Compositions written or performed while CF was in residence at Tanglewood,
Summer Home of the Boston Symphony

by Christopher Fulkerson

CF's Composition Desk
From my Tanglewood Composer Fellow class of 1989, left to right:
American Gary Philo, classmate; Brit Oliver Knussen, fine composer and astonishing conductor who ran the Contemporary Music program (he actually conducted four in the right hand and five in the left hand during the Carter Brass Quintet); American Marty Epstein, classmate; German Thomas Donecker, classmate; American Amy Reich, Gary Philo's wife, who was following him around at the Festival, also a composer and Tanglewood composition alumna; Chinese (Australian?) Julian Yu, classmate; the infant boy is Gary and Amy's; Brit Rob Keeley, classmate; Naneen Boyce, who ran Serenak, the house up the hill from the Festival where most of the class lived; American Armand Qualliotine, classmate; American me, Christopher Fulkerson, squatting; Japanese Toshi Saruya, classmate; missing is German Stefan Hackenberg, classmate; and some American guy named something like Doerfeld, who came late and booed the Elliott Carter quintet, which booing profoundly and rightly disturbed Composer-In-Residence Hans Werner Henze (We we were all nominally "studying" with Henze). Doerfeld seems to have gone missing early also.


For CF's Principal Works page CLICK HERE
More links are below

For two months in the summer of 1988 I was a Composer Fellow guest of the Boston Symphony at their summer home in Tanglewood, in Western Massechussetts. I had made an application but expected it to be rejected as usual, but I learned that Milton Babbitt stood up for me with the recommendation that "He's that crazy guy trying to do contemporary music in San Francisco." It's not the only time that my being called "crazy" was meant as a positive recommendation. Ollie Knussen was running the Contemporary Music program. I wrote a fair amount of music, shmoozed, ate, slept, and sweltered in the record high heat wave. I lived in Koussevitsky's mansion Serenak, in the room overlloking the garden behind the kitchen; my girlfriend Cathy Yaklich flew out to visit me for a week. It was the best two months of my life. I have ever since felt closer to Boston than San Francisco, which tolerates me only as a cab driver.

I wrote the Three Purgatory Sonatas at Tanglewood, the time of my life most corresponding to Paradise. Here are the pieces that I completed or conducted that summer at Tanglewood:

OH OMBRE, VANE ("Oh, Vane Shades") Quartet after Dante
First Purgatory Sonata
for Two Clarinets, Viola, and Guitar

The copying of this 1988 work was completed at Tanglewood.

THE CAVERNS OF THE SACRED RIVER, Concerto after Coleridge
for String Orchestra with Percussion
The copying of this 1988 work was also completed at Tanglewood.

LA TURBA CHE RIMASE LI ("The Throng That There Remained")
Second Purgatory Sonata
Trio for Viola, Harp, and Percussion

MA PER QUEL POCO ("But Through That Glimpse")
Third Purgatory Sonata
Chamber Concerto for Octet
This piece was written to a request made by Ollie Knussen for a work to be written in one week. Sections of the piece were read in a workshop at Tanglewood.

for Mezzo soprano and Four Instruments
This piece was written for a Liederabend that Ollie Knussen requested we hold as a good-bye to that summer's Composer-In-Residence, Hans Werner Henze. This is one of the works Henze mentions on Page 458 of his autobiography, "Bohemian Fifths." The poems to be set for the Liederabend had to be OKed by Henze. I came prepared with the fours poems by Donald Mitchell, hoping for exactly this opportunity. After reading them, Henze said they were "Perfect." Only the first song was sung at the Liederabend, with a Phillis Curtain Fellow singing the female voice part, and myself on the piano.
NOTE: The World Premiere of this piece was choreographed by Gary Palmer.
To see the video of this dance performance CLICK HERE.

for Soprano, Treble Voices, and Piano
This choral song, to a text by W.S. Merwin about a bird in the snow who sees a cat, was written on a very, very hot day.

for Double String Orchestra
This piece was orchestrated from a short piano piece written in an accessible style in September 1985. It was given with a stupid limerick as a peace offering to Leonard Bernstein, who said simply "Thank you for your gift," but from his remark about THE CHILDERMASS I don't think he liked my music very much.
Of the latter piece he said "There's so much pain," which of course is wrong. I well remember thinking of making the reply "But it sounds heroic." Perhaps I was mistaken to think it would be better for me to remain silent, but no one who knows me or of my passion for Expressionist music could reasonably think I accepted his remark.

THE CHILDERMASS, Chamber Concerto after Wyndham Lewis
This work was written well before I went to Tanglewood, but it was the piece selected for performance there. I was given two full rehearsals in the Shed, and honor that even conducting fellows don't normally get. What I didn't know was that these rehearsals were being broadcast all over the campus! Fortunately they went well...

There was also a one-page left-hand rendering of a simple tonal piece called STEADFASTNESS, dedicated to Leon and Cathy Fleischer. Leon expressed sincere enjoyment of the piece.


Posted June 20, 2011. Updated 10/11/2013.