FROMM MUSIC FOUNDATION
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2015 Fromm Application & Guidelines will be available in the spring.
| The Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard
University, founded by the late Paul Fromm in the fifties,
has been located at Harvard University since 1972. Over the
course of its existence, the Fromm Foundation has
commissioned over 300 new compositions and their
performances, and has sponsored hundreds of new music
concerts and concert series, among them Tanglewood's
Festival of Contemporary Music and the Fromm Concert Series
at Harvard University. In 1992-1993, the Paul Fromm
Composer-in-Residence program at the American Academy in
Rome was founded, and the annual Fromm concert and Paul
Fromm Award for Composition at Tanglewood were
The postmark deadline for the next cycle is June 1, 2015.
CONTACT: Lesley Bannatyne
FROMM MUSIC FOUNDATION AT HARVARD ANNOUNCES 2014 COMMISSIONS
The Board of Directors of the Fromm Music Foundation at Harvard University is pleased to announce the names of twelve composers selected to receive 2014 Fromm commissions. These commissions represent one of the principal ways that the Fromm Music Foundation seeks to strengthen composition and to bring contemporary concert music closer to the public. In addition to the commissioning award, a subsidy is available for the ensemble performing the premiere of the commissioned work. Previous recipients include Luciano Berio, Elliott Carter, Leon Kirchner, Augusta Read Thomas, Gabriela Lena Frank, Chaya Czernowin, Roger Reynolds, David Gompper, and many more of today’s leading composers.
2014 Fromm commissions were awarded to Andy Akiho (New York, NY), Darcy James Argue (Brooklyn, NY), Christopher Cerrone (Brooklyn, New York), Javier Farias (Potomac, Maryland), Michael-Thomas Foumai (Honolulu, HI), David Fulmer (Lexington, MA), George Lewis (New York, NY), Osnat Netzer (Cambridge, MA), Sam Nichols (Davis, CA), Sam Pluta (New York, NY), Annika Socolofsky (Ann Arbor, MI), Aleksandra Vrebalov
The Fromm Foundation is the legacy of Paul Fromm (1906-1987), one of the most significant patrons of contemporary art music in the U.S. in the second half of the 20th century. “I want to know you,” Igor Stravinsky once said to Fromm, “because contemporary music has many friends but only a few lovers.” The Foundation recently marked its sixtieth anniversary, and has been housed at Harvard University since 1972. Since the 1950s, it has commissioned well over 300 new compositions and their performances, and has sponsored hundreds of new music concerts and concert series.
FROMM MUSIC FOUNDATION AT HARVARD 2013 COMMISSIONS
FROMM MUSIC FOUNDATION AT HARVARD 2012 COMMISSIONS
Wadada Leo Smith
Amy Beth Kirsten
Laurie San Martin
Franck Bedrossian, Berkeley, CA
Chaya Czernowin, Vienna Austria
Mark Applebaum (Meno Park, CA)
Jason Bahr (Mississippi State, MS)
Scott Wheeler (North
Bruce Christian Bennett (San
Francisco, CA )
Edward Campion (Berkeley, CA)
Christopher Arrel (New
The FROMM VISITING PROFESSORSHIPS
composers have been appointed Fromm Visiting Professors. The
Professorship was initiated in 1985.
Where a latter-day Koussevitzky or Stokowski may have been lacking, Paul Fromm seized an opportunity to step into the breach on behalf of composers within America's peculiar cultural situation. Fromm's sustained experiment in music patronage unfolded within a modern bourgeois democracy largely lacking the traditions of aristocratic, church, and state patronage that have characterized the history of European art music.
Born in Kitzingen, Germany, in 1906, a fifth-generation member of a family of vintners, Fromm was early an amateur of music. Given piano lessons as a child, he delighted in playing the four-hand repertoire, and transcriptions of the standard repertoire with his brother Herbert, who later pursued a career as a composer. Fromm became aware of contemporary music in the early 1920s when he first heard a performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring: "It made a twentieth century man of me." From 1921 to 1926 he attended concerts of contemporary music in Germany's Black Forest at die Donaueschingen Festival, where much of the advanced music of the period could be heard.
Until quite late in his life, Fromm preferred to listen to new music with score in hand, although he once sardonically noted of an especially simplistic score that its meriit was immediately cast into doubt by his ability to read lt. In his seventy-ninth year, Fromm even took up the study of harmony, although an unbelievably demanding if self-imposed schedule prevented him from pursuing too many of the exercises in Roger Sessions's Harmonic Practice.
Fromm was planning the establishment of a music foundation in his native land when he was forced to flee the Nazi pogroms in 1939. Settling in Chicago, he went into business as a wine importer, co-founding the Geeting and Fromm Corporation in 1939 and founding the Great Lakes Wine Company in 1943. In 1944 he became a naturalized citizen of the United States. In 1952 he established the Fromm Music Foundation, which was incorporated in the state of Illinois. In 1972, the Foundation moved to Harvard University, although Fromm continued to conduct most of its business out of his office at Great Lakes Wine Company in the warehouse district of Chicago. Fromm delighted in shocking visitors who wished to see the Foundation offices by pointing to a bank of filing cabinets.
Fromm's modesty, humanity, and generosity are abundantly evident in a statement he made to composer Arthur Berger in 1959. Fromm felt that he had:
The Foundation's philanthropic services to composers began quietly. In the beginning, Fromm privately distributed commissions to deserving composers, frequently paying for already completed but unremunerated work. His underground reputation was soon well established.
An enduring aspect of the Foundation has been its personal and unbureaucratic nature. This is due in large measure to the close ties that Paul Fromm kept to the Foundation and to all of its operations. While the Foundation began with a Board of Directors, Fromm soon disbanded this Board, retaining only the violinist-conductor Alexander Schneider as an Associate Director. Fromm was then free to seek advice of Aaron Copland or Gunther Schuller at Tanglewood, for example, or of Roger Sessions or Milton Babbitt at Princeton University, or of Ralph Shapey or Robert P. Morgan in Chicago. Thus Babbitt recommended that Fromm comrnission Shapey' Copland that Fromm comrnission Luciano Berio, and so forth. (Fromm first commissioned both Berio and Shapey in 1960.) A healthy flexibility has characterized the Foundation since its inception.
While the vast majority of composers Fromm has commissioned have been Americans, this commission for Berio is symptomatic of Fromm's undogmatic flexibility. When Berio first met Fromm at Tanglewood in 1960, he had never received a commission. Already the author of a considerable body of extremely accomplished works, Berio received his first commission from the Fromm Foundation. This resulted in the composition of Circles, one of his most widely known pieces. Berio is probably the European composer to whom Fromm was closest, and, in 1987, Fromm commissioned Berio a second time.
When Berio presented a book of his interviews to Fromm in 1985, Fromm replied to Berio with warmth and sensitivity:
Fromm here touched on a theme that reappeared as a refrain throughout his life: the integration of contemporary music and the musical life of his adopted country. All of the Foundation's activities were aimed at this utopian goal. The Foundation's activities themselves are not easily summarized, as Fromm has variously attacked the problems of contemporary music as the situation merited, but he best summarized his own philosophy in 1959 at a Princeton University seminar:
The Foundation's comrnissioning program is absolutely central to its activities. Paul Fromm cornrnissioned nearly two hundred works from more than one hundred and fifty composers, but he was not content merely to dispense commissions. In an effort to integrate contemporary music within the mainstream of musical life, the Foundation has also funded the first performances of virtually all of these works. Further, Fromm strove to place commissioned works in concert prograrns all over the country so that these new works have not disappeared, as so often happens, after the first performance.
The Foundation's multifarious activities have included the sponsorship of hundreds of concerts, including such festivals as the Festival of Contemporary Arts at the University of Illinois (Urbana) in 1957 and the first Roger Sessions Festival, which took place at Northwestern University in 1961 and included performances of the composer's opera The Trial of Lucullus as well as of chamber and orchestral works. There have also been recordings: in the 1950 and '60s of works by Elliott Carter, Luigi Dallapiccola, Lukas Foss, Leon Kirchner, Ernst Krenek, and Ben Weber on the Epic label; since 1987 on New World Records, beginning with a recording of Shapey's works.* Fromm also sponsored a series of radio programs on station WFMT in Chicago in the early 1960s in which composers presented their own music or that of early twentieth-century masters.
A long-standing relationship between the Berkshire Music Center at Tanglewood, the summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Fromm Foundation began in 1956. Fromm recalled the origins of the relationship:
In 1956, Aaron Copland, head of the Composition Department at the Berkshire Music Center, accepted Fromm's invitation to head this project, which ultimately embraced three programs: a commissioning program, the Fromm Fellowship Players, and, from 1964, an annual Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. The commissioning program sponsored young composers who were also invited to be on hand for two weeks to supervise rehearsals of new work. The Fromm Fellowship Players enabled young performers to study and perform new music, including that of the commissioned composers. These two programs functioned from 1956 to 1984.
The Festival itself, which came to be known as "Fromm Week," was an annual series of chamber and orchestral performances of contemporary music by members of the Boston Symphony. In 1964, Erich Leinsdorf, Music Director of the Boston Symphony Orchestra from 1962 to 1969, assumed responsibility for the Boston Symphony's summer activities at the Berkshire Music Center. The relationship between the Boston Symphony and the Foundation was particularly close during Leinsdorf's tenure, as Leinsdorf was a warm supporter of new music. That same year, Gunther Schuller assumed direction of contemporary music activities at the Berkshire Music Center. Schuller directed contemporary music activities there until 1984, becoming a trusted advisor to Paul Fromm. Fromm, Leinsdorf, and Schuller planned the first Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. There would be annual "Fromm Weeks" at Tanglewood from 1964 to 1983.
One of the most distinguished programs ever funded by the Fromm Foundation took place on January 4, 1959, at New York's Town Hall, where Robert Craft conducted the American premieres of Alban Berg's already forty-six year old, Altenberg Lieder and Stravinsky's new Threni. Threni, thus rehearsed by Craft, was taken into the CBS recording studios for a composer-led recording made for Columbia records. Stravinsky had met Fromm the previous year. "I want to know you," Stravinsky said to Fromm, "because contemporary music has many friends but only a few lovers." (7) Relations remained cordial after this initial contact. On Stravinsky's eightieth birthday in 1962, Fromm presented the composer with four twenty-year-old bottles of whiskey.
In September of 1961, a concert for the Eighth Congress of the International Musicological Society was the occasion for the premieres of two new works that had been commissioned by the Fromm Foundation: Milton Babbitt's Vision and Prayer and Elliott Carter's Double Concerto. Babbitt's work was written for the extraordinary soprano Bethany Beardslee (who has been so closely identified with Babbitt's music) and tape, so its performance did not pose the same rehearsal problems that Carter's work did. Charles Rosen, the pianist for Carter's Concerto, recalls the circumstances surrounding the Carter premiere:
Despite its difficulties, the Double Concerto has gone on to receive hundreds of performances around the world and three recordings. Indeed, Fromm often referred to the Double Concerto as the Foundation's Firebird.
In 1959 and 1960, the Fromm Foundation and Princeton University jointly sponsored two Seminars in Advanced Musical Studies that were intended to benefit young composers. Inspired in part by the summer courses at Darmstadt, these seminars were essentially the brainchild of Fromm and Roger Sessions. In 1959, twenty-five young composers studied with a distinguished faculty that included Sessions, Milton Babbitt, Edward T. Cone, Robert Craft, and Ernst Krenek. Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, and Edgar Varese also lectured, while Stravinsky appeared briefly to speak with the participants. The second seminar, with Babbitt, Carter, and Sessions again present, featured eleven Fromm Fellowship Players; the absence of available performers within such a workshop situation had been acutely felt the previous year. The players were on hand to realize compositions in progress or excerpts from scores under discussion. The papers presented at the first seminar were subsequently published in The Musical Quarterly and as a book entitled Problems of New Music (9)
These seminars also led to a new periodical, as Paul Fromm explained:
In the late 1950s and early '60s, many composers felt that such a forum for discussion of contemporary music was needed. Stravinsky summed up this growing sentiment:
Babbitt, Carter, and Sessions were among the many American composers who had expressed similar sentiment to Paul Fromm. Sensitive to this perceived lacuna, Fromm sponsored a new journal that was to be published by Princeton University Press. Perspectives of New Music saw the light of day in 1962. The editors of the journal were composers Arthur Berger and Benjamin Boretz. Fromm, who maintained close ties with members of the journal's editorial board was "anything but an inactive sponsor, as Boretz recalls."(12)
The first two issues of Perspectives included contributions by composers Babbitt, Boulez, Carter, Foss, Imbrie, Krenek, Schuller, Stravinsky, Stockhausen, Westergaard, and Wuorinen as well as other articles by critics Edward Cone, Charles Rosen, and Michael Steinberg and theorists Allen Forte and David Lewin. The breadth of scope that this partial list of contributors betokens fits the editorial prescriptions envisioned by the new journal's patron. Several important anthologies have been culled from Perspectives and published in book form.(13)
Unfortunately, the history of the relationship between the Fromm Foundation and the brave new journal did not prove to be a happy one. After the first issues, Fromm was disturbed that an exclusive viewpoint came to dominate the journal. However intrinsically valuable the kinds of analytic approaches that came to typify it may be, Perspectives did become in essence a highly specialized theory journal for contemporary music. For a decade, Fromm and certain members of the advisory board attempted to broaden the journal's scope, and when the editorial board of the journal refused to return to the original conception, Fromm withdrew his funding in 1972.
Happier by far have been Fromm's relations with Ralph Shapey and the Contemporary Chamber Players of the University of Chicago. Shapey's intransigence had militated against the easy acceptance of his music, but Fromm became one of Shapey's most persuasive advocates. Fromm commissioned Shapey no less than three times. Further, in the mid-1960s, Fromm funded a number of concerts of the Contemporary Chamber Players, which Shapey founded in 1964. By 1967, the annual Fromm concert had become established within the Contemporary Chamber Players' season. A work newly commissioned by the Foundation has appeared on virtually every Contemporary Chamber Players Fromm program since. This annual event will continue with an endowment left to the ensemble by Shapey's intimate friend and benefactor.
In 1972, the Foundation celebrated its twentieth anniversary. Bruno Maderna, Gunther Schuller, Roger Sessions, and Charles Wuorinen were all commissioned to mark the occasion. Shapey conducted the premiere of the Sessions Concersino in Chicago. Maderna and Schuller conducted the premieres of their own works, Giardino Religioso and Music for Chamber Ensemble, at Tanglewood, where Michael Tilson Thomas led the premiere of Wuorinen's Concerto for Amplifled Violin. With the exception of the Wuorinen, these works were all subsequently recorded.
1972 also marked the Foundation's relation to Harvard University. Fromm explained the move:
Henceforth the Foundation would be governed by a Board of Directors consisting of Fromm, the Chairman of the Department of Music at Harvard University, and an established American composer. Gunther Schuller, with whom Fromm had collaborated so successfully at Tanglewood, was the first composer appointed.
For the celebrations of the Bicentennial of the United States in 1976, the Fromm Foundation collaborated with the New York Philharmonic and the Juilliard School of Music on a large-scale festival of contemporary American music that was in some ways a culmination of Foundation activities. The time was ripe for such a venture above all because Pierre Boulez was then Music Director of the New York Philharmonic, although the festival seems to have received initial impetus from Fromm. The festival planners decided, in Fromm's words, that "rather than invite composers to write music to celebrate the independence of the Republic, the Republic might celebrate the independence achieved by music in Amenca in the last forty years." Fromm noted that the United States had come a long way since the day when Richard Wagner had been commissioned to write a march to commemorate the American Centennial. On March 5, 1976, Boulez led the New York Philharmonic in a program of works by Sessions, Jacob Druckman, and Maderna opening an eight-day festival featuring chamber and orchestral works and a number of premieres.
By 1983, Fromm bad grown distressed with what he perceived to be the growing insularity of the programming at the annual "Fromm Week" at Tanglewood. Fromm and Schuller, who was still on the Foundation's Board and head of the composition department at Tanglewood, were unable to reach an amicable agreement concerning contemporary music programrning there. Schuller resigned from the Foundation's Board of Directors and the Foundation substantially reduced its support at Tanglewood. As in the episode of Perspectives of New Music, Fromm found there to be insufficient breadth of viewpoint represented and set about redressing the balance. An internal restructuring of the Foundation ensued.
Fromm invited Earle Brown to replace Schuller on the Board of Directors, selecting hirn for the breadth of his interests within the contemporary field. Fromm deliberately selected a composer who was sympa-thetic to a broad range of viewpoints and tolerant of divergent aesthetic stances. For similar reasons, nine regional advisors were chosen to represent divergent geographical as well as musical interests. The annual "Fromm Week" of contemporary music relocated to the Aspen Festival in 1985, where it remained through 1990.
1985 also saw the inauguration of The Fromm Foundation Visiting Professorship at Harvard University. Peter Maxwell Davies was the first Visiting Professor. The Professorship, held every third year, has subsequently been held by Milton Babbitt, Gunther Schuller, and Betsy Jolas. More recent developments include the 1992 return of the Fromm Foundation to Tanglewood with the annual Fromm Concert and the Paul Fromm Composition Award, and the establishment of the Paul Fromm Composer-in-Residence program at the American Academy in Rome.
During the thirty-five years that Paul Fromm directed his Foundation's activities, he acquired friendships with composers too numerous to mention, but among these many friends, Fromm was probably closest to four: Milton Babbitt, Elliott Carter, Ralph Shapey, and his collaborator of many years, Gunther Schuller. Fromm, who admired Babbitt's enduring fidelity to exacting ideals, regularly turned to hirn for advice, particularly to solicit recommendations of promising young composers.
Fromm enjoyed a particularly warm relationship with Carter. There is a particularly voluminous correspondence between them, Carter's letters to Fromm constituting a virtual diary of his compositional career and musical experiences here and in Europe.
A discussion of Fromm's philanthropy outside of the music world is beyond the scope of this essay. Suffice to say that Fromm was a citizen who took his social responsibilities seriously. This can be gauged in part by his commissioning policies. Careful to avoid the endemic sexism of the music world where the woman composer is a relatively recent social phenomenon, Fromm made a point of commissioning the most gifted women composers of today; but he also foresaw a time when to do so will not be to make a special point, when the expression "woman composer" with its implicit special pleading will have fallen into desultude:
This quotation is from the last public address that Fromm ever gave. As the activities of the Fromm Foundation became well known, Fromm was frequently invited to speak. Often the resultant talks were occasional pieces or ephemeral introductions, but when, as in this instance, Fromm was allotted sufficient time for inquiries of more ambitious scope, the results were often substantial.
The figure of the patron is a shadowy intermediary in the history of the arts; Paul Fromm, whose life is inextricably interwoven within the history of recent musical creation, modestly claimed that he would at most be a footnote in music history. Nevertheless, he was in so many ways the enabling agent for some of the most remarkable music written during his lifetime. Fromm's example demonstrated what could be accomplished with relatively modest means on behalf of a valuable but fragile human enterprise through the industry and imagination of one man.
*This recording was put into motion by Fromm's desire to record three works of composer Faye-Ellen Silverman: Restless Winds (1986, woodwind quintet), Speaking Alone (1976, solo flute) and Passing Fancies (1985, 13 instruments, Stephen Mosko conducting). Shapey's music was added to the second half of the recording because New World felt a solo recording by an unknown composer wouldn't sell. Fromm did this , reports Silverman, because of his great commitment to women composers, whom he felt didn't have enough opportunities. The CD is still in print. (Faye-Ellen Silverman, in an email 4/10/07)
1. Excerpted from an article by David Gable in A Life for New Music: Selected Papers of Paul Fromm. David Gable, Christoph Wolff, eds., Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA, 1988.
2. Schwartz, Lloyd, "Elliott Carter and the conflict of chaos and order," Harvard Magazine, 86/2 (12/83), p. 60.
3. Berger, Arthur, "What Mozart Didn't Have: The Story of the Fromm Music Foundation," High Fidelity, 1X/2, (1959), p. 4
4. Fromm, Paul, unpublished letter to Luciano Berio of 4 September 1985.
5. Fromm, Paul. "The Princeton Seminar--Its Purpose and Promise," The Musical Quarterly, XLVI/2 (1960), p. 155.
6. Fromm, Paul. "The Princeton Seminar--Its Purpose and Promise," The Musical Quarterly, XLVI/2 (1960), p. 155.
7. Nelson, Boris. "Paul Fromm, Contemporary Music's Friend and Lover," Toledo Blade (2 Aug. 1987). Sec.E. p3.
8. Rosen, Charles, "One Easy Piece," The New York Review of Books. XX/2 (1973), p. 26; reprinted in Rosen, Charles, The Musical Language of Elliott Carter, Washington, D.C., 1984, pp. 23-34.
9. The Musical Quarterly, XLV/2 (1960); reprinted as Paul Henry Lang, editor, Problems of Modern Music. New York, 1962.
10. Fromm, Paul, Young Composers: Perspective and Prospect, Perspectives of New Music. 1/1 (1962), p. 2.
11. Stravinsky, Igor and Robert Craft, Expositions and Developments, New York, 1962, p. 171.
12. Berger, Arthur and Benjamin Boretz, "A Conversation about Perspectives," Perspectives on New Music, XXV/1, 2 (1987), p. 600.
13. Boretz, Benjamin and Edward T. Cone, editors, Perspectives on Schoenberg and Stravinksy, Princeton. 1968; Perspectives an American Composers, New York. 1972; Perspectives an Contemporary Music Theory New York, 1972; Perspectives on Notation and Performance New York, 1972.
14. Fromm. Paul, Fromm Music Foundation Present and Future (privateiy published brochure). Chicago,1972, p. 71-73.
15. Fromm. Paul,Towards a Bicentennial Celebration of Music in America: An Introductory Note. Celebration of Contemporary Music (program book, New York Philharmonlc festival of the same name). New York. 1976.
16. Fromm. Paul, Creative Women In MUSIC A Historical Perspective, unpubllshed. Address presented an 3 February 1986 at Tulane Universlty in New Orleans.