Alvin Etler
composer | United States of America, °1913 - 1973
 
COMPOSITION 1953 : Fourth Prize
After early success as a composer, Alvin Etler entered the University of Illinois and continued studying composition with Arthur Shepherd at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland (1931-36). In 1938 he joined the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra as an oboist. Two seasons later he travelled extensively in Latin America as an oboist and composer with the North American Wind Quintet. During this period he also received two Guggenheim Fellowships (1940 and 1941) and at the request of Fritz Reiner composed two symphoniettas (now withdrawn) for performance with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. These successes led him to abandon a career as an oboist in favour of composing and teaching.

He went to Yale University (1942-46) as instructor of wind instruments and conductor of the University Band, and studied composition with Hindemith (1942-44). He then taught at Cornell University (1946-47) and at the University of Illinois (1947-49) before being appointed professor at Smith College, Northampton, in 1949. In 1968 he was named Henry Dike Sleeper Professor of Music, and in 1972 Andrew Mellon Professor of Humanities. He is the author of Making Music: an Introduction to Theory (1974).

Alvin Etler's earlier compositions exhibit a harmonic vocabulary and instrumental treatment resembling that of Bartók and Copland, with occasional flights into jazz. After his remarkable Quintet for Brass Instruments (1963) he abandoned his earlier style, experimented with serial procedures, and began to give greater prominence to timbral and textural elements. He used free rhythms, frequently interspersed with sharp, often jazzy accents, and strong dissonance, combined with sophisticated, multimetric background textures. In spite of these doubtless self-conscious explorations, Alvin Etler's music never became academic, and never lost its stubborn aggressiveness and sensuous vitality.
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