|Jacob Druckman, who died in
1996, was a unique voice among contemporary composers and the
soundscapes he created reflected the manysidedness of the music of our
time. He was also a teacher, a conductor, and a musical catalyst, a
highly effective spokesman for contemporary music and musicians.
Druckman's own output contained works in the large and small media. In addition to his orchestra works, he wrote for ensembles (with or without voice) and for solo instruments.
One of the most prominent of contemporary American composers, Jacob Druckman was born in Philadelphia in 1928. After early training in violin and piano, he enrolled in the Juilliard School in 1949, studying composition with Bernard Wagenaar, Vincent Persichetti, and Peter Mennin. In 1949 and 1950 he studied with Aaron Copland at Tanglewood; later, he continued his studies at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris (1954-55).
Critic Mark Swed has written, "At the heart of the works of Jacob Druckman lies the bold, sure, and often arrestingly physical dramatic gesture....Yet Druckman's scores have always exhibited another characteristic as well: that of careful structure, built with meticulous attention to detail. The process of integrating these two sides of his character...has been a consistent factor throughout the composer's development."
Druckman produced a substantial list of works embracing orchestral, chamber, and vocal media, and did considerable work with electronic music. In 1972, he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Windows, his first work for large orchestra. Among his other numerous grants and awards were a Fulbright Grant in 1954, a Thorne Foundation award in 1972, Guggenheim Grants in 1957 and 1968, and the Publication Award from the Society for the Publication of American Music in 1967. Organizations that commissioned his music included Radio France (Shog, 1991); the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (Brangle, 1989); the New York Philharmonic (Concerto for Viola and Orchestra, 1978; Aureole, 1979); the Philadelphia Orchestra (Counterpoise, 1994); the Baltimore Symphony (Prism, 1980); the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra (Mirage, 1976); the Juilliard Quartet (String Quartet No. 2, 1966); the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress (Windows, 1972); IRCAM (Animus IV, 1977); and numerous others. He also composed for theater, films, and dance.
Druckman taught at the Juilliard School, Bard College, and Tanglewood; in addition he was director of the Electronic Music Studio and Professor of Composition at Brooklyn College. He was also associated with the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center in New York City. In the spring of 1982, he was Resident-In-Music at the American Academy in Rome; in April of that year, he was appointed composer-in-residence with the New York Philharmonic, where he served two two-year terms and was Artistic Director of the HORIZONS music festival. In the last years of his life, Druckman was Professor of Composition at the School of Music at Yale University.
|In the early morning hours of
November 2, 2001, conductor Pierre Boulez was detained by Swiss
security forces, whose cross-check of hotel registries against a list
of those known to have made “terroristic” statements in the past turned
up the name of a famous composer and modernist musical intellectual.
Evidently a malicious critic had once phoned in a complaint to the
Swiss authorities that Boulez had threatened to “blow him up” after a
bad review; the accusation went unchallenged, and, correlated with a
record of Boulez’s own incendiary comments about opera in a 1967
interview with the German weekly Der Spiegel, formed enough of a
pattern to justify the temporary confiscation of his passport and some
pointed questions before he headed off to the airport. The interview
had been published under the provocative title “Blow Up the Opera
Houses!” (Sprengt die Opernhaüser in die Luft!) something which
Boulez had indeed said, and though the Swiss took a fair amount of
ribbing for their literal-mindedness, the rhetorical violence of
Boulez’s rejection of the post-war operatic scene remains striking. The
call to blow up opera houses was in fact one of the milder moments of
the conversation, presented ironically as an “elegant, if costly”
solution to a proliferation of outmoded designs that prevented even the
newest of German concert halls from embracing technical advances in
staging. No aspect of post-war operatic culture escaped the
revolutionary’s wrath: the opera world was a self-segregating “ghetto”
for intellectual suicides; the typical opera house was a “musty
closet,” a “music museum”; the one he knew best, in Paris, was badly
maintained, full of “dust and shit,” fit only for musical “tourists”
whose taste he found “sickening.” Boulez’s prescription for this
sclerotic opera culture was a therapeutic “bloodletting” along Maoist
lines, complete with imported cadres of Red Guards to crack heads.
Jacob Druckman, 67, Dies; A Composer and Teacher
By ANTHONY TOMMASINI
Published: May 27, 1996 The New York Times
Jacob Druckman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, teacher and conductor who, through his work as a consultant to major symphony orchestras and a president of foundations, became an influential proponent of contemporary music, died on Friday at the Yale Health Service in New Haven. He was 67 and lived in Milford, Conn.
The cause was lung cancer, said his wife, Muriel Topaz Druckman.
Although he spent most of his career teaching at universities, most notably the Yale School of Music, there was little that could be called academic about Mr. Druckman's music. He was best known for his vividly scored and viscerally dramatic orchestral works. His professional approach to composition and his belief that young composers should be out in the field working with orchestras, writing large pieces for large audiences, had a major impact on his many students, several of whom, like Michael Torke, Aaron Jay Kernis and David Lang, have achieved significant success.
As a young composer, Mr. Druckman studied and employed aspects of Serialism in his music, and his later works retained compositional rigor. But in the late 1960's he greatly diversified his musical language, becoming a skillful exponent of electronic music and incorporating elements of theater into his concert works, including narrative and ritualistic scenarios.
But the exploration of timbre and instrumental color remained the hallmark of his style. Commenting on his 1979 work "Aureole," commissioned by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic for a tour to the West Coast and Japan, Mr. Druckman wrote that whereas other composers considered orchestral color "decorative," for him it was an "intrinsic and structural" concern, "as central to me as sonata allegro form was for Mozart." The critic Peter G. Davis, writing of that work in The New York Times, termed it "virtually a textbook demonstration of how to achieve shimmering, vaporous, iridescent textures from a full symphony orchestra."
Jacob Raphael Druckman was born in Philadelphia on June 25, 1928. As a youth he studied piano and violin and played trumpet in jazz ensembles. In 1949, he studied composition at the Berkshire Music Center with Aaron Copland, who remained an important mentor. That fall he entered the Juilliard School, where his teachers were Peter Mennin, Vincent Persichetti and Bernard Wagenaar. A Fulbright fellowship took him to Paris for study. After completing his master's degree at Juilliard in 1956, he began teaching there, an association that lasted until 1972, when he joined the faculty of Brooklyn College. In 1976, he was appointed chairman of the composition department at Yale, where he remained a professor of music until his death.
Mr. Druckman's first large-scale orchestral work, "Windows," given its premiere by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1972, won that year's Pulitzer Prize in music. Reviewing the work, the New York Times critic Donal Henahan wrote of its "pulsating breathlessness." In one of his most important associations, Mr. Druckman was appointed composer in residence with the New York Philharmonic in 1982, also serving as artistic director of the Philharmonic's three Horizons festivals.
The 1983 and 1984 festivals explored the "new romanticism." The concerts were provocative and well attended. Some composers associated with the cerebral so-called uptown school accused Mr. Druckman of pandering. But in his essay for the programs, Mr. Druckman argued that he was not advocating any movement, but simply noting a decisive shift in the "steady underlying rhythm of music" toward the "sensual, mysterious, ecstatic, transcending the explainable." The programs were striking for their inclusion of such diverse composers as Toru Takemitsu, David Del Tredici, Luciano Berio, John Adams and Donald Martino.
The most upsetting event of Mr. Druckman's professional life was the debacle of his Metropolitan Opera Commission. An opera based on the Medea story by Mr. Druckman was to have been part of the Metropolitan Opera's centennial celebrations. But this commission came in 1981, at the same time Mr. Druckman's association with the New York Philharmonic began. A slow worker, Mr. Druckman found the task of writing the opera more daunting than he had imagined. There were creative disputes over the libretto by Tony Harrison, a British poet. By 1986, the Met had canceled the commission. A production in Bonn was announced, but those plans fell through as well.
In 1991, Mr. Druckman was appointed president of the Aaron Copland Fund for Music. In this position, his work was viewed as insightful and eminently fair. Just last month, although in bad health, he attended a meeting in New York.
In addition to his wife, who was formerly head of the dance faculty at Juilliard and is currently a writer for Dance magazine, he is survived by a son, Daniel, a percussionist with the New York Philharmonic; a daughter, Karen Jeanneret, and three granddaughters. A memorial service will be held on Wednesday at 1 P.M. at the Robert E. Shure Funeral Home in New Haven.
-- Note: Names which are links refer to interviews by Bruce Duffie elsewhere on this website
This interview was recorded in the office suite of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra on March 22, 1989. Segments were used
on WNIB in 1993 and 1998. It was also
used on WNUR in 2006 and in 2009, and on Contemporary Classical
Radio also in 2008. The
transcription was made and posted on this
website in 2014.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.