- Hovhaness, Alan
or Alan Hovaness orig. Alan Hovhaness ChakmakjianU.S. composer.He started to compose as a child. Studies at the New England Conservatory led him to pursue an interest in non-Western music, which only began to influence his own work after he destroyed his early compositions. Affected by the music of his Armenian heritage and his own lifelong mysticism, he composed more than 400 works, including some 60 symphonies and many other orchestral works, often on sacred themes, sometimes incorporating aleatory or natural sounds, as in And God Created Great Whales (1970).
* * *▪ 2001American composer (b. March 8, 1911, Somerville, Mass.—d. June 21, 2000, Seattle, Wash.), combined Western and Eastern elements to create music that was a synthesis of the earthly and the mystical and spiritual. His music, which often employed unusual instruments, was lyrical and frequently characterized by complex rhythms. The emphasis was on melody rather than complex harmony or development, and the music sometimes included controlled improvisation, what the composer called “Spirit Murmur.” It stood outside the mainstream, and some critics called it simple and repetitious; however, many listeners found the music accessible, and it was widely recorded. Hovhaness, who was the son of an Armenian father and a Scottish mother, was born Alan Vaness Chakmakjian, but he changed his name to honour his maternal grandfather. Using his own system of notation, he began composing at the age of four. He attended Tufts University (1929–32), Medford, Mass., and the New England Conservatory of Music (1932–34), Boston, and he later studied with Bohuslav Martinu. From 1948 to 1951 Hovhaness taught at the Boston Conservatory of Music. He became interested in Armenian religious music, which led to explorations of other Middle Eastern and Asian music, including that of India, where he went in 1959 on a Fulbright fellowship. In 1966 he became composer in residence with the Seattle (Wash.) Symphony Orchestra. He composed an estimated 500 works in addition to the 1,000 or more early pieces he destroyed in 1943. His compositions included operas and ballets, piano pieces, chamber works, and orchestral pieces, including 67 symphonies and works for various combinations of voices and instruments with orchestra. Among his best-known works were the piano concerto Lousadzak (1944; “The Coming of Light”), Symphony no. 2 (1955; Mysterious Mountain), and Symphony no. 6 (1959; Celestial Gate). The orchestral work And God Created Great Whales (1970) included taped sounds of humpback whales.
* * *▪ American composerHovhaness also spelled Hovaness , original name Alan Vaness Chakmakjianborn March 8, 1911, Somerville, Massachusetts, U.S.died June 21, 2000, Seattle, WashingtonAmerican composer of Armenian and Scottish descent, notable for his eclectic choice of material from non-European traditions.Hovhaness studied composition with Frederic Converse at the New England Conservatory from 1932 to 1934 and in 1942 at the Berkshire Music Center in Tanglewood, Massachusetts, with Aaron Copland (Copland, Aaron), Leonard Bernstein (Bernstein, Leonard), and Bohuslav Martinů (Martinů, Bohuslav). He taught at the Boston Conservatory (1948–51) and traveled and composed extensively. By age 30 he had grown interested in Armenian music, and he later broadened his focus to include music of the Middle East and Asia. In 1959, during a trip to India and Japan, he studied with local musicians and performed and conducted his own works. In 1965 Hovhaness started his own record label (Poseidon Records), which was meant primarily for recording his own works and which he maintained for more than 15 years. In 1966 he became composer in residence with the Seattle Symphony.Hovhaness's compositions drew on many exotic rhythmic, melodic, and instrumental resources, as his descriptive titles indicate. His style is often modal and rhythmically intricate, but it is lyrically expressive and de-emphasizes harmony. His Symphony No. 16 for strings and Korean percussion (first performed 1963) shows his use of unusual instrumental groupings, as does his Sextet for violin, timpani, drums, tam-tam, marimba, and glockenspiel (1966).Hovhaness's early work is mostly lost, because he supposedly destroyed about 1,000 pieces in 1940. His compositions after that period fall into several categories. His stage works include several chamber operas, including Blue Flame (1959) and Pilate (1963); the score to the Broadway production of The Flowering Peach (1954; lyrics by Clifford Odets (Odets, Clifford)); and music for modern dance. Large works for soloists, chorus, and orchestra include the Magnificat (1959), Lady of Light (1969), and The Way of Jesus (1974). His instrumental works range from keyboard and chamber music (Allegro on a Pakistan Lute Tune for piano, 1952; and Duet for violin and harpsichord, 1954) to more than two dozen symphonies and many other orchestral compositions.
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