Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Alec Wilder

Academic journal article ARSC Journal

Alec Wilder

Article excerpt

Alec Wilder. By Bhilip Lambert. Urbana: University of Illinois Bress, 2013. 156pp (softcover). Illustrations, Musical examples, Notes, Selective worklist, Appendices. ISBN: 9780252079139. $22

To most even aware of the music of polymath Alec Wilder (1907-1980) he is a bit of a cipher, a clever and mysterious fellow who seemed unconcerned with the convention that one should find a niche and cultivate it until the end. Wilder moved easily between popular and classical music and devotees tend to embrace one part of his output or another. Author Philip Lambert comes down solidly on the side of the popular songs whereas this reviewer prefers Wilder's mildly jazzy, dry and witty Octets; if you play the horn, then doubtless his wind ensemble music would mean the most to you. All such interest is relatively new; at the time he died, Wilder's music took a back seat to his seminal 1972 book, American Popular Song: The Innovators 1900-1950 (Oxford University Press), which introduced a scholarly approach to its topic and set standards for discussing popular song in a way that had not previously existed. The late twentieth century would not have been an ideal climate to evaluate his output as a composer, given as it was to traditional tonality and nostalgic emotional content--elements by then completely out of step with conservatory culture.

However, as Lambert points out, Wilder behaved very much like a twenty-first century composer, making form follow function and designing his harmonic concepts to suit specific projects. As the well-chosen musical examples demonstrate, Wilder was capable of highly complex and original musical ideas, whereas Lambert does not shy away from Alex Ross' opinion that Wilder's late musical, The Truth About Windmills (1973) is "singularly dull" owing to its relative lack of harmonic variety. But we do not enter into a temporal discussion where Wilder is seen as more creative in one time over another; it is impossible to pigeonhole Wilder into the typical three periods, as he employed differing strategies throughout his whole career while still maintaining a distinct individual stamp in everything that he did. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.