John Harbison is an American composer whose work is notable for its astonishing range and diversity. He has written for every conceivable type of concert performance and is also considered original and accessible for a wide range of audiences. His major works include four string quartets, four symphonies, the 1987 Pulitzer Prize-winning cantata The Flight into Egypt and three operas, including "The Great Gatsby," which was commissioned by The Metropolitan Opera and first performed in December 1999. Harbison has been composer-in-residence with the Pittsburgh Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Santa Fe Chamber Festival, the American Academy in Rome, Tanglewood, the California Institute for the Arts and Chamber Music West. He is also an Institute Professor at MIT and the Acting Artistic Director of Emmanuel Music. Harbison holds an MFA from Princeton University.
Question: How will this age be remembered?
John Harbison: Well you know, it’s gonna be remembered in a rather paradoxical way. Very often when there’s been a bad distribution of wealth, and a few people with great privilege and a lot of people suffering and so forth, paradoxically many, many, things in the arts and architecture and the building of beautiful things have occurred. And I think that this period will be, in terms of the making of things, the making of beautiful things, that I think it will be remembered with great distinction. The Renaissance popes, some of the worst patronize some of the greatest artistic events. Pope Julius . . . we have the Sistine Chapel from a pope who spent most of his time fighting. So we who are artists have to accept that good times for us are often bad times for society.
Recorded On: 6/12/07