photo: Arthur Simoes

Composer DOUGLAS BRUCE JOHNSON was born in Oakland, California in 1949. He studied with Charles Fulkerson, Floyd Glende, Charles Moon and Leon Wagner at Humboldt State University in Arcata, California. From 1970-72 he studied in Vienna, Austria, accepted for an intensive two-year course of study with composer Friedrich Neumann at the Hochschule für Musik und darstellende Kunst. Completing his B.A. in Music cum laude at Humboldt State University in 1974, he performed in chamber groups and orchestras. In 1980 he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, performing as a violinist in the Berkeley Symphony Orchestra under Kent Nagano, who commissioned his first large orchestral works; and in the Oakland Symphony under Calvin Simmons. After the death of his mother in 1982, he entered graduate school in 1983, earning the Ph.D. in Music at the University of California, Berkeley in 1989, where he worked with composers Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson, and with conductor Michael Senturia.

In 1988 he joined the music department at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut. Performances of his work on the Trinity campus have included the "Suite from the Ballet 'The Birthday of the Infanta'"; the chamber cantata "Neruda Fragments"; "Tombeau de Tartini" for 'cello solo; and the song cycle "Songs of Time, of Love, of Wonder".

His compositions have delighted audiences across the United States, as well as in Europe and Latin America. In March 1993 "...at evening, in the shadow of the volcano, they are dancing..." was premiered by pianist Anthony DeBedts in recital at the Schubertsaal in the Konzerthaus, Vienna. His "Angels", for electronic 'cello, composed for dancer/choreographer Pedro Alejandro's "Apparitions", for three dancers and video, premiered in Hartford and New Haven in May 1995; and was re-presented as "Desperation and Apparitions" at the International Festival of Videodance in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1995. In 1998, the Berlin Saxophone Quartet recorded his "four traveling musicians sit on the platform waiting for their train as evening approaches" on the BITmusik label, Berlin. His string quartet "il terzodecimo canto", first performed at Trinity in 1999, was given its Boston premiere with the New England String Ensemble Quartet in 2000, and its Italian first performance in October 2001 at the Museo Civico in Riva del Garda by the Quartetto Accademica I Filarmonici. His chamber songs, "Palabra, Obra y Corazon, cinco poemas de Medardo Arias-Satizábal" were premiered at the Longy School of Music in October 2002.

In June 2004, "Poet Power", a short work for contralto Elizabeth Anker, was acclaimed at its premiere by Boston Globe critic Richard Dyer. A recording of four compositions was released by Zimbel Records in July 2004. Current long-term work in progress: an opera, based on the true story of the displacement of a Southern Indiana farming community at the end of the 1930's.

The composer in his own words: "My music seeks an immediate connection with listeners' emotions, with their bodies, and with their minds. I compose for "now — to communicate with people around me in the big "here" that our world is. My compositions are based in the sound of acoustic instruments and the human voice. I seek to emphasize the emotional appeal that sounds have for the listener, whatever their background or training. The expressive effect produced by familiar musical content in unexpected contexts gives my music its sustaining energy. Rooted in European traditions, my music still sounds American. It is an ongoing conversation between the past and the present, between “old” sounds and “new” sounds. I do not adhere to any prevailing school of compositional style, though I freely acknowledge influences from four 20th century “greats”: Berg, Bartók, Britten and Copland."

 

 

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