The American composer and musician Keith Patchel has died. He was 65. Among his musical legacies is the chamber opera “The Plain of Jars,” about America’s secret war in Laos. Anthony Haden Guest called it “the lineal descendant of Stravinsky’s ‘Nightingale’ and Alban Berg’s ‘Lulu’ and ‘Wozzeck.'” His “Pluto Symphony,” created for the Hayden Planetarium, was nominated for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize.
Patchel was originally from Buffalo. He obtained a bachelor’s degree of fine arts in music from SUNY Buffalo, where he was magna cum laude and participated in seminars with luminaries John Cage, Lucas Foss and Morton Feldman. He trained at Juilliard and had a master’s degree in composition from CUNY Queens/ Mannes School of Music.
A longtime resident of New York’s Lower East Side, Patchel was also a veteran of the downtown rock and punk scene and an honoree of the NYC Acker Awards for avant-garde artists. Another of his musical legacies is a free online/mobile application called Plinkout, which he believed was “the easiest way to teach anyone,” especially children, how to play an instrument as well as how to learn “the core cognitive ideas of music.”