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Charles Tomlinson Griffes

From Academic Kids

Charles Tomlinson Griffes (Elmira, New York September 17, 1884April 8, 1920 in New York City} was an American composer.

After early studies on piano and organ in his home town, he went to Berlin to study composition with Humperdinck. On returning to the U.S. in 1907 he began teaching at Hackley School in Tarrytown, New York, a post which he held for many years.

Griffes is the most famous American representative of musical Impressionism. He was fascinated by the exotic, mysterious sound of the French Impressionists, and was compositionally much influenced by them while he was in Europe. He also studied the work of contemporary Russian composers (for example Scriabin), whose influence is also apparent in his work, for example in his use of synthetic scales.

His most famous works are the White Peacock, for piano (1917); his Piano Sonata in F (1918); a tone poem, The Pleasure Dome of Kubla Khan, after the fragment by Coleridge (1919), and the Poem for Flute and Orchestra (1919). He also wrote numerous programmatic pieces for piano, chamber ensembles, and for voice. The amount and quality of his music is impressive considering his short life and his full-time teaching job, and much of his music is still performed.

He died of influenza—possibly the infamous Spanish Flu—at the age of 35, and is buried in Bloomfield Cemetery, Essex County, New Jersey.

References and further reading

  • The Concise Edition of Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Musicians, 8th ed. Revised by Nicolas Slonimsky. New York, Schirmer Books, 1993. ISBN 002872416X

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