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The Works of John Duffy on PSNY

John Duffy is a towering figure in American composition, having composed over 300 works for symphony orchestra, chamber ensemble, film and television, opera, and theater. Born in 1926, Duffy is of a generation of American composers who helped define what it means to be a composer in the 21st century. Having studied with American greats, such as Copland, Cowell, but also European modernists such as Dallapiccola, Duffy pursued a compositional tack that melded direct, emotional writing with a unique sense of modernity.

In 1974, Duffy founded Meet the Composer, the pioneering organization that brought contemporary American composition into the homes of millions of Americans. Supporting programs that would engage composers with their audiences, Meet the Composer partnered with over 4,000 artistic and civic organizations to engage over 7,000 living composers with communities in all 50 states. Over its 37-year tenure as an independent organization, Meet the Composer had already fundamentally changed the face of American composition before merging with the American Music Center to become New Music USA, which continues its heritage. 

In addition to Meet the Composer, John Duffy founded the John Duffy Composers Institute at the Virginia Arts Festival in 2004. The Duffy Institute has supported the development of new operas by young composers, providing a platform for workshop performances of dozens of new works. Several PSNY composers have been involved with the Institute, including Christopher Cerrone and Gregory Spears.

Many of Duffy's works are available through Schott Music, including his recent opera, Black Water, as well as many orchestral and large-scale works. But here at PSNY, we're pleased to make available several of Duffy's chamber works for direct digital download. Beginning with a curated selection of five of his works from across the decades, we will be posting more works in the coming year. 

Duffy's 1971 Variations, for french horn, violin, viola, and cello, shows the composer exploring the possibilities of both rhythmic and melodic variations while still keeping the music full of humor, direct emotion, and a clarity of purpose. This playfulness is seen again in his 1975 Toccata and Fuguefor piccolo and percussion. Old forms are made new again in his 1990 Heritage Suite, which sees the composer evoking historical dances while making a thoroughly contemporary statement. Finally, Duffy's 2005/9 piece, We Want Mark Twain! is an evocative and dramatic piece for string quartet and narrator. 

We hope that you will have a chance to explore Duffy's works both on PSNY and through Schott Music, especially as we gear up to celebrate his 90th birthday in 2016! 

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