Gunther Schuller, who was prominent in classical music and stimulated attention to a hybrid movement in jazz, died today in Boston. He was 89. In addition to his authorship of influential modern classical pieces, Schuller in the late 1950s melded jazz and classical influences and came up with a label for it that stuck: Third Stream. In the l960s and l970s he was president of the New England Conservatory. His classical composition “Of Reminiscences and Reflections” won a Pulitzer Prize in 1994.
In jazz, Schuller first won prominence playing French horn in Miles Davis’s 1949/1950 Birth Of The Cool ensemble. Later in the fifties, he, Davis, John Lewis, George Russell, Charles Mingus and others made Third Stream music a phenomenon that has left a lasting impression. His “Symphony for Brass and Percussion” is an example his marriage of idioms. In this conversation with Frank J. Oteri of the New Music Box website, Schuller discusses several aspects of his career, including his use of the twelve-tone row in composition and the system in the top levels of the jazz community for endorsing new talent.
For expanded thoughts on Schuller and the Third Stream, see this Rifftides entry from five years ago. I will have more about him in the next post.
Gunther Schuller, RIP