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Nicolas Slonimsky and William Kraft

Dorothy Crawford in conversation with Nicolas Slonimsky and William Kraft


Russian-born Nicolas Slonimsky (1894-1995) moved to the United Stated in 1923 to work as accompanist. He continued his composition and conducting studies in the US while also teaching music theory and writing about music for publications like the Boston Evening Transcript and the Christian Science Monitor. Slonimsky championed contemporary classical music by soliciting music from contemporary composer for the Boston Chamber Orchestra which he formed in 1927. In 1958, Slonimsky took over the supervision of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians and worked as head editor until 1992. Slonimsky shared stories about classical music as a regular guest on KUSC in the 1970's. Late in his life, he became close friends with Frank Zappa and performed his own compositions at one of Zappa’s concerts in Santa Monica in 1981. Slonimsky died at the age of 101 in 1995. His legacy includes scholarly writing in Russian and English, the coining of the term 'pandiatonicism' (also known as “white note music”) and creating the “Grandmother chord.”

William Kraft (b. 1923) is a composer, conductor, percussionist, and teacher. He studied composition at Columbia University, where his instructors included Henry Cowell, Otto Luening, and Vladimir Ussachevsky. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, he created the Los Angeles Percussion Ensemble, which premiered works by prominent composers. Kraft was a percussionist with the LA Phil for 26 years, and later became the orchestra’s Composer-in-Residence, during which time he developed the Philharmonic New Music Group. He currently holds the Corwin Chair at UC Santa Barbara, and is also the Chairman of the ASCAP Board of Review.

Interview Recorded on 7/18/1987

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