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Ebook Information

Aaron Jay Kernis

The first full-length biography of the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer

Winner of both the Pulitzer Prize and the Grawemeyer Award, Aaron Jay Kernis achieved recognition as one of the leading composers of his generation while still in his thirties. Since then his eloquent yet accessible style, emphasis on melody, and willingness to engage popular as well as classical forms has brought him widespread acclaim and admiring audiences.

Leta Miller's biography offers the first survey of the composer's life and work. Immersed in music by middle school, and later training under Theodore Antoniou, John Adams, Jacob Druckman, and others, Kernis rejected the idea of distancing his work from worldly concerns and composed on political themes. His Second Symphony, from 1991, engaged with the first Gulf War; 1993's Still Moment with Hymn was a reaction to the Bosnian Genocide; and the next year's Colored Field and 1995's Lament and Prayer dealt with the Holocaust. Yet Kernis also used sources as disparate as futurist agitprop and children's games to display humor in his work. Miller's analysis addresses not only Kernis's wide range of subjects but also the eclecticism that has baffled critics, analyzing his dedication to synthesis and the themes consistent in his work. Informed and engaging, Aaron Jay Kernis gives a rare mid-career portrait of a major American cultural figure.

"It is all too rare to have such a comprehensive account of a living composer, one, in fact, of a composer who is still at the height of his creative powers. So Leta Miller's fascinating new book about Aaron Jay Kernis is extremely welcome, not only because it shines light on many of his important compositions, but because it is also a really good read! In revealing that the life of a present day composer can be every bit as compelling as the biographies of the so-called old masters, hopefully it will encourage authors and publishers to further mine the life stories of other leading music creators of our time."--Frank J. Oteri, composer and founding editor of NewMusicBox

"Aaron Jay Kernis is one of the most important and original voices in contemporary music. Writing about a living composer and explaining contemporary music present enormous challenges. Leta Miller meets them with uncanny skill. Illuminating Kernis' life and getting to the core of his music, she finds fascinating and important links between them."--Hugh Wolff, Director of Orchestras and Chair of Orchestral Conducting, New England Conservatory

"In Leta Miller's wonderfully intimate and detailed portrait of Aaron Kernis, she chronicles his personal and professional progression to become one of the world's leading voices in new music. Her book inspires me to revisit the works I know with new insight, to listen to the works I have missed and to anticipate many years of amazing new creations."--David Shifrin

"Enjoyable and readable. The sections on the Pulitzer and Grawemeyer; his studies with Wuorinen; the accounts of rehearsals of his music by Jacob Druckman, Zubin Mehta, and Kurt Masur; the music itself; the variety of styles that he drew from; brief connections to minimalism, rap, jazz, and popular music--all were interesting to read. I found her discussion of turning points within his career, and consistencies within his style (including eclecticism itself), to be strongly supported by the presentation and analyses of his music. Not only does she point out Judaic, popular, and personal references in the music, she provides a wider context of understanding about their meaning in his output as a whole."--Sharon Mirchandani, author of Marga Richter

Publication of this book was supported by a grant from the Henry and Edna Binkele Classical Music Fund


Leta E. Miller is a professor of music at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of Music and Politics in San Francisco: From the 1906 Quake to the Second World War.

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