Robert Graettinger

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(From left:) Pete Rugolo, Stan Kenton, and Bob Graettinger.
Photograph by William P. Gottlieb.

Robert Frederick Graettinger (October 31, 1923 – March 12, 1957) was an American composer, best known for his work with Stan Kenton.

Early life and work[edit]

Graettinger grew up in Ontario, California, learning to play the saxophone in high school. While at school he also began arranging music. In the 1940s he played alto sax with Benny Carter among others. Around this time he focused more on composing.

Stan Kenton period[edit]

In 1947 he offered a short composition, "Thermopylae", to Stan Kenton, who decided to record it. Graettinger then came up with "City of Glass", a four-part tone poem. At this time he was studying composition under Russell Garcia.

Graettinger's radical polystylistic soundworld, with its polyphonic density and bracing atonality, while drawing on ideas previously explored by the likes of Charles Ives, Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland and even Arnold Schoenberg, still remains truly distinctive. He died aged only 33, of lung cancer.


Capitol Recordings by Stan Kenton:

The Ebony Big Band:

  • City of Glass: Robert Graettinger 1994
  • The Ebony Big Band: Live at the Paradiso — Robert Graettinger 1998

Further reading[edit]

Robert Badgett Morgan: The Music and Life of Robert Graettinger, University of Illinois, 1974.

Irwin Chusid: "Songs in the Key of Z" (ISBN 1-901447-11-1), chapter 18

W.F. Lee: Stan Kenton: Artistry in Rhythm, Los Angeles, 1980.