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Subject: Composer Henry Brant dies at 94

Written By: MaxwellSmart on 05/05/08 at 11:26 am

Henry Brant is best known for his "spatial" music, in which the physical spacing of the performers plays a key role in the sound of the piece.  Thus, the strings might be at center stage while a percussion group occupies a balcony and a brass jazz ensemble plays in the center of the auditorium.  Mr. Brant's music often takes advantage of the architecture of the auditorium to affect the timbre, volume, and other dynamics of sound. 

One such spatial piece, "Ice Fields," won him the Pulitzer Prize in music at the age of 89 in 2002. 

I did not discover the music of Henry Brant myself until about five years ago when Innova Recording started their "Henry Brant Collection" series. 

Mr. Brant's composing career lasted nearly 80 years.  The earliest piece I know of is "Angels and Devils" in three movements for flutes, which Brant composed in 1931 at the age of 18. 

Some of my personal favorites include "Wind, Water, Clouds, and Fire" (2004) for symphony orchestra, four different choirs, and several soloists; "Trinity of Spheres" (1978), "Solar Moth" (1979), "Litany of Tides" (1983), "Music for a Five and Dime Store" (1932), "Altitude 8750" (1990), "Dialog in the Jungle" (1964) and "Jazz Clarinet Concerto" (1946). 

Brant conducted radio jazz orchestras in his youth, studied with the infamous George Antheil, and orchestrated film scores over the course of his career from the Dust Bowl era documentary "The Plow that Broke the Plains" (1936) to the classic Taylor/Burton epic "Cleopatra" to the Robin Williams comedy "Good Morning Vietnam" (1987)

Brant retired from a teaching career at Bennington College in 1981 and worked prodigiously from his home in Santa Barbara until this year.  Brant died of natural causes in Santa Barbara on April 26th. 

Ironically, Brant was on my composer deathwatch with Milton Babbitt and Elliott Carter, but the news escaped me for an entire week!

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