Personal Anecdotes About the Founders of the American Music Center Patrick Hardish, Composer; Co-Director, Composers Concordance
Patrick Hardish photo by Barry Cohen Courtesy of Patrick Hardish Otto Luening was a great mentor and influence as well as being a close personal friend. He was important to my development as a composer and on the progress of our organization, the Composers Concordance. I got to know Otto in July 1980 at Bennington… Read more »
Otto Luening was a great mentor and influence as well as being a close personal friend. He was important to my development as a composer and on the progress of our organization, the Composers Concordance. I got to know Otto in July 1980 at Bennington College where I was taking a composition seminar. He was a visiting professor there that summer but was no stranger to the Bennington campus having headed that college’s music department from 1934-44. We ran into each other often after that in New York City at various events such as new music concerts, the American Music Center annual parties and his own birthday parties. A highlight was a wonderful gala at the Century Club for his 95th birthday. We also saw each other in and around the Columbia University area where Otto had an apartment on Riverside Drive. (I was a graduate music student and staff member of the Columbia University Music Library at the time.) Otto also taught for several years at Columbia and served as music chairman of Columbia’s School of the Arts until his retirement in 1970 when he was named Professor Emeritus.
Otto was much involved from the very beginning of the Composers Concordance in 1983 and became our Chief Advisor. It began with regular meetings (or “pow-wows” as he liked called them) at his apartment. The meetings took place between Otto, Joseph Pehrson (my co-director) and myself and usually set out with a broad look at the contemporary music scene along with asides on Otto’s historical odyssey as a composer both here and abroad. He always kept up on the current developments of music and was very catholic in his tastes. He hardly ever discussed musical aesthetics as he thought that this was the personal business of each composer but often discussed the practical matters of being a composer and our job as concert directors. He always made Joseph and I feel very at ease during the meetings and always came across as “one of the guys.” Sometimes these meetings would last for five hours, but they would go by so quickly as we were all having such a good time. He had so much to say to us, so much advice to give, so many wonderful stories. These meeting were a very important and wonderful time in my life and I will always remember them.
Otto was very political in a positive sense, that is, he knew how to get along with his colleagues and help the cause of contemporary American concert music. Of course he always had a keen sense of who had talent and who did not having been a professor of composition for many years but rarely spoke ill of another composer. Otto had so many wonderful qualities but the one that stands out in my mind was his quality as a human being in addition to his obvious abilities as a composer, professor of composition, and organizer. I know no one as interested in advancing others as he was. I feel very lucky to have known him and miss him dearly.