Frank Wigglesworth

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Born: March 3, 1918; Boston, MA   Died: March 19, 1996  
Were Frank Wigglesworth better known, he might be mentioned in the same breath as Charles Ives or Henry David Thoreau. Like those men, no matter where he traveled during his 78 years on earth, he and his music were very much from, of and about New England. Sometimes the heritage is made plain through obvious allusions and picturesque titles; other times Wigglesworth makes us work to reveal his roots.

Wigglesworth was born in Boston in
Read more 1918 and learned the violin as a child; he began trying his hand writing music when he was about 11 years old. He took a B.S. from Columbia in 1940 and a M.Mus. from Converse College in South Carolina two years after that. He served in the U.S. Army in the South Pacific from 1942 to 1945, and shortly after being discharged was named chairman of the editorial board of the New Music Edition and New Music Recordings -- administrative experiences that would prove valuable in the years to come. While working for the New Music Edition, Wigglesworth found time to take further lessons in composition from Edgard Varčse and also teach at Columbia University and Barnard College (until 1951). Wigglesworth's many other appointments included faculty positions at Queens College and at the New School for Social Research, and administrative positions with of the American Composers Alliance, Composers' Forum, Inc., Composer Recordings, Inc. (CRI), the Greenwich House Music School, the MacDowell Colony, and the New York Youth Symphony. He died in New York's Greenwich Village, which he had called home for many decades, two weeks after his 78th birthday in 1996.

Wigglesworth's music fills many volumes and covers most of the major genres. There are two operas, The Willowdale Handcar (1969) and Police Log of the Ipswich Chronicle (1984), the latter of which is based upon the actual police log of Ipswich Massachusetts. Provincial New England is likewise invoked in the New England Concerto for violin and string orchestra of 1941 and in the 1947 piece Lake Music, which was partly inspired by Squam Lake in New Hampshire. Wigglesworth composed three symphonies between 1953 and 1960 and then abandoned the genre. There is a decent amount of sacred vocal music, some of which, like the Short Mass of 1960, was first heard at St Luke's Chapel in Greenwich Village, and also a large body of chamber music. Some of Wigglesworth's last pieces reveal a remarkably flexible attitude for a composer then well into his seventies -- Summer Music of 1993, for example, was written for the very post-modern Bang on the Can festival that year. Read less

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