(June 5, 1923 - December 18, 2006)
Daniel Pinkham has created his unique "sound" from varieties of energetic, propulsive rhythms, and brilliant polyphony, while preserving a sophisticated, appealing, and modern harmonic sensibility that thoroughly suits his often subtle religious subjects. Pinkham earned his B.A. and M.A. at Harvard University, where he studied composition, conducting, and theory with Tillman Merritt, Walter Piston, Archibald Davison, and Aaron Copland. At Tanglewood, he studied with Arthur Honegger and Samuel Barber, and he took private instruction from Nadia Boulanger. His instrumental training was with Putnam Aldrich and the legendary Wanda Landowska, who taught him harpsichord, and with the equally famous E. Power Biggs, from whom he mastered the organ. His early compositions of this period (before 1950) are all in a neo-Classical style.
He then became a faculty member at Simmons College and Boston University and was a visiting lecturer at Harvard University. Pinkham is also the music director emeritus at Boston's historic King's Chapel, where he actively served for 42 years and, since 1959, has been on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, MA. There he is both a lecturer and the chairman of the department for the performance of early music.
After 1950, Pinkham began to use serial techniques combined with strong, rhythmically driven polyphony. These works, many with religious subjects, combine twelve-tone melodies surrounded by tonality, as in the Wedding Cantata for chorus and orchestra (1956); the Christmas Cantata (1957); the Easter Cantata (1961); the Requiem (1963); the Stabat Mater (1964); St. Mark Passion (1965); Jonah for mezzo soprano, tenor, bass baritone, chorus, and orchestra (1967); The Song of Jephtha's Daughter for soprano and piano (1963); Eight Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins for baritone and viola (1964); the Letters From St. Paul for soprano or tenor and organ (1965); as well as the first two (1961, 1962) of his four symphonies and the Concertante for organ, celeste, and percussion (1963).
His later pieces explore considerably more complex harmonic constructions and progressions, although maintaining the tight overall structures of his previous works; working with Robert Ceely, he also began to include electronics in combination with acoustic instruments. These compositions include the Ascension Cantata for chorus, woodwinds, and percussion (1970); Safe in Their Alabaster Chambers for mezzo-soprano and tape (text by Emily Dickinson, 1972); Concerto for Organ (1970); and Lessons for harpsichord (1971).
Pinkham is a prolific composer who has also created concerti for piano, piccolo, violin, and trumpet; several theater works and chamber operas; many tape and electronic pieces; and scores for approximately 20 television documentaries. He has been awarded Fulbright and Ford Foundation fellowships and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has received an honorary doctor of literature degree from Wesleyan University, as well as honorary doctor of music degrees from the New England Conservatory, Adrian College, Westminster Choir College, Ithaca College, and the Boston Conservatory.
-- From Allmusic.com website
Daniel Pinkham, 83, Composer and Organist, Dies
By DANIEL J. WAKIN
Published: December 21, 2006 in The New York Times
Daniel Pinkham, a prolific composer, organist and fixture on the Boston classical music scene who taught at the New England Conservatory for nearly a half-century, died Monday at the home of friends in Natick, Mass., the conservatory said. He was 83 and lived in Cambridge, Mass. The cause was chronic lymphocytic leukemia, said his partner, Andrew Paul Holman.
The breadth of Mr. Pinkham’s music-making was striking. As a harpsichordist, he was active in the beginnings of the early-music scene in Boston in the 1950s and ’60s. He was in charge of music at King’s Chapel in Boston, which in 1713 became one of the first American churches with a pipe organ. He performed as an organist and harpsichordist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra. He was also a conductor.
But above all he wrote countless pieces of music, including symphonies, stage works, a large body of choral works and songs, and some 50 chamber pieces.
“He was one of the very few organ composers who were also mainstream composers, writing for just about any idiom possible, in the tradition of J. S. Bach,” said Barbara Owen, an organ historian and librarian at the American Guild of Organists. “He never forgot his fellow organists toiling away in small churches, and wrote a lot of lovely pieces that were accessible and likable and have been played by organists all over the country.” That accessibility was common to much of his music.
Mr. Pinkham is also survived by a brother, Christopher Pinkham, of Brookfield, N.H., Mr. Holman said.
Mr. Pinkham was born in Lynn, Mass. His great-grandmother was Lydia E. Pinkham, who gained fame for her Vegetable Compound patent medicine, a solution of herbs, roots and 18 percent alcohol aimed at curing “female complaints.” Mr. Pinkham often told the story of Mae West, who after drinking her first bottle said, “I feel like a new man.”
He attended Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. It was there that he heard the Trapp Family Singers, and was deeply affected. “Here, suddenly, I was hearing clarity, simplicity, thin textures,” he said in a 1981 interview with The Boston Globe. “It shaped my whole outlook.” He attended Harvard College and studied with Walter Piston and Aaron Copland. Other teachers included Wanda Landowska, the harpsichordist, and E. Power Biggs, the organist. He also studied composition with Nadia Boulanger.
In 1958 he became music director at King’s Chapel, and a year later he joined the faculty of the New England Conservatory, where he taught composition, music history and harmony.
Much of his church music was written for King’s Chapel, and he often wrote the texts himself. The church’s minister, the Rev. Earl Holt, pointed out on Mr. Pinkham’s death that one of his lines, from “Uncommon Prayers,” read, “And, at our journey’s end, grant, O God, a gentle landing.”
This interview was recorded on the telephone on April 4, 1987. Portions (along with recordings) were used on WNIB in 1988, 1993, and again in 1996. A copy of the unedited audio was placed in the Archive of Contemporary Music at Northwestern University. This transcription was made and posted on this website in 2012.
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.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.