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Henry Brant

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Title: Henry Brant  
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Subject: Sage City Symphony, Pulitzer Prize for Music, Daniel Dorff, Ice Field, Tempest Fantasy
Collection: 1913 Births, 2008 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Musicians, 20Th-Century Canadian Musicians, 20Th-Century Classical Composers, 21St-Century American Musicians, 21St-Century Classical Composers, American Classical Composers, American Experimental Musicians, American Male Classical Composers, Bennington College Faculty, Canadian Classical Composers, Canadian Composers, Canadian Experimental Musicians, Guggenheim Fellows, Juilliard School Faculty, Members of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Pulitzer Prize for Music Winners, Pupils of George Antheil, Pupils of Wallingford Riegger
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Henry Brant

Henry Brant
Born (1913-09-15)September 15, 1913
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Died April 26, 2008(2008-04-26) (aged 94)
Santa Barbara, California, United States of America
Occupation composer, orchestrator, instrumentalist

Henry Dreyfuss Brant (September 15, 1913 – April 26, 2008) was a Canadian-born American composer. An expert orchestrator with a flair for experimentation, many of Brant's works featured spatialization techniques.


  • Biography 1
  • Music 2
  • Awards 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5


Brant was born in Henry Cowell's landmark book American Composers on American Music, demonstrating an early identification with the American experimental musical tradition. Brant was represented in Cowell's anthology by an essay on oblique harmony, an idea which presaged some techniques used in his mature spatial works. He composed, orchestrated, and conducted for radio, film, ballet, and jazz groups. The stylistic diversity of these professional experiences would also eventually contribute to stylistic polyphony of his mature works. Starting in the late 40s, he taught at Columbia University, the Juilliard School and, for 24 years, Bennington College. In the mid-1950s Brant felt that “single-style music…could no longer evoke the new stresses, layered insanities, and multi-directional assaults of contemporary life on the spirit.” In pursuit of an optimal framework for the presentation of a music which embraced such a simultaneity of musical textures and styles, Brant made a series of experiments and compositions exploring the potential for the physical position of sounds in space to be used as an essential compositional element.

In addition to his works for the concert hall, he was active as an orchestrator for many Hollywood productions including the Douglas Moore, and Gordon Parks.[2] Brant's work as an orchestrator was not limited to film and stage: his long-term affinity for the music of Charles Ives — whose The Unanswered Question was an acknowledged inspiration for Brant's spatial music — was ultimately found in the premier of Brant's arrangement of Ives' Second Piano Sonata, "Concord, Mass 1840-60" as A Concord Symphony in 1996.[3]

From 1981, he made his home in Santa Barbara, California where he died on April 26, 2008 at the age of 94.


Beginning with the 1953 score Rural Antiphonies (predating Stockhausen's Gruppen of 1955-57), Brant developed the concept of spatial music, in which the location of instruments and/or voices in physical space is a significant compositional element. He identified the origins of the concept in the antiphonal music of the late renaissance and early baroque, in the antiphonal use of four brass ensembles placed in the corners of the stage in the Requiem of Hector Berlioz and, most importantly, in works of Charles Ives, in particular The Unanswered Question.[4] Henry Brant was America’s foremost composer of acoustic spatial music. The planned positioning of performers throughout the hall, as well as on stage, was an essential factor in his composing scheme and a point of departure for a radically expanded range and intensity of musical expression. Brant’s mastery of spatial composing technique enabled him to write textures of unprecedented polyphonic and/or polystylistic complexity while providing maximum resonance in the hall and increased clarity of musical detail for the listener. His catalogue comprises over 100 spatial works.

In keeping with Brant’s belief that music can be as complex and contradictory as everyday life, his larger works often employ multiple, contrasting performing forces, as in Meteor Farm (1982) for symphony orchestra, large jazz band, two choruses, West African drum ensemble and chorus, South Indian soloists, large Javanese

  • Henry Brant's page at Carl Fischer
  • Henry Brant's Home Page
  • Henry Brant Tribute by Samara Rainey, WMJ Issue 3, Article 13
  • Charles Amirkhanian Interviews Henry Brant
  • An interview with Henry Brant by Alan Baker, Minnesota Public Radio, June 2002
  • Art of the States: Henry Brant two works by the composer
  • The Henry Brant Collection on innova
  • obituary for BrantSan Francisco Chronicle
  • Washington PostObituary from the

External links

  1. ^ "Alex North's Comments on 2001",
  2. ^ "Henry Brant as composer and orchestrator for films",, Friday, July 03, 2009.
  3. ^ "The Greatest Symphony Ever (Re-)Written",, September 12, 2007, by Kyle Gann.
  4. ^ Lewis, Uncle Dave. "Henry Brant. Biography.", Retrieved September 11, 2008.
  5. ^
  6. ^ "PDF",
  7. ^ "Building music.", Getty Research Institute. Retrieved September 11, 2008.


A member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Brant was awarded the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Ice Field (2001), commissioned by Other Minds and premiered by the San Francisco Symphony under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. He received two Guggenheim Fellowships and was the first American composer to win the Prix Italia. Among other honors were Ford Foundation, Fromm Foundation, National Endowment for the Arts and Koussevitzky awards and the American Music Center’s Letter of Distinction. In conjunction with Brant’s 85th birthday concert, Wesleyan University conferred upon him the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts (1998). The Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel acquired Brant’s complete archive of original manuscripts, including over 300 works, in 1998.


Brant's handbook for orchestration, Textures and Timbres, was published posthumously.

Later premieres included Wind, Water, Clouds & Fire, for 4 choirs and instrumentalists, commissioned by Present Music and premiered on November 19, 2004 at The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist, Other Minds for a December 2001 premiere by the San Francisco Symphony.

He is perhaps best known for his compositions Verticals Ascending (conceptually based on the architecture of the Watts Towers in Los Angeles) and Horizontals Extending. A "spatial opera", The Grand Universal Circus (Libretto: Patricia Gorman Brant) was premiered in 1956.[6] Brant won the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2002 for his composition Ice Field. In addition to composing, he played the violin, flute, tin whistle, percussion, piano, and organ and frequently included soloistic parts in his large works for himself to play.

With the exception of pieces composed for recorded media (in which he used over-dubbing or acoustical sound sources), Brant did not use electronic materials or permit amplification in his music. [5]

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