Virginia Tech Multimedia Music Dictionary Composer Biographies

John Harbison

Born: December 20, 1938 in Orange, New Jersey
Died:
Nationality: American
Era: Twentieth Century
Main genre: Orchestral, Opera, Chamber
Main works:
Orchestral Music:
Concerto for Cello
David’s Fascinating Rhythm Method
Diotima
Fanfare for Foley’s
The Flight into Egypt
Four Psalms Paritita
Opera:
The Great Gatsby
Full Moon In March
Winter’s Tale
Band:
Music for 18 Winds
Olympic Dances
Three City Blocks
Chamber Music:
Bermuda Triangle
Christmas Vespers
Five Songs of Experience on Poems of William Blake
Vocal/choral:
Ave Maria
Concerning Them Which Are Asleep
We do not live to ourselves
Brief biography:

John Harbison was born in Orange, New Jersey on December 20, 1938. His family was a musical family and he started playing the piano by the age of 5. By the age of 12 he had started a jazz band. He attended Harvard University as an undergraduate and obtained an MFA degree from Princeton University. In 1984 after finishing his schooling he became a professor of music at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1994 he received the Killian Award Lecturer in recognition of "extraordinary professional accomplishments." He was named class of 1949 Professor of Music. After MIT he taught CalArts and Boston University. He currently serves as the Artistic Director of the Token Creek Chamber Music Festival in Wisconsin.

Harbison's music is known for its exceptional resourcefulness and expressive range. He has written for every thinkable type of concert performance.  These have ranged from the largest to the smallest performances. He is one of America's most prominent composers. In 1987 he earned the Pulitzer Prize for The Flight Into Egypt. It was intended to emphasize the sadder part of Christmas. He wanted to recognize the fear, loneliness, and the uncertainty that Christmas brought to so many unfortunate people. This beautiful piece premiered in November 21, 1986 at the New England Conservatory in Boston by the Cantata Singers.

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