Wednesday, December 30, 2015

John Duffy (1926-2015)

John Duffy, a prolific composer who in 1982 organized the Meet the Composer program that places composers in residencies with US orchestras and more recently ran the John Duffy Composers Institute of the Virginia Arts Festival, has died at 89.

Duffy, a New York native who settled in Norfolk, wrote more than 300 works for the concert hall, theater, television and film, among them the opera “Muhammad Ali” and Emmy Award-winning scores for “A Talent for Life: Jews of the Italian Renaissance,” telecast by NBC, and the PBS series “Heritage: Civilization and the Jews.”

Ed Harsh, CEO of New Music USA, the organization formed after the merger of Meet the Composer and the American Music Center, recalls Duffy’s “healthy disregard for conventional hierarchies” of music.

“For John, the idea that a ‘classical’ symphonic work was, by nature, automatically worthy of higher status than the work of, say, Ornette Coleman or Burt Bacharach – to use two of his favorite examples – was simply bunk. . . . The exploding variety of creativity we’re blessed with in 2015, which blows through genre categories like so much thin air, may obscure for us now the uncommon character of his views,” Harsh writes in a remembrance of Duffy for New Music USA’s web magazine New Music Box:

An obituary by William Grimes for The New York Times: