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Friday, September 30, 2005


First of all, let me say I have only the most romantic memories of my music school days in the late 70's and early 80's. I had the best music teacher one could ever wish for...Dr. Barney Childs. He always told me to write what sounded good to me, not what sounded good to others. Charles Ives said, "Get Your Ears Out of the Easychair". Barney Childs was on the same level as Mr. Ives for me; I loved the man very much and was eager to have him approve of my music. He was disappointed that I went into film and didn't keep up with my music. I think he would understand though that everything I did and still do is based on a personal, innocent philosophy and an innocent poetry, whether music or film. He did say before he died that I was a philosopher, then an artist. I took that as a compliment.

BARNEY CHILDS was born in Spokane in 1926. He was a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University, and received a Ph.D. in English and music from Stanford University. Childs was largely self-taught in music until the early 1950s, when he studied at Tanglewood with Carlos Chavez and Aaron Copland and in New York with Elliott Carter. By the late '50s, his works were performed regularly in New York and elsewhere throughout the U.S. He won the Koussevitzky Award at Tanglewood in 1954 and had many MacDowell residencies.
Childs taught English at University of Arizona from 1956 to 1965, when he became dean of Deep Springs College in California. From 1969 to 1971, he was composer-in-residence at Wisconsin College Conservatory in Milwaukee. In 1971, he began teaching literature and music at the University of Redlands, becoming a full professor in 1973 and a faculty researcher and lecturer in 1979.

Childs was poetry editor of the journal "Genesis West" (1962-65) and an editor of "Perspectives of New Music." He wrote many scholarly articles concerning his musical and aesthetic views, and collaborated with composer Elliott Schwartz to edit the book "Contemporary Composers on Contemporary Music." From 1964 through 1982, Childs ran Advance Recordings, a record company that championed the music of avant-garde composers.
Childs' compositions drew inspiration from many sources, from traditional concert music to the aleatory works of John Cage, and jazz. He was particularly noted for innovative and influential scores (such as TAKE FIVE for any five instruments) that invite performers to collaborate on the realization of the works, and in which indeterminacy and improvisation play a great role.

His compositions include traditional types of works such as symphonies and concertos, chamber pieces for unusual groupings of instruments, and many solo works (often written specifically for renowned new music virtuosi such as bassist Bertram Turetzky). Barney Childs died in February 2000.

I stopped by my old music school and was greatly saddened by what I saw. There wasn't any musical experimentation anymore; it was all old news opera and musicals. The smell of Barney's cigars in the hallways was no longer present. There wasn't even any mention of a Redlands New Music Ensemble and the classic 8:15 pm recitals. When Barney was excited about something he would always say, "First rate!" He would be sorely disappointed with the school now...there wasn't any excitement and freshness in the halls. I feel that it is true about a lot of things in the world today. Where's the experimental wonder? However, the school is just as beautiful as I remember and it made me want to write something to turn things upside down again.
CRC says...

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