David Del Tredici

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David Del Tredici
Years active 1960s-today
Era Modernism

David Del Tredici (born March 16, 1937) is an American composer. He has won a Pulitzer Prize, is a former Guggenheim and Woodrow Wilson fellow. Del Tredici is considered a "pioneer" of the Neo-Romantic movement. He has been described by the Los Angeles Times as one of the United States' "most flamboyant outside composers."[1]

Early life and education[edit]

He started as a pianist. He has said that if he wasn't a pianist, he would have been a florist. He started playing the piano at the age of 12. Del Tredici attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he studied the piano. As a young pianist he played Romantic works. During his time at Berkeley, he attended the Aspen Music Festival and School. The pianist he was going to study with was "mean" to him, so Del Tredici tried his hand at composing music. He composed Opus 1, his first composition. He was invited to perform it for Darius Milhaud. Milhaud complimented him on the piece and Del Tredici went back to Berkeley to study composition. During the early period of his professional development, he continued to find influence in his piano teachers, specifically Bernhard Abramovitch and Robert Helps. Del Tredici says that his piano teachers were more creative and about trusting "your instincts," versus the attitude and teaching style of his composition professors. After studying at the University of California, Berkeley, he attended Princeton University.[2] He studied composition with Roger Sessions, Earl Kim and Seymour Shifrin.

At Princeton he found influence in and became active in the composition style of serialism.[contradictory] He quit that style of composition within one year of starting it. He left Princeton to live in New York City for two years, before returning back to the university.[2]


In 1964, Del Tredici met Aaron Copland at Tanglewood. They remained friends until Copland's death in 1990. Copland's composition style remains an influence on Del Tredici. He taught at Harvard University, where he worked alongside Leon Kirchner. He was a part of the modernism movement, and has stated that "anything bad appeals to any young composer," including himself. He experimented with serialism, but, stopped composing in that style within one year of starting.[2]

Much of Del Tredici's work was inspired by the work of writers, including James Joyce. As a former Catholic, Del Tredici was attracted to Joyce's struggles with his own Catholic past and his "tortured life," which worked well into Del Tredici's "dissonant and nearly atonal" style. He also found inspiration in work by Martin Gardner and Lewis Carroll. During this period, he found himself moving back towards tonality in his style.[2] Del Tredici was Composer-In-Residence at the New York Philharmonic from 1988 until 1990. From 1999 until 2000 he taught at Yale University. He has also worked at Boston University, Juilliard School, and the University of Buffalo.[3] As of 2013, he is a faculty member of the City College of New York.[1]

Today, he continues to use texts to influence his song cycles.[2] His work has continued to pull from Lewis Carroll, including Alice in Wonderland but has ventured into using works by contemporary American poets.[2][3] He has also created works celebrating "gayness", acknowledging that many great composers were gay and that "it's something to be celebrated."[2] The gay themes in his work examine "tormented relationships, personal transformations, and the joys and sorrows of gay life." He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has held additional residencies at Yaddo, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.[3]


He has composed work for Michael Tilson Thomas, which was performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra. The work, Adventures Underground, pulled inspiration from the poem The Mouse's Tail. Del Tredici has also composed works for rock and folk music. He has composed works for Phyllis Bryn-Julson,[2] San Francisco Symphony,[2] and the New York Philharmonic.[3] He has also composed an opera and song cycles.[2] He has written works using the work of or as tribute to Chana Bloch, Colette Inez, Allen Ginsberg, Thom Gunn, Paul Monette and Alfred Corn. His work In Memory of a Summer Day (part one of Child Alice) won Del Tredici a Pulitzer Prize. The piece would be 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, which was commissioned by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, was debuted by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.[3]

  • 1988, Tattoo, Concertgebouw Orchestra[3]
  • 1990, Steps, New York Philharmonic[3]
  • 1996, The Spider and the Fly, New York Philharmonic[3]
  • 1998, Chana's Story, San Francisco Contemporary Players[3]
  • 1999, Dracula, Eos Orchestra[3]
  • 2013, Bullycide, La Jolla Music Society[1]

Personal life today[edit]

Del Tredici is openly gay.[2]



  1. ^ a b c Swed, Mark. "Gay bullying inspires composer David Del Tredici's 'Bullycide'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 29 July 2014. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "An interview with David Del Tredici". American Mavericks. American Public Media. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n "David Del Tredici". Kavlos Damian. Retrieved 28 July 2014. 

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