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Classiscsonline Home » Composers » S » Shapey, Ralph

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Ralph Shapey (b1921)

"Every masterpiece is a work of religious music," insisted Ralph Shapey (1921–2001), one of the most original, fearlessly dynamic, outspoken, and provocative—as well as proudly difficult—composers in the elite pantheon of serious American composers of the second half of the 20th century. "My credo," he was fond of declaring whenever the subject of religious conviction was broached and whenever he was asked how his solid Jewish identity affected his music, "is simple:

  • All great art is a miracle.
  • The music must speak for itself.
  • Great art is a mystery and creates—is—magic.
  • That which the mind of mankind can conceive will be done, to paraphrase sentiments in the Talmud.
  • A work of art must transcend in order to be art.
  • Artist: He [God] filled him with the breath and spirit of God—of the Creative Force—with wisdom, knowledge, discerning insight, and physical knowing, to paraphrase sentiments found in the Torah, in b'reshit (Genesis)."

Expanding on that credo, he would often assert that "listening to the masterpieces of music from any period, it's as if they were written yesterday. How could any human being do these things? This is magic, this is mystery, this is beyond belief."




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