Singleton, Alvin International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn

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US composer born in 1940 in Brooklyn, NY. He studied music theory and composition at New York University (1964–67), then privately with Hall Overton (1967–68), and with Mel Powell and Yehudi Wyner at Yale University School of Music (where he would return many years later as a visiting professor). In 1969 he composed under the guidance of Gunther Schuller at the Berkshire Music Center, Tanglewood. He continued his education in Europe in 1971–72 with Goffredo Petrassi as a Fulbright Scholar at the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. In 1972–85 he resided and worked in Graz and Vienna. His highly productive stay in Europe yielded such well-known works as, among others, A Yellow Rose Petal and Again (an Austrian Radio commission). He won Darmstadt City’s Kranichsteiner Musikpreis and (twice) the Austrian Radio’s Musikprotokoll Composition Prize. Having returned to the US after 14 years, he was composer-in-residence to Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (1985–88), Detroit Symphony Orchestra (1996–97), and Ritz Chamber Players of Jacksonville, Florida (2002–3), receiving composing commissions from all these ensembles. A Guggenheim Fellowship (2003) was followed by a commission from the Serge Koussevitsky Foundation (2004), resulting in the work titled When Given a Choice (premiered at Carnegie Hall under Steven Sloane, 2004)His other accolades include the Mayor’s Fellowship in the Arts Award from the City of Atlanta and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. In the spring of 2004, he joined the American Composers Orchestra as a Music Alive Composer-in-Residence and Artistic Adviser for the IMPROVISE! Festival. In 2008 he brie y served as composer-in-residence in Tirana, Albania.

1989 saw the release by Albany Records of Singleton’s first CD, comprising his orchestral works After Fallen Crumbs,Shadows, and A Yellow Rose Petal in the interpretations of Atlanta Symphony; his third, most recent album under this label features the composition Sweet Chariot. Singleton’s music has also been released by Elektra/Nonesuch, First Edition, Tzadik (2002, a CD of chamber music, including the early but still performed Again of 1979), and Innova. 

Singleton’s series of virtuosic solo instrumental pieces Argoru (1968–2002; the title means “to play” in the Ghanese Twi dialect) has entered the repertoires of outstanding virtuosi such as Harry Sparnaay (who commissioned one work for himself). The composer has also been commissioned by, among others, Kronos Quartet (Secret Desire to be Black) and by prominent symphony orchestras from Boston (Bernsteinlied), Philadelphia (56 Blows), and Cleveland (Durch Alles). 

Singleton’s socially and politically involved works frequently draw directly on US history (for instance, the life of legendary human rights activist and former slave Sojourner Truth) as well as current issues. His musical inspirations include Negro spirituals, the black jazz masters, and Mahler. 

In 2014, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. 

Selected works: Argoru I for piano (1970), Argoru II for cello (1970), Argoru III for flute (1971), Be Natural, improvisation on B natural for any combination of three bowed string instruments (1974), Dream Sequence, musical theatre for eight voices, two actors, pantomime, chamber orchestra and tape to the composer’s own libretto (1976), Extension of a Dream for two percussion (1977–87), Argoru IV for viola (1978), Such a Nice Lady for ensemble (1979), Again for chamber orchestra (1979), Et Nunc for alto flute, bass clarinet and double bass (1980), Necessity is a Mother...! for three actresses with amplified double bass to the composer’s own text (1981), Yellow Rose Petal for orchestra (1982), Apple for clarinet quartet (1984), Argoru V/a for bass clarinet (1984, rev. 2011), Akwaaba for chamber ensemble (1985), After Fallen Crumbs for orchestra (1987), Shadows for orchestra (1987), Argoru VI for marimba (1988), Eine Idee ist ein Stück Sto for string orchestra (1988), Secret Desire to be Black, string quartet (1988), Bernsteinlied for flute, soprano and piano (1988), Durch Alles for orchestra (1992), 56 Blows (Quis Custodiet Custodes?) for orchestra (1993), Somehow We Can, string quartet (1994), Argoru VII for vibraphone (1994), Intezar for viola, cello and double bass (1994), Sing to the Sun, five songs for children’s choir, narrator and ensemble to a text by Ashley Bryan (1995), Umoja – Each One of Us Counts for narrator and orchestra (1996), Gospel for mixed unaccompanied choir to a text from Rita Dore’s Thomas and Beulah (1998),Vous Compra for trumpet and piano (2001), Argoru VIII for kettledrum (2002), When Given a Choice for orchestra (2004), Say You Have is Ball of Meaning for baritone, harp, accordion, percussion and strings (2005), Truth, ballet (the story of Sojourner Truth) with mixed choir and ensemble, text by Carman Moore (2005), Through it All for wind quintet (2008), Almost a Boogie for chamber ensemble (2010), Miaka Kumi for orchestra (2010), Different River for orchestra (2012), Sweet Chariot for two (doubled) flutes, bassoon, (doubled) soprano saxophone and cello (2012), Where the Good Sound Live for wind orchestra (2014), Prayer for tenor voice, chamber choir, and ensemble to texts based on three spirituals and traditional prayers (2016), Across Differences for orchestra (2017), Hallelujah Anyhow, string quartet no. 4 (2018/2019), Time Past, Time Future for piano and string orchestra (2020).