In the Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart (MGG) article on the American Symphony, Ludwig Finscher hails Gloria Coates’s symphonic works as “the spirit of an expressionistic-apocalyptic-mystical world view.” Kyle Gann writes of her chamber music, “The sparer context of these chamber works sounds solidly American…a rustic stolidity, a willingness to walk firmly forward off the beaten paths…an American through and through.”
Born in, Wisconsin, Gloria Coates began composing and experimenting with overtones and clusters at the age of nine. Her musical intuition has led her to ever widening visions and experiences. She considers both Alexander Tcherepnin, who encouraged her composing since she was 16, and Otto Luening, to have been her “gurus.” Her studies took her from Chicago and Louisiana (with a Masters Degree in Composition), to New York’s Cooper Union Art School, and Columbia University for postgraduate studies in music composition.
While maintaining a residence in the United States, Gloria Coates has lived in Europe since 1969 where she has promoted American music both in organizing a German-American Music Series (1971–1984), writing musicological articles, and producing broadcasts for the radio stations of Munich, Cologne, and Bremen.
From 1975 to 1983 she taught for the University of Wisconsin’s International Programs, initiating the first music programs in London and Munich. She has been invited to lecture on her music with performances in India, Poland, Germany, Ireland, England, and the United States at Harvard, Princeton, Brown, and Boston Universities.
Gloria Coates’s breakthrough came with the 1978 première of a work composed in 1973, Music on Open Strings, at the Warsaw Autumn Festival, a work for string orchestra in which the strings retune. It proved to be the most discussed work at the festival and throughout the European press. In 1986 it was a finalist for the KIRA Koussevitzsky International Award as one of the most important works to appear on record that year.
Festivals and artists performing her compositions include March Music (Berlin Festival), New Music America (New York), Montepulciano Festival (Italy), Dresden Festival, Warsaw Autumn, Dartington (England) and the Aspekte Festival Salzburg, with artists such as the Kronos Quartet, the Kreutzer Quartet, and the Crash Ensemble Dublin. Orchestras to have performed her works include the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra, Polish Chamber Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra, Stuttgart Philharmonic Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, St Paul Chamber Orchestra, Munich Chamber Orchestra, Radio Bucharest Orchestra, Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, and the New Century Chamber Orchestra of San Francisco.
She has written 16 symphonies and other orchestral pieces, 9 string quartets, chamber music, numerous songs, solo pieces, electronic music, and music for the theatre.
September 4, 2010
Looking back over the past 15 years, there are so many events which have happened that one can only touch on a few. In the midst of living a very demanding existence, I have managed to write 16 symphonies altogether, 9 string quartets, much chamber music and a libretto. My life has become one of trying to organize papers that go back over 50 years, and perhaps get a few of the symphonies into computer script.
The computer has taken over everywhere, including my life, so it seems I spend more time with my little Mac friend. There are fewer radio recordings these days, but many of the old live performances are now on CDs, or can be downloaded to I-Pods and such, which is the new path music seems to be taking. A music website from Italy called Wellesz Channel discovered my music, and have been posting on Youtube many recordings of orchestral works including one "Leonardo da Vinci" excerpt, and the “Force for Peace in War” (now called “Cantata da Requiem”). Videos have been created with documentaries from World War II in both sections. There are also videos of the "Leonardo" and "Mallarme" orchestral pieces.
Another Youtube site called NewMusicXX has included works such as "Music on Open Strings," string quartets and a late symphony. Even Last FM is an interesting listening source. A Chinese student friend set up a Facebook for me a year ago, and it seems that many friends are enjoying each other on my site!
To follow up on the early pieces I have mentioned 15 years ago, they did have their own lives and are doing well. "Music on Open Strings" became "Symphony No. 1" and is on a CPO CD and also on an American Classics Naxos CD. "Drones of Druids" was premiered, but not in the Celtic fields. It was at the new music school located in Erding. A critic wrote that, "The sound of the brass and percussion, with storm included, almost brought the walls down in the acoustically perfect new chamber music hall!"
The "Emily Dickinson Songs" are now 15 in number and are still sung often. A few weeks ago I gave a paper on them at Oxford University for the International Emily Dickinson Conference, dealing with the relation to their philosophical aspects as traced to those that Coleridge brought back to England from Jena in 1798 -99, a discovery I had made while working on another commission for the ‘Blue Flower’ Passau Festival a number of years ago when studying the works of Novalis. "Time Frozen" was premiered and is on a Naxos CD. There are other commissions , but I am still superstitious, so will say nothing and hope they come to life. As for recent works, the ninth string quartet was premiered in Cologne on a concert and recorded by German Radio. This will be on a Naxos CD this month, along with a piano trio and solo violin sonata all performed by the Kreuzer Quartet members, the violin solo by Peter Sheppard on his lovely Stradivarious.
This interview was recorded in Chicago on May 19,
1995. Portions (along with
recordings) were used on WNIB in 1996 and
1998, and on WNUR in 2002 and 2009. This
made and posted on this website in 2010.
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.