John Melby

  • Born in 1941 in Whitehall, Wisconsin, John Melby was brought up in Pulaski, Tennessee, where he began his musical studies as a trombonist/violinist/violist while still a child. He attended the Curtis Institute of Music, from which he earned the Diploma (1964) and B.Mus. (1966); the University of Pennsylvania (M.A. in composition, 1967), where he studied composition with Henry Weinberg and George Crumb; and the Music Department of Princeton University (M.F.A., 1971; Ph.D., 1972: both in composition); his composition teachers there were Peter Westergaard, J. K. Randall, and Milton Babbitt. He taught from 1971 until 1973 at West Chester State College (now West Chester University) in Pennsylvania; in 1973 he was appointed to the Composition/Theory faculty in the School of Music of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was Professor of Music until his retirement in August of 1997, just as his daughter was getting ready to begin her college education, and where he now holds the title of Professor Emeritus.

    He is best known for his music written for computer-synthesized tape, either in combination with live performers or for tape alone, though in recent years he has concentrated upon the composition of large orchestral works. His Symphony No. 1 (1993) was given its premiere performance at the University of Illinois in March of 1994 by the University of Illinois Symphony Orchestra, under the direction of Paul Martin Zonn.

    Melby’s compositions have won numerous awards and have been widely performed both in the United States and abroad. He was the recipient of an NEA Fellowship in 1977, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1983, an award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in 1984, and an associateship in the University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study in 1989-90. His awards include several at the International Electroacoustic Music Awards (Bourges, France), where he received First Prize in 1979 for his Chor der Steine for computer-synthesized tape.

    In recent years, he has composed a series of concerti for various instruments and tape, including two violin concerti, two flute concerti, two violoncello concerti, and concerti for piano, viola, clarinet, contrabass, English horn, a double concerto for violin and English horn with tape, and a concerto for tape and orchestra in which (reversing the usual situation) the tape is the soloist instead of the accompaniment. He has also composed for the voice, his Two Stevens Songs, one of several works incorporating poems by Wallace Stevens, being one of his most frequently performed compositions. Other compositions in his catalogue include two piano sonatas, three string quartets (the most recent of which includes tape), songs for voice and piano, pieces for larger ensembles, both with and without tape, numerous compositions for tape alone, an unpublished opera, and a recent symphony (see above). He has recently completed a large work for lyric baritone, chorus (SATB) and large orchestra based upon William Cullen Bryant’s poem Thanatopsis , and he has begun work on his Symphony No. 2. His music is published by Margun Music, Inc. and Merion Music, Inc. (Theodore Presser Co.), and recorded on the CRI, Advance [now unfortunately out of print], New World, Centaur, and Zuma labels.

    John Melby is a member of Broadcast Music, Inc.

  • Cover Title (Subtitle) Duration Instrumentation
    140-40081 First Piano Sonata
    Piano Unaccompanied
    143-40010 Rest Is Silence
    140-40080 Second Piano Sonata
    Chamber Ensemble
    144-40375 Composition for Five Brasses
    144-40373 Four Pieces
    String Quartet No. 1
    8:00 String Quartet
    144-40482 String Quartet No. 3
    144-40368 Zonnorities
    9:00 Woodwind Duet
    13352 Symphony No. 1
    for Large Orchestra
    4030 3(Picc./A.Fl.) 3(E.H.) 3(Cl. in A/B.Cl./Cb.Cl.) 3(Cbsn.) – 4 3(Flugelhorn) 3(B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. 2Hp. Str.
    16982 Symphony No. 2
    for Orchestra
    21:30 3(Picc.) 3(E.H.) 4(E-Flat Cl., B.Cl.) 4(Cbsn.) – 4 2 3(B.Tbn.) 1 Flugelhorn; Timp. 3Perc. 2Hp. Str.
    Works with Electronics
    144-40377 91 Plus 5
    144-40167 Accelerazioni
    144-40376 Alto Rhapsody
    144-40486 Concerto
    For Vn/Eh/Cd
    13344 Concerto for Computer and Orchestra
    (formerly titled: Concerto for Computer-Synthesized Tape and Orchestra)
    19:30 2(Picc.) 2(E.H.) 2(B.Cl.) 2 -4 3 3(Cb.) 1; Timp. Perc. Hp. Str. Tape
    144-40374 Concerto for English Horn and Computer
    144-40166 Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Computer
    140-40065 Concerto No. 1 for Piano and Computer
    144-40165 Concerto No. 1 for Viola and Computer
    144-40216 Concerto No. 2 for Flute and Computer
    144-40484 Concerto No. 2 for Violin and Computer
    144-40485 Concerto No. 2 for Violoncello and Computer
    140-40079 In Tenebris
    For Piano and Computer
    11:15 Piano with Instrument
    144-40371 L’Infinito
    144-40370 Passages
    141-40062 Peter Quince At The Clavier
    For Soprano and Computer
    144-40483 Threeplay
    144-40369 Transparencies
    For Trumpet and Computer
    Vocal / Choral
    10039 Thanatopsis
    for Lyric Baritone, Mixed Chorus and Orchestra
    55:00 Solo Lyric Baritone, SATB Chorus; 4(Picc. Alto Fl.) 4(E.H.) 5(Eb Cl./B.Cl./Cb.Cl.) 4(Cbsn.) – 6 4(B.Tpt.), Flugelhorn, 5(2AltoTbn./ B.Tbn.) 1; Timp. 3Perc. Cel. 2Hp. Str. (minimum

  • 91 PLUS 5
    John Melby’s 91 Plus 5 is… a computer use which I have usually found intriguing: the combination of taped with live performance. The expert Contemporary Brass Quintet, combined with a very imaginative use of electronic tape, is, in my books, an extension
    –The New Records

    Melby’s orchestration…is imaginative and assured. A very worthwhile release…I hope we will be hearing more of Melby’s computer concertos on CD.
    –Phillip Scott, Fanfare (review of Albany TROY 1124 CD)

    The concise, notated piece lets the violin do what it has always done best: make music that sings. Considering that many contemporary composers would rather make the violin croak, Melby must be congratulated. The composer, who teaches
    –Andrew Adler, The Louisville Times

    The final selection on the program was titled Zonnorities for Oboe, Clarinet and Computer.” Despite the pun this was not a humorous piece. This particular computer was programmed by a 19th century romantic and had singable melodies with which the instrume
    –Wilma Zonn & Paul Martin Zonn, (location illegible) Journal

  • International Electronic Music INTERNATIONAL ELECTRONIC MUSIC
    CRI/New World Records (NWCRL364); January 1, 2011
    Performer(s): Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano
    Work(s): Two Stevens Songs
    Hiller/ Baker/ Melby HILLER/ BAKER/ MELBY
    CRI/New World Records (NWCRL310); February 1, 2010
    Performer(s): Contemporary Brass Quintet, Roman Pawlowski, conductor
    Work(s): 91 PLUS 5
    Concerti CONCERTI
    Albany Records (TROY1124); July 1, 2009
    Performer(s): Polish Radio National Symphony Orchestra, Joel Eric Suben, conductor
    Work(s): Concerto for Computer and Orchestra
    Concerto for Violin, Piano and Computer
    Concerto No. 2 for Piano and Computer
    Cultures Électroniques 13 CULTURES ÉLECTRONIQUES 13
    Mnémosyne Musique Média (LDC 278070-71); January 1, 2000
    Performer(s): John Melby
    Work(s): Chor der Steine
    Hidden Sparks HIDDEN SPARKS
    CRI/New World Records (80333); January 1, 1997
    Performer(s): Maryvonne Le Dizes-Richard, violin; Jean-Claude Henriot, piano
    Work(s): Concerto for Violin, English Horn and Computer
    Concerto No. 1 for Violin and Computer
    Shadow of the Condor SHADOW OF THE CONDOR
    Zuma Records (dist. Empire Music Group) (CD ZMA-105); May 1, 1996
    Performer(s): Taimur Sullivan, saxophone
    Work(s): Alto Rhapsody
    Concerto No. 1 for Clarinet and Computer
    Shards of Glass SHARDS OF GLASS
    Zuma Records (dist. Empire Music Group) (CD ZMA-104); November 17, 1994
    Performer(s): Tim Lane, flute
    Work(s): Concerto No. 2 for Flute and Computer
    Centaur Records (CRC2110); November 9, 1993
    Performer(s): Rachel Rudich, flute
    Work(s): Concerto No. 1 for Flute and Computer
    CDCM Computer Music Series, Vol. 3 CDCM COMPUTER MUSIC SERIES, VOL. 3
    Centaur Records (CRC2045)
    Performer(s): Dorothy Martirano, violin
    Work(s): Chor der Waisen

  • 1989-1990: Associateship in the University of Illinois Center for Advanced Study
    1984: American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters award
    1983: Guggenheim Fellowship
    1977: NEA Fellowship
    1976: Martha Baird Rockefeller Recording Award
    Four awards from the International Electroacoustic Music Awards (Bourges, France), including 1st prize for Chor der Steine in 1979.

  • Concerto for Piano and Computer