(b Sydney, 3 Jan 1951). Australian composer and conductor. He studied composition at the universities of Sydney (BMus, 1972) and Adelaide (1973–6), where his teachers included Sculthorpe, Rands and Meale, and afterwards in Darmstadt at the Internationale Ferienkurse für Neue Musik and with Maxwell Davies at the Cantiere Internazionale d'Arte in Montepulciano (1976). He studied conducting with Tintner in Perth, Otterloo in Sydney and Gielen at the Musik-Akademie in Basle (1976). After being répétiteur with the Australian Opera, he conducted at the Adelaide, Canberra and Perth festivals and in 1983 he became musical director of the West Australian Ballet Company. He has held teaching posts at the University of Melbourne and the NSW Conservatorium and in 1985 became head of the music department at the Conservatorium of Music within the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts. He has also been composer-in-residence with the Royal Danish Ballet in Copenhagen and been the recipient of various awards, including, in 1988, the Don Banks Fellowship.
Howard's literary interests are the basis for much of his music in all forms and his four operas, Inner Voices, Metamorphosis, Whitsunday and Wide Sargasso Sea, as well as the musical The Enchanted Rainforest and the early music-theatre work, Dodici schedi e musica, demonstrate his particular strength in translating dramatic action into music. Stylistically, his work exhibits a rigorously structured formalism, graced by his response to the stimulus of the vocal line in choral and operatic music, but with a taut, cerebral quality pervading much of the instrumental pieces. Demanding as it is, the music remains accessible. Meticulously self-critical, Howard has destroyed much of his earliest work.
Stage: Dodice schedi e musica (music theatre), 1972; Inner Voices (chbr op, 10 scenes, L. Nowra), 1979, rev. 1980, Melbourne, Grant Street, 2 Oct 1979; Macbeth (incid music, W. Shakespeare), str qt, 1982; The Rainbow Serpent (ballet), 1982, Sydney, Everest Theatre, Seymour Centre, 3 July 1982; Metamorphosis (chbr op, 6 scenes, S. Berkoff and Howard, after F. Kafka), 1983, Melbourne, St Martin's, 30 Sept 1983; The Celestial Mirror (ballet), 1987, Perth, His Majesty's, 8 July 1988; Whitsunday (chbr op, 3, L. Nowra), 1988, Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre, 2 Sept 1988; The Enchanted Rainforest (musical, 2, N. Amadio), 1989–91; Masquerade (ballet), 1992–4, Perth, His Majesty's, Oct 1994; Wide Sargasso Sea (op, 2, Howard after J. Rhys), 1996, South Melbourne, Merlyn, 26 July 1997
Orch: Variations for Orch, 1967; May Ov., 1968; 3 Haiku, 1972; Spring Snow, 1974; Il tramonto della luna, 1976; The Temple of the Golden Pavilion, 1976; Pan, 1981; Wildbird Dreaming, 1988
Vocal: A Fringe of Leaves, choir, str, 1982; Jean Rhys, 1v, chbr ens, 1991
Chbr: Fireworks, perc ens; Oboe Qt, 1970; Sonata for Wind Insts, wind ens; Ferns, ens, 1973; Elegies, ens, 1977; Chanson de la plus haute tour, ens, 1980; Fly Away Peter, wind qnt, 1984; The Secret Garden, ens, 1984; Sun and Steel, 12 solo str, 1986; The Song of Ice, ens, 1986; Nocturnes, hn, ens, 1992
Solo inst: Pf Sonata, 1967; Gracciano, gui, 1976; Nocturne, gui, 1981; Preludes, pf, 1986
Principal publisher: Boosey & Hawkes
B. Broadstock: ‘Brian Howard’, Sound Ideas: Australian Composers Born Since 1950 (Sydney, 1995), 128–9
Howard, John Tasker
(b Brooklyn, NY, 30 Nov 1890; d West Orange, NJ, 20 Nov 1964). American writer on music and composer. He studied the piano as a child, and later attended Williams College (1910–13; honorary MA 1937). After further study of the piano and composition he served as managing editor of The Musician (1919–22), and then joined the Ampico Corporation as educational director and demonstrator of their mechanized piano. In 1928 he left Ampico and began an intensive involvement with American music which resulted in many articles in periodicals and reference works.
He served as music editor of McCall's magazine (1928–9) and Cue magazine (1936–8), and for the US George Washington Bicentennial Commission (1931) and the US Constitution Sesquicentennial Commission (1937). He was curator of the Musical Americana collection of the New York Public Library (1940–56), and lecturer in music at Columbia University (1950–54). He also served on the board of directors of the ASCAP, and continued to compose music.
His music has been characterized as romantic and sentimental. Many pieces are based on folksongs, and some on the music of Stephen Foster. He published many works for piano solo, including the Calendar Suite (on months of the year), numerous songs for chorus and for solo voice, Mosses from an Old Manse, Ballade (after Hawthorne) for String Orchestra, the music for Wakefield, a Folk-Masque, written for the George Washington Bicentennial, and several collections of early 19th-century American songs and piano music. He was better known as a writer than as a composer: his important book Our American Music (1931) was greeted with enthusiasm as the first comprehensive account of American music, for it included, in addition to a readable history, a discussion of folk music and biographical sketches of many American composers. It was criticized for its over-reliance on secondary sources, and much of the older material has become dated, but, with its biographies and bibliography, it retains a place as a useful reference work.
‘The American Composer, the Victim of his Friends’, MQ, viii (1922), 313–18
‘Inevitability as a Criterion of Art’, MQ, ix (1923), 303–13
A. Walter Kramer (New York, 1926) [comprehensive bio-bibliography]; part of biography repr. as ‘A. Walter Kramer: the Early Years’, Music Journal, xxx/3 (1972), 30–31
ed.: The Music of George Washington's Time (Washington DC, 1931/R)
Our American Music (New York, 1931, enlarged 4/1965)
Stephen Foster, America's Troubadour (New York, 1934/R, 2/1953/R)
Ethelbert Nevin (New York, 1935)
with A. Mendel: Our Contemporary Composers (New York, 1941/R)
This Modern Music (New York, 1942/R, enlarged 2/1958 with J. Lyons as Modern Music)
The World's Great Operas (New York, 1948/R, enlarged 2/1959)
with G.K. Bellows: A Short History of Music in America (New York, 1957, 2/1967)
G.K. Bellows: ‘John Tasker Howard’, Notes, xiv (1956–7), 501–14 [biography, bibliography and list of compositions]
RAMONA H. MATTHEWS