David Del Tredici

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David Del Tredici
Born(1937-03-16)March 16, 1937
DiedNovember 18, 2023(2023-11-18) (aged 86)
New York City, U.S.
Alma materUniversity of California, Berkeley
Princeton University
Known forNeo-Romanticism
Notable workIn Memory of a Summer Day
AwardsPulitzer Prize for Music (1980)
Guggenheim Fellow
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship

David Walter Del Tredici (March 16, 1937 – November 18, 2023) was an American composer. He won a Pulitzer Prize for Music and was a Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson fellow. Del Tredici is considered a pioneer of the Neo-Romantic movement. He was also described by the Los Angeles Times as "one of our most flamboyant outsider composers".[1]

Early life and education[edit]

Del Tredici was born in Cloverdale, California, on March 16, 1937.[2] He started his musical life as an aspiring pianist at the age of twelve, and said that if he had not been a pianist, he would have become a florist. He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied piano and played primarily Romantic works. At Berkeley, he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School. The pianist he was going to study with was "mean" to him, however, so Del Tredici tried his hand at composing music instead.[3] He composed Opus 1, his first composition, and was invited to perform it for Darius Milhaud.[3] After Milhaud complimented him on the piece, Del Tredici went back to Berkeley to concentrate on composition rather than performance.[3]

During his early development as a composer, he found influence in his piano teachers Bernhard Abramovitch and Robert Helps, whom he found more creative and supportive of trusting "your instincts" than had been his composition professors. After studying at the University of California, Berkeley, he attended Princeton University.[3] There he studied composition with Roger Sessions, Earl Kim, and Seymour Shifrin.

At Princeton he was initially influenced by serialism,[dubious ] but abandoned that school of composition within a year of starting it.[3] He left Princeton to live in New York City for two years before returning to the university.[3]


In 1964, Del Tredici met Aaron Copland at Tanglewood; they would be friends for the remainder of Copland's life, and his musical style remained an influence on Del Tredici.[3]

Del Tredici taught at Harvard University, where he worked alongside Leon Kirchner, and was a part of the modernism movement. He stated that "anything bad appeals to any young composer", including himself.[3]

Much of Del Tredici's work was inspired by literature, including author and poet James Joyce. As a fellow lapsed Catholic, Del Tredici was attracted to Joyce's struggles with his own Catholic past and "tortured life", which found voice in Del Tredici's "dissonant and nearly atonal" style.[3] He also found inspiration in Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice and its commentary on the works of Lewis Carroll.[3] During this period, he found himself moving back towards tonality, which he felt was more appropriate for works such as his Final Alice and Adventures Underground.[3]

Del Tredici was Composer-In-Residence at the New York Philharmonic from 1988 until 1990. In 1999 and 2000 he taught at Yale University. He also taught at Boston University, Juilliard School, and the University of Buffalo.[4] As of 2013, he was a faculty member of the City College of New York.[1]

Towards the end of his life, Del Tredici continued to draw on literature for his song cycles.[3] His work continued to draw on Lewis Carroll (particularly Alice in Wonderland), but he was also inspired by contemporary American poets.[3][4] He also created works celebrating "gayness", acknowledging that many great composers were gay and that "it's something to be celebrated".[3] A reviewer noted that themes in his work examine "tormented relationships, personal transformations, and the joys and sorrows of gay life".[4] He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters and held additional residencies at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.[4]


Del Tredici died of Parkinson's disease at his home in Manhattan on November 18, 2023, at the age of 86.[2]


Del Tredici composed work for Michael Tilson Thomas and the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. His work Adventures Underground drew inspiration from the poem The Mouse's Tail. Del Tredici also composed works influenced by rock and folk music. He wrote works for Phyllis Bryn-Julson,[3] the San Francisco Symphony,[3] and the New York Philharmonic.[4] He also composed an opera and song cycles.[3] He wrote music using the work of, or as tribute to, Chana Bloch, Colette Inez, Allen Ginsberg, Thom Gunn, Paul Monette, and Alfred Corn.

His In Memory of a Summer Day (part one of Child Alice) won Del Tredici a Pulitzer Prize. That piece was developed into a ballet, which has been performed by the National Ballet of Canada and the Grand Théâtre de Genève. In 1988, his work Tattoo, commissioned by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, was debuted by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.[4]

  • 1988, Tattoo, Concertgebouw Orchestra[4]
  • 1990, Steps, New York Philharmonic[4]
  • 1998, The Spider and the Fly, New York Philharmonic[4]
  • 1998, Chana's Story, San Francisco Contemporary Players[4]
  • 1999, Dracula, Eos Orchestra[4]
  • 2003, In Wartime, University of Texas at Austin Wind Ensemble[5]
  • 2004, Gotham Glory, fp. March 15, 2005, Anthony de Mare, piano[6]
  • 2004, Syzygy, Asko Ensemble[7]
  • 2013, Bullycide, La Jolla Music Society[1]



  1. ^ a b c Swed, Mark (August 15, 2013). "Gay bullying inspires composer David Del Tredici's 'Bullycide'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 29, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Kozinn, Alice (November 20, 2023). "David Del Tredici, 86, Pulitzer-Winning Composer Obsessed by 'Alice,' Dies". The New York Times. p. A17.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q "An interview with David Del Tredici". American Mavericks. American Public Media. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "David Del Tredici". Kavlos Damian. Retrieved July 28, 2014.
  5. ^ Del Tredici, David. "In Wartime for Wind Ensemble (2003) | Works." David Del Tredici, Composer. N.p., August 30, 2016. Web. March 17, 2017.
  6. ^ Boosey.com
  7. ^ Gutman, David (January 9, 2013). "Del Tredici Syzygy; Vintage alice; Songs". www.gramophone.co.uk. Retrieved January 19, 2018.

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