Land of the Forgotten Composers

Thursday I got a request from a site called Classical Lost and Found asking me to link to their site in return for their linking to my site. I don’t like doing this. First, if I had taken every request I’ve gotten like this, my blog roll would be a mile long. Secondly, the last thing I need is a bunch of classical-music fans sticking their nose into my blog and clutching their pearls over my references to whale vaginas and uninflected dynamics. After all the work I’ve done to try to reduce my readership, it might put me back to square one. However, CLOFO’s (as they abbreviate themselves) motto is “Forgotten Music by Great Composers and Great Music by Forgotten Composers,” which could just about be the title of my autobiography as a writer. Sure enough, I clicked, and within seconds I had found a recording of Roy Harris’s Eleventh Symphony, which I hadn’t realized was available. So I figure some of my readers here might appreciate knowing about the site.

My new Harris 11th has already arrived; it was seemingly unavailable via Amazon, but CLOFO linked me to Archiv Musik, which got it here in less than two days though I’d requested the cheapest postage. A huge fan of the Third, as some of you will recall, I’ve been waiting all my life for the complete Harris symphonies to come out, and I already have the first nine. This 11th is the only symphony I’ve ever heard start with a piano solo, and it’s not Harris’s weakest by any means; that title, among those I’ve heard, would have to go, I think, to No. 9. There’s an effect that Harris gets that I just love, of passages of floating, themeless texture dotted by melodic fragments, that I’ve imitated in my own music (especially The Planets) and is often in evidence here. It’s an Albany disc with Ian Hobson conducting the Sinfonia Varsovia, also with Morton Gould’s Cowboy Rhapsody, Cecil Effinger’s Little Symphony No. 1, and the Second Symphony of Douglas Moore, a composer I’ve paid no real attention to aside from his Ballad of Baby Doe. Anyway, I’m all in favor of a record service that locates really, really obscure repertoire, and I thought some of you might want to check it out. Who knows – many of us may have our recordings on it some day.
UPDATE: Carson Cooman (see comments) just sent me an mp3 of Harris’s 13th (which he sometimes triskaidekaphobically numbered 14), and I stopped composing for 20 minutes to listen to it in slack-jawed horror. It’s dominated by chorus and soloists speaking in awkwardly square rhythms, a cringe-inducing dialogue among slave-owners, slaves, and Abraham Lincoln with lines like “We will fight for our slave plantations!” repeated ad nauseum. Horrible. There are composers who have loads of originality but no taste at all (Bernstein also comes to mind.). But I still dearly love the 3rd, 5th, 6th, and 7th. 


  1. says

    Dear Mr. Gann,
    Thanks so much for the kind words about CLOFO!
    If you don’t already know about it, thought this might interest you:
    I’ll be checking it out myself in the near future, and it may well be a future CLOFO recommendation.
    Best from,
    Bob McQuiston
    Robert E. McQuiston
    Classical Lost and Found (CLOFO)
    Suite 220
    4000 Mass. Ave., NW
    Washington, DC
    Phone/Fax: (202) 244-4909

  2. says

    I agree that it’s a very valuable site. Be on the lookout for the complete Harris symphonies from Marin Alsop and Bournemouth. Nos. 5 and 6 come out next week.
    KG replies: Two of his best. Glad I’m living to see/hear it.

  3. says

    Though Harris produced many uneven compositions, the weakest symphony (by far) is not the 9th, but the largely unknown and quite late “Bicentennial Symphony (Symphony No. 13/14)” (1976) for chorus and orchestra.
    Naxos and Marin Alsop are continuing (slowly) to record a full Harris set. The next volume (with #5 and #6) was just released this month.
    KG replies: Lord, Carson, how have you already heard that? Do you have a recording? Sometimes I think you time-traveled here from the future.

  4. mclaren says

    When, oh wh?en, oh when, oh when will someone come out with a recording of Henry Cowell’s Rhythmicana (1932) concerto for Rhythmicon and orchestra…?
    Or for that matter, even make the score available?
    Schirmer announces (in tones of punitive morbidity) “score rentals may not be avialable in all areas…” F%#~ you, Schirmer. So I can’t even get the freakin’ score to realize the freakin’ thing myself. Yeah, way to boost interest in modern music, guys.

  5. judith says

    “After all the work I’ve done to try to reduce my readership”
    well, its not working!
    I hate blogs and now I’m checking yours every day