Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Fred Lerdahl at June in Buffalo 2012, "Music as Language"

Continuing through our list of Senior Faculty composers at June in Buffalo 2012 we arrive at Fred Lerdahl, who is currently a professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, and a music theorist well-known for his writings which describe compositional systems as languages with musical grammar and syntax, particularly in the influential book, A Generative Theory of Tonal Music, co-authored with linguist Ray Jackendoff, published in 1983. As a composer, three of his pieces have been finalists for the Pulitzer Prize for Music, including the recent Arches in 2011. A terrific summary about the relationship between Fred Lerdahl’s compositions and theoretical writings can be found at newmusicbox.

Fred Lerdahl

Fred Lerdahl, originally from Madison, Wisconsin, has been not only prolific as a composer and theorist, but also as a teacher – he has taught at UC/Berkeley, Harvard, and Michigan, and since 1991 he has been Fritz Reiner Professor of Music at Columbia University. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and among his other honors are the Koussevitzky Composition Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Classical Recording Foundation’s Composer of the Year Award. Commissions have come from the Fromm Foundation, the Koussevitzky Foundation, the Spoleto Festival, National Endowment for the Arts, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, Chamber Music America, and others. Among the organizations that have performed his works are the New York Philharmonic, the Pittsburgh Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Seattle Symphony, the Cincinnati Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orpheus, the Boston Symphony Chamber Players, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, eighth blackbird, Speculum Musicae, Collage, Antares, the Juilliard Quartet, the Pro Arte Quartet, the Daedalus Quartet, Ensemble XXI, Lontano, and the Venice Biennale. He has been in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival, IRCAM, the Wellesley Composers Conference, the American Academy in Rome, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Yellow Barn Music Festival, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences. In 2001, Lerdahl authored Tonal Pitch Space, which models musical listening from the perspective of cognitive science, and in 2011, the Oxford University Press published his article, Art and the Senses.

Below you can find a video of Joanna Chao offering a beautiful performance of Lerdahl’s Three Diatonic Studies, for piano solo.

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