much everything written on the subject, from master's theses to obscure newspaper articles, and he has listened closely to Gershwin's entire oeuvre." For the Broadway plays, the author provides an in-depth historical background complete with plot synopses, a history of performances, recordings, and television adaptations. Croan noted that "the section on … ‘Oh, Kay,’ … brings that delightful show to life in a way that made me run to my shelf to … play my long-neglected CD." A Publishers Weekly contributor wrote that "Gershwin's innovative synthesis of classical, blues and jazz into a ‘glorious body of work’ is illuminated by … insightful analysis."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Advocate, May 11, 1999, Michael J. Giltz, "Copland's Big Score," p. 65.
American Music, fall, 1994, Joshua Berrett, review of Harvard Composers: Walter Piston and His Students, from Elliott Carter to Frederic Rzewski, p. 329.
American Record Guide, July-August, 1993, Mark L. Lehman, review of Harvard Composers, p. 221; November-December, 1995, Donald R. Vroon, review of Skyscraper Lullaby: The Life and Music of John Alden Carpenter, p. 306.
American Spectator, March, 2007, Algis Valiunas, "American Idol," review of George Gershwin: His Life and Work, 68.
Biography, spring, 2007, Gene Lees, review of George Gershwin, p. 266.
Booklist, January 1, 1999, Alan Hirsch, review of Aaron Copland: The Life and Work of an Uncommon Man, p. 818; November 1, 2006, George Cohen, review of George Gershwin, p. 24.
Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April, 1993, F. Goossen, review of Harvard Composers, p. 1324; August, 2007, R.D. Johnson, review of George Gershwin, p. 2116.
Library Journal, February 1, 1999, Bonnie Jo Dopp, review of Aaron Copland, p. 90; October 15, 2006, Bruce R. Schueneman, review of George Gershwin, p. 64.
Musical Quarterly, summer, 1994, Pamela Fox, review of Harvard Composers, p. 220.
Music & Letters, November, 1993, Peter Palmer, review of German Literature and Music: An Aesthetic Fusion, 1890-1989, p. 613; November, 1996, Peter Dickinson, review of Harvard Composers, p. 648.
New York Times Book Review, March 14, 1999, John Rockwell, review of Aaron Copland, p. 10; February 25, 2007, Peter Keepnews, "He Had Rhythm," review of George Gershwin.
Notes, March, 1994, Bill F. Faucett, review of Harvard Composers, p. 988.
Opera News, March, 2007, Rick Hamlin, review of George Gershwin, p. 78.
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, January 28, 2007, Robert Croan, review of George Gershwin.
Publishers Weekly, October 17, 1994, review of Skyscraper Lullaby, p. 71; February 1, 1999, review of Aaron Copland, p. 69; October 9, 2006, review of George Gershwin, p. 49.
Reference & Research Book News, March, 1993, review of Harvard Composers, p. 26.
Saturday Evening Post, March 1, 2007, "Fascinating Rhythms: A New Biography Unravels the Myths Surrounding One of America's Most Celebrated Composers," review of George Gershwin, p. 80.
University of Houston Moores School of Music,http://www.music.uh.edu/ (November 18, 2007), faculty profile of author.