American composer

American Composer Retires – Slipped DiscSlipped Disc

Norman Lebrecht

December 15, 2021

Highly performed composer John Harbison stopped time after 52 years teaching at MIT.

He writes:

December 15, 2021

Arriving reluctantly but alert to my last day of teaching at MIT, I remember two pieces of advice from the first week, in 1969. not afraid to say what you like.” And from our Director of Music, Klaus Liepmann, as he escorted me down the endless hallway: “We teach our classes as if they were equal in experience. student learning physics We have poor facilities, we have big ambitions and a new building is on the way.

Well, ultimately he was premature, but his vision for what was then a small business was relentlessly bold and demanding. I was coming from my first teaching experience in quite a different environment, Reed College, Portland Oregon, 1968, West Coast, many student occupations of the administration building, intense teachings and demonstrations, no grades given, behavior radically informal and sartorial, very curious students likely to take a break for a few years.

I returned to the Boston area to start two jobs, teaching at MIT (new concepts: drop dates, midterms, grades) and directing the Cantata Singers (during my previous stay in Boston, I had frequently conducted , but only as a guest – he was a full-time musical director). Like many composers, it took me time to find a way to make introductory lessons in harmony and counterpoint express the daily happiness I found in working with pitches and rhythms.

But after about a year, I had a chance when our music historian, Robert Freeman, left to become principal of the Eastman School. Suddenly we needed cover in Schütz, Schein and Bach, and my worlds of performing and teaching came together…

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