John Alden Carpenter

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Carpenter, John Alden

important American composer; b. Park Ridge, 111., Feb. 28, 1876; d. Chicago, April 26, 1951. He studied in Chicago with Amy Fay and W.C.E. Seeboeck, and then with J.K. Paine at Harvard Univ. (B.A., 1897). During a trip to Rome (1906), he had some lessons with Elgar, and then completed his training in Chicago with B. Ziehn (1908–12). He was employed in his father’s shipping supply business, later serving as its vice-president (1909–36). In subsequent years, he devoted himself entirely to composition. In 1918 he was elected a member of the National Inst. of Arts and Letters, and received its Gold Medal in 1947. In 1942 he was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Leters. Carpenter gained success as a composer with his first orch. score, the humorous suite Adventures in a Perambulator (1914). Adopting mildly modernistic technques, he was notably successful in his works on American subjects with a tinge of ragtime and jazz elements. His “jazz pantomime” Krazy Kat (1921), after the well-known comic strip by George Herriman, proved an immediate success. It was followed by his Skyscrapers (1923–24), “a ballet of American life,” which retains its historial interest as a period piece. Among his orch. works, the most notable is his symphonic poem Sea Drift (1933), after Whitman. Carpenter also distinguished himself as a composer of songs.

Works

DRAMATIC: The Birthday of the Infanta,ballet(1917; rev. version, Chicago, Dec. 23, 1919; suite, 1930, rev. 1940; concert suite, 1949); Krazy Kat, “jazz pantomime” (Chicago, Dec. 23, 1921; rev. 1940); Skyscrapers, ballet (1923–24; N.Y., Feb. 19, 1926); incidental music. orch.: Suite (c. 1906–09); Berceuse for Small Orch. (1908); Adventures in a Perambulator, suite (1914; Chicago, March 19, 1915); Piano Concertino (1915; Chicago, March 10, 1916; rev. 1948); 2 syms.: No. 1, Sermons in Stones (Norfolk, Conn., June 5, 1917; rev. version, Chicago, Oct. 24, 1940) and No. 2 (N.Y., Oct. 22, 1942); A Pilgrim Vision, symphonic poem (Philadelphia, Nov. 23, 1920); Jazz Orchestra Pieces: Oil and Vinegar (1925–26); Patterns for Piano and Orch. (Boston, Oct. 21, 1932); Sea Drift, symphonic poem after Whitman (Chicago, Nov. 30, 1933; rev. 1944); Violin Concerto (1936; Chicago, Nov. 18, 1937); Danza (1937; also for Piano, 1947); The Anxious Bugler, symphonic poem (N.Y., Nov. 17, 1943); Blue Gal for Cello and Orch. (1943); The 7 Ages, suite after Shakespeare (N.Y., Nov. 29, 1945); Carmel Concerto for Piano and Orch. (1948). chamber: Violin Sonata (1911; N.Y., Dec. 11, 1912); String Quartet (1927); Piano Quintet (1934). keyboard: piano : Sonata (1897); Polonaise américaine (1912); Little Indian (1916); Little Dancer (1917); Tango américaine (1920); Diversions (1922). vocal:Songs of Faith for Chorus and Orch. (1931; rev. 1936); Song of Freedom for Chorus and Orch. (1941); Song of David for Women’s Voices, Cello, and Orch. (1951; unfinished); song cycles, including Gitanjali (1913) and Water Colors (1918); many solo songs.

Bibliography

O T. Pierson, The Life and Music of].A. C.(diss., Univ. of Rochester, 1952); J. O’Connor, J.A. C; Bio-Bibliography (West-port, Conn., 1994).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire

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Carpenter, John Alden (b Park Ridge, Ill., 1876; d Chicago, 1951). Amer. composer who, like Ives, combined mus. with successful business career. Made name with orch. suite Adventures in a Perambulator (Chicago 1915). Comp. 3 ballets: Birthday of the Infanta (Chicago 1919), Krazy-Kat, using jazz idioms (Chicago 1922), and Skyscrapers (NY 1926). Other works incl. 2 syms.; tone-poem Sea Drift (1933, rev. 1944); vn. conc.; pf. concertino (1915); str. qt.; pf. quintet; and songs. Skyscrapers depicts Amer. city life and its score incl. 3 saxophones, banjo, and 2 red traffic lights operated by kbd. Quotes popular songs and alludes to jazz.

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