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 your outlook?
John Harbison: Well I think almost anyone would change between those viewpoints depending on almost the daily report; but I'm optimistic that there are so many good intentions; but I'm pessimistic because if you're as interested as I am in history, you see so many patterns recycling themselves. And there seems to be very little ability to see them coming and try to do it differently. So my pessimism comes from having the feeling that we’re in cycles that are … their potential for destructiveness has not yet played out.
Recorded On: 6/12/07