Works performed by Earplay:

From Here on Farther
Sonata für Klavier
Trio in Two Parts

Stefan Wolpe (1902-1972), born in Berlin, fled Europe in the 1930s, first for Palestine and later for New York. Ardent socialist and composer of workers' and Jewish music, associate of the Bauhaus movement as well as artists such as Klee and Kandinsky, Dadaist for a while, and student of Ferruccio Busoni, he came to admire the work of the Second Viennese School (Schoenberg and Webern in particular). Twelve-tone rows served as his creative jumping off place, or perhaps I should say dancing forth place, for he came to express an amazingly profuse and profound aesthetic, expanding twelve-tone techniques to include tonality, jazz, and modal music. He taught at Black Mountain College, Darmstadt, and in New York, where his many students, including Morton Feldman, revered him. But he sometimes struggled to be recognized for the great composer that he was. In 1984 John Cage said that when one visited Wolpe's home in New York City, "one had the feeling that one was at the true center of New York.... And that was what gave a very special strength to one's feeling about Stefan, that it was in a sense a privilege to be aware of him, since it was like being privy to an important secret."

Chief among Wolpe’s accomplishments are his writings (a good bibliography can be found at Oxford Music Online), where his optimism and poetic embrace of music and life shine through. Here is a sample from his 1967 essay Thinking Twice.

The form must be ripped endlessly open and self-renewed by interacting extremes of opposites. There is nothing to develop because everything is already there in reach of one's ears. If one has enough milk in the house, one doesn't go to the grocery store. One doesn't need to sit on the moon if one can write a poem about it with the twitch of one's senses. One is there where one directs oneself to be. On the back of a bird, inside of an apple, dancing on the sun's ray, speaking to Machaut, and holding the skeleton's hand of the incredible Cézanne — there is what there was and what there isn't is also. Don't get backed too much into reality that has fashioned your senses with too many realistic claims.

— R.W.M.

[from program for May 16, 2016 concert]