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: What is the world's greatest challenge in the coming decade?
John Harbison: Yeah. I think the biggest challenge is going to be trying to … well, the redistribution of resource. There’ve been encouraging sign, which is that some of the richest people have decided that the flint beyond the herd of scale might be able to change some of the most horrible situations, particularly African and medical situations and so forth. That’s encouraging. I think that probably a much more radical idea of redistribution of resources is necessary. And locally right now on a graph we are going the other direction. We are certainly quite content with people at the upper scale getting much richer, and people on the bottom disappearing. There, of course, one could argue that the lack of a primary truly genuine, spiritual, religious impulse may be one of the reasons it’s so hard to settle the idea of distribution of resources.
Recorded On: 6/12/07