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Ernst Bacon (5/26/1898 - 3/16/1990)

Ernst Bacon was one of that pioneering generation of composers, along with Thomson, Copland, Harris, and others, who found a voice for American music. He was born in Chicago on May 26, 1898; his Austrian mother gave him a love of song and an early start on the piano. Although his varied career included appearances as pianist and conductor, along with teaching and directing positions, his deepest preoccupation was always composing. His musical awards included a Pulitzer Fellowship in 1932 for his Symphony in D Minor, and three Guggenheim Fellowships.

As a composer, Bacon belonged to no “school” and followed no fads. He was largely self-taught in composition, except for two years study with Karl Weigl in Vienna. While there, he experienced the depression of post-war Europe first hand, and concluded that the European avant-garde movement, reflecting the pessimism of that era and locale, was not appropriate to America. Returning to Chicago, he set out to write music that expressed the vitality and affirmation of our own country.

At the age of nineteen, while majoring in mathematics at Northwestern University, Bacon published a complex treatise exploring all possible harmonies. However, when he began to compose music in his twenties, he rejected a cerebral approach, taking the position that music is an art, not a science. He felt that its source should be intuitive and imaginative, rather than abstract and analytical.




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