The state of Montana has not produced very many modernist composers. In fact, onetime John Cage collaborator George Flynn may well be the only one to so far leave much of an imprint on the musical life of his country. Flynn was born in Miles City, Montana, in 1937; in his early twenties he began studies at Columbia University in New York City, working under the guidance of Vladimir Ussachevsky, Otto Luening, and Jack Beeson. He was, throughoutRead more his many years at Columbia (he could be found there from 1960 to 1972, when he took a his doctorate; during his graduate school days he taught as well as studied at the University), very active in New York's modernist movement, which naturally put him in close and frequent contact with John Cage and his circle. During the mid-1970s Flynn taught at the City College of the City University of New York, and then in 1977 he became the chairman of De Paul University's composition department. While living and working in Chicago, Flynn helped to found the new music group Soundings.
Flynn is a remarkably indiscriminate composer -- he seems to care little what mechanisms or techniques are involved in a piece of music so long as they propel performer and listener to engage in what he feels is a vital, interesting interaction (a dialogue, you might say, only it is a dialogue, of course, in which only one side -- the performer -- "speaks"; still, it is no monologue in Flynn's view). But he does not engage in randomness -- a kernel of Schoenbergian method, an organization of sound into discrete (if freely mutable) groups of pitches and rhythms, can be heard in much of Flynn's music. He is an accomplished pianist, and his skills have allowed him insights into the traditional structures of music that, however avant-garde he might be feeling on a particular day, he cannot altogether ignore.
Flynn has not been especially prolific, considering that he has now been active for four full decades. There are a pair of symphonies and about a half-dozen miscellaneous orchestral items; there are several traditionally-titled chamber pieces, like the Piano Quartet of 1963 and the Saxophone Quartet of 1980; and, perhaps most important of all (though by no means most voluminous of all), there are several works for piano solo and piano four-hands, most of whose premieres were given by Flynn himself. The two Fantasies for piano (1966 and 1982) can, in the hands of a good pianist, make for quite engaging listening. Read less
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