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American composer James Mulcro Drew was raised in New York City and began music studies at age five. His adult music studies began in the 1950's, when he studied counterpoint, harmony, and composition with Wallingford Riegger. During the early 1960's, Drew’s work began to take on an independent musical direction; with such works as The Lute in the Attic (New Orleans, 1963) and Music for Three Muted Pianos (St. Louis, 1964), followed by Primo Libro De Referencia Labarinto (New Haven, 1967), radical notational concepts appeared for the first time in his work. He has since become a renowned member of the American Experimental Tradition, and has worked in Theatre creating his own companies, and an interdisciplinary Theatre Laboratory for students to expand their knowledge through all Arts. Drew and Mary Gae George have been Co-Directors of the Greywolf Performing Arts Institute, since 1990.
While teaching at Northwestern University (1964-66), Drew began composing a series of small works that children would be able to perform. His interest in bringing new music to children continued when the composer joined the faculty of Yale University (1967), where he began creating what would later be known as the Greywolf Performing Arts Institute, advocating learning by creating—his response to students not knowing the Arts. During 1967-73, Drew’s First and Second Symphonies were composed and premiered, as well as October Lights and Metal Concert. In 1972-73, the composer was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship and during the same time he was Fromm Foundation Orchestral Composer at the 1973 Tanglewood Music Festival, where Gunther Schuller conducted the BSO in the world premiere of Drew’s West Indian Lights. Also in the 1970's, Drew’s first works for theatre were composed and produced, which included Cruxifixus and Song of Death and Bluelight Dancing. Appointed Distinguished Lecturer at California State University at Fullerton, and UCLA in the mid-1970's, Drew returned to composing chamber music, including The Orangethorpe Aria, Trio for the Fiery Messengers, and Violin Sonata. More theatre works followed in the 1980's, with Five O’clock Ladies, “Live” from the Black Eagle, Whisper (film), and Rats Teeth produced and composed while the composer was artist-in-residence for the city of Durham. Blue in Atlantis, Drew’s first theatre for radio, was created in New Orleans, 1983. Recent theatre works include From a Howl Whispered, The Clown’s Evening, and the Petite Petersburg Play. His music in Architecture Projects include being a member of the Concordia Group that created the Musical Courtyard of the Hotel Inter-Continental, in New Orleans, as well as the kinetic drama (with sculptor Lin Emery) Becket: The Final Moments, and Sound Stations (with architect, Craig Foster).
From the 1990's, Drew continues to work and tour under the auspices of the Greywolf Performing Arts Institute, and as a free lance composer/pianist/playwright composing a broad spectrum of chamber and orchestral music including Symphony No. 3, Book of Lights, Viola Concerto (Cellar-Lise’s Alleluias), Piano Concerto (Celestial Cabaret), Hypothetical Structures, Books 1, 2, and 3 for Two Pianos, Music of Suspended Colours for 3 Pianos,Gongs, and Cloud Chambers, Contrabass Concerto (Jacopo’s Sub-Harmonic Hymns), The Golden Threads, for 1, 2, or 3 Pianos and Cloud Chambers, Solemn Acts In Rain for Violin and Piano, Ukiyo-E for String Quartet, and music, scenario, and mise-en-scène of the ballet Giggles; and producing theatre works through MTT Theatre (Netherlands), Blast Opera Theatre (US-Europe), and his current companies, The Nighttown Operatheatre, The Harmonic Theatre, The Greywolf Performing Arts Institute’s The Sonorous Circus (children’s ensemble), and Kaleidoscope: A Theatre of Lights, Pianos, Gongs, and Cloud Chambers.
The main body of Drew’s works over the years has been fueled by his concepts of combination-tones which produce additional overtones that are heard, but heard from sound locations unknown. Drew’s theatrical concepts continue in his large ongoing work with the Nighttown Operatheatre, the Surpise Operas Cycle, which now spans over two decades.
Drew’s music is published by Theodore Presser Company and Artistry
Press International and is available worldwide. Recordings of his works
are available on Music
and Arts, 9-Winds, Greywolf Recordings, Maximus, Cinnabar Records,
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