In the 1970s, it was not unusual for the name of American composer Donald Erb to be invoked along with that of George Crumb. His 1969 Nonesuch LP Reconnaissance -- never, sadly, issued on CD -- represented one of the first times that a Moog synthesizer was used in conjunction with live instruments; the title work was composed in 1967. Erb was also noted for his use of graphic elements in his scores and as a teacher of renown. Born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1927, Erb made the Cleveland Institute of Music his home base for most of his career, although he also taught at Indiana University in Bloomington and at Southern Baptist University in Dallas. As a young man, Erb played trumpet in a dance band and, like many other famous American composers, studied in Paris with Nadia Boulanger. Despite his uncompromising and challenging musical style, Erb was also a huge fan of rock singer Elvis Presley; students couldn't help but note that his office at IU was well-stocked with Elvis memorabilia. Erb, an ex-Navy man, was also an early and vocal protester against the Vietnam War, although he eventually had a falling out with the movement that supported this political view.
Sometimes Erb's works employed witty and unconventional titles, such as Symphony of Overtures (1968), In No Strange Land (1968), ...And then toward the end... (1970), Purple-Roofed Ethical Suicide Parlor (1976), and Saint Valentine's Day Brass Quintet (1986). Erb wrote many concertos and was noted for them, one of the most famous being The Seventh Trumpet (1969), a piece that also used synthesizer in addition to a harmonica choir, wine glasses, and water filled jugs; originally given with the Dallas Symphony, it was revived by Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1987. Erb's early contact with jazz informed his interest in improvisation, which carried over into his classical compositions, along with the use of electronics and his preference for unusual choices of instrumentation. Donald Erb died in Cleveland Heights, Ohio on August 12; he was 81.
Stewart Dempster, trombone and four synthesized trombone tape tracks - ...And Then Towards the End...
The Vedehr Trio - Sunlit Peaks and Dark Valleys
Leonard Slatkin, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra - Ritual Observances
Gary Ciepluch, University Circle Wind Ensemble - Symphony for Winds