Death of a respected American composer, 80

The death has been announced in the past hour of Elliott Schwarz, a widely recorded composer and sought-after university professor.

Dear friends and loved ones,

Today we remember the life of Elliott Schwartz. After a wonderful day of visits, phone calls, music and messages read aloud, he closed his eyes. Elliott died peacefully at 8:22 pm on December 7th surrounded by his family.

We are all buoyed and touched by the incredible outpouring of love and support. Feel free to pass along this email to anyone who might want to hear this news.

p.s. We love this photo of Elliott. Here he is after a good meal, undoubtedly planning his next piece.

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  • I was a student at Bowdoin College early in Professor Schwartz’s long tenure and saw him perform his “Music for Prince Albert”. I can’t say I remember any of the music but do recall the conclusion of the piece, when he turned towards the audience, his arms out to his side and screamed, then the lighted candelabra on the piano (shades of Liberace?) was blown out and the hall went dark. Not my cup of tea, I’m afraid.

  • He gave an ear-opening talk on contemporary American music (first time I’d heard any Nancarrow, Partch and Lucier) at Sussex university in 1978 after which I had the pleasure of meeting him at Jonathan Harvey’s place. Lovely man though he couldn’t understand why Elliot Carter was all the rage in Europe.

  • It’s sad to hear about Elliott’s death. I first knew him back in the late 1960s when I was 16. As a result of a billing mix-up with the company that reproduced our music (this was the old days when there were only two companies in the US that did Diazo process printing for composers) I wrote him to apologize about the mix-up and he invited me up to Bowdoin College where he taught and we spent an afternoon together while he looked over my music and made very supportive comments. Although my own esthetics could not have been more different than his, he was always kind and always had time for me to visit and chat over lunch or coffee when I was visiting family nearby. He was great company, and, although he spent much of his career in Maine and elsewhere, he was always at heart a New Yorker, with a NYC sensibility. Although we weren’t in touch much over the recent past except for Facebook, I will certainly miss knowing that he’s here making life more interesting. He was really a very wonderful person.

  • Over the years I’ve gotten to enjoy some – not all – of Schwarz’s music. He had a good sense of orchestral timbre, could write music that actually had a tune for the ear to grab on to. But alas, he’s among that generation of American composers which turned audiences against modern music, and will soon be forgotten. I have never heard a note of his music in concert – only through recordings, which says something I suppose. Today’s music consumers just don’t want this or anything else like it for that matter. Good thing he had a teaching job; he’d starve if he depended on composing to earn a living.

    • What a terribly disrespectful post about someone who just passed away. You compliment him, sort of, then take a big fat smelly dump on the guy. Shame on you.

  • Elliott was an incredible teacher. His work and approach to music was avant-garde: experimental, radical, even unorthodox. I think of Elliott’s total embrace of electronic music in the 60’s, an incredible prescient position, given that almost seventy years later, a huge cohort of all music today is EDM. When I listen to his recorded music I am struck by his brilliance, someone who could hold 20 or 30 patterns in his head simultaneously, and wrangle them all into beautiful music. We all enjoyed his class, and he often played piano for us. In our teens and twenties. Hearing his beautiful music was like a finding a port in a storm.

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