William Albright (musician)

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William Hugh Albright (October 20, 1944 – September 17, 1998) was an American composer, pianist and organist.


Albright was born in Gary, Indiana, and began learning the piano at the age of five, and attended the Juilliard Preparatory Department (1959–62), the Eastman School of Music (1962–63) and the University of Michigan (1962–70), where he studied composition with Ross Lee Finney and George Rochberg, and organ with Marilyn Mason. He interrupted his studies for the 1968–69 academic year when he received a Fulbright scholarship to study with Olivier Messiaen in Paris. Upon his graduation in 1970 he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he taught until his death from liver failure in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1998 (Griffiths 1998).


His music combined elements of tonal and non-tonal classical music (in particular the influence of Messiaen) with American popular music and non-Western music (Gillespie 2001), in what has been described as "polystylistic" or "quaquaversal" music (Chambers 1999, 32)—which makes the definition of an overall style difficult (Perone 1988, abstract). Albright's approach to some of his music has been considered to be surrealistic (Rosenberg 2010, 44–45). In particular, he was an enthusiast for ragtime (Bassett 1999, 28–29) and made notable recordings of the piano rags of Scott Joplin and others.[clarification needed] He also recorded an album of his own ragtime compositions.

In addition to his compositional and teaching activities, he Albright maintained an active career and was regarded as both a virtuoso organist and pianist, performing many recitals on both instruments throughout North American and Europe. He commissioned new works for the organ from other contemporary composers to play on his international concert tours (Griffiths 1998). His hymns appear in hymnals of the Unitarian and Episcopalian Churches.

Albright's notable students include Derek Bermel, John Burke, Evan Chambers, Chihchun Chi-sun Lee, Gabriela Lena Frank, Alexander Frey, Evan Hause, Katt Hernandez, Joseph Lukasik, John Howell Morrison, Carter Pann, Frank Ticheli, and Michael Sidney Timpson.


  • Bassett, Leslie. 1999. "In Praise of William Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 27–29.
  • Beckford, Richard Edward. 1997. "The Organ Symphony: Its Evolution in France and Transformation in Selected Works by Composers of the Twentieth Century". DMA diss. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University.
  • Chambers, Evan. 1999. "In Memoriam William Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 31–33.
  • Gillespie, Don C. 2001. "Albright, William". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, second edition, edited by Stanley Sadie and John Tyrrell. London: Macmillan Publishers.
  • Griffiths, Paul. 1998. "William Albright, 53, Composer of Ragtime Music for the Organ". New York Times (23 September).
  • Krahn, Stephen W. 1994. "Structural, Tonal, and Linear Problems in William Albright's Symphony for Organ". DMA diss. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.
  • Little, Jeanie R. 1975. "Serial, Aleatoric, and Electronic Techniques in American Organ Music Published between 1960 and 1972." Ph.D. diss. Ames: University of Iowa.
  • Perone, James Edward. 1988. "Pluralistic Strategies in Musical Analysis: A Study of Selected Works by William Albright". Ph.D. diss., Buffalo: State University of New York at Buffalo.
  • Rosenberg, Timothy Earl. 2010. "Interpreting the Music of William Albright: A Surrealistic Approach". Ph.D. diss., East Lansing: Michigan State University.
  • Santos, Eric. 1999. "Requiem for Bill Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 35–37.
  • Szoka, Marta. 1994. "Twórczosc Williama Albrighta na tle wspólczesnej muzyki organowej w USA" [The Works of William Albright against the Background of Contemporary Organ Music]. In Organy i muzyka organowa IX (Prace specjalne 52), edited by Janusz Krassowski. Gdańsk: Akademia Muzyczna im. Stanisława Moniuszki.

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