Morris Rosenzweig

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By reacting as violently as we have to high modernism, says composer Morris Rosenzweig, "we have invented composer X. The newest and freshest writer of works already heard . . . a sort of Friendly Frankenstein…
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By reacting as violently as we have to high modernism, says composer Morris Rosenzweig, "we have invented composer X. The newest and freshest writer of works already heard . . . a sort of Friendly Frankenstein as composer, which has been assembled using recognizable parts of deceased segments of cultural musical history, roughly sewn together." Although the music spotlight seems to consistently and increasingly favor composers X, whose postmodern pastiches threaten (seek?) to fulfill (celebrate?) Fredric Jameson's prophecies of the "Death of the Subject" (and consequently, the individual), the cause of modernism is still championed by a few composers determined to prove the continuing viability and veracity of the term "New Music."

Born in 1952 and raised in New Orleans, Rosenzweig received a Bachelor's degree at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester before pursuing graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. He remained in New York and served on the faculty of New York University before taking a position at the University of Utah in 1987.

Flying largely under the public radar since his move from New York City to Utah, Rosenzweig has followed a compelling duty to artistic innovation by composing challenging, graceful, severe, innovative works whose breadth and depth of musical color, texture, and gesture engage their audiences on a refreshingly and invigoratingly high level.

In addition to this and conducting the Canyonlands New Music Ensemble, Rosenzweig was given responsibility over the Maurice de Abravanel Visiting Distinguished Composer Series. Named after the local hero and international music figure who had raised the Utah Symphony out of obscurity, the series had previously brought electro music founding father Vladimir Ussachevsky to Utah. Under Rosenzweig's direction, an equally impressive lineup of musical figures ranging from Milton Babbitt to Steve Reich visited the university. In 1999, Rosenzweig divided his time between the University of Utah and a position on the faculty of the Aaron Copland School of Music at Queens College in New York.

Despite his teaching and administrative duties, Rosenzweig does not appear to have been distracted from his compositional pursuits; before moving to Utah, he composed his Diptych (Another Order of Cat / Consider the Window), released on Centaur Records in 1991. Two years later, he completed his chamber concerto for horn, Delta, the Perfect King, which was followed in 1992 by two chamber works: Roman Passacaglias, composed for the Leonardo Trio; and Angels, Emeralds, and the Towers, a work evoking the surreal landscapes of Zion National Park in southern Utah. In 1994, Rosenzweig created a song cycle from various Hebrew texts, gathering them under the title On the Wings of the Wind. The Abramyan Quartet, who co-commissioned the work with the Koussevitzy Foundation, premiered his String Quartet (1997). Just One Step Beyond (for violin and tape) and Box and Cox (Rosenzweig's first opera) both saw their first audiences in 2000.

The Utah Symphony, the New Orleans Symphony, EARPLAY, Speculum Musicae, and the Chamber Players of the League-ISCM (an ensemble for which Rosenzweig serves as conductor) have all performed Rosenzweig's works. He has garnered praise from several prestigious quarters, including the Guggenheim Foundation, The Fromm Foundation at Harvard, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony. The American Academy of Arts and Letters, honoring Rosenzweig in 1997 with an Academy Award, praised his "rhythmic energy, orchestral wit, and intense expressiveness. The moment-to-moment events are crafted with laser-like precision that allows the listener immediate access to a surface full of color and motion. Those moment-to-moment events securely compound into formal designs of great elegance."