Composer John Carbon


photo album

Composer John Carbon (born 1951) began to play the piano and compose at a very early age. His first composition for voice and piano was written at the age of five, and he continued to write music during his childhood and adolescence. Coming from a musical family, he was exposed to a wide variety of musical influences including classical music, folk music, operettas and rock and roll. His eclectic musical background accounts for the wide variety of styles that he now embraces in his work. During his high school years he played and wrote for a rock band, but he also performed standard classical repertoire as a pianist and composed orchestral works that were influenced by Stravinsky and Prokofiev. His father played jazz saxophone, and some of Carbon's works, notably his Clarinet Concerto (1993), written for Richard Stoltzman and the Warsaw Philharmonic, incorporate bluesy harmonies and rhythms. 

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Although much of John Carbon's pre-1980's music was cast in an avant-garde idiom, he also composed more lyrical and tonal works during this period, particularly for voice and piano. During the 1980's these two seemingly disparate stylistic tendencies came together to create what might be considered his mature style. The comic Franklin opera Benjamin (1987) is one of the composer's most successful works from this period. More recently, an ever-more lyrical and tonal tendency can be heard in John Carbon's music, along with an increased interest in contrapuntal textures. His music is more rhythmically propulsive, sometimes as a result of the introduction of vernacular styles such as ragtime and tango.   Most of his later work is aligned with his own unique version of "the new tonality," but at the same time his music falls firmly in the post-modern camp, meaning that he fuses different syles from past eras with the present to create his own highly accessible and distinctive voice.

Much of John Carbon's orchestral music, including the concerti for clarinet, piano, trumpet and double bass, has been recorded by the Warsaw Philharmonic, Slovak Radio Orchestra, Czech Philharmonic, New York Chamber Symphony, Concordia and the Seattle Symphony. Conductors who have performed and recorded his music include Gerard Schwarz, George Manahan, Vladimír Válek, Maron Alsop and Robert Black. His music has been performed and recorded by clarinetists Richard Stoltzman and Doris Hall-Gulati, violinists Claire Chan and Peter Zazofsky, pianists Steven Graff and William Koseluk, cellist Stephen Balderston and double bassist Richard Fredrickson. Performances have included premieres in Boston's Symphony Hall, New York's Avery Fisher, Alice Tully, Merkin and Carnegie Halls, Smetena Hall in Prague, the Mozarteum in Salzburg, and the Wuhan Conservatory in China. His music has also been heard in London, Berlin, Madrid, Stockholm and Beijing.

Recordings of John Carbon's music can be found on the Naxos, Delos, MMC, CGS, Moonbridge, Emeritus, VMM and Zimbel labels. A compilation of his piano music can be heard on the 2012 Zimbel release John Carbon: Piano Music Played by Steven Graff. Recordings are available from iTunes, Amazon, EMusic, Barnes and Noble and Tower Records. His primary publisher is JCcollections, and scores can be purchased from Sheetmusicplus, J. W. Pepper and Lulu. 

Recent performances have included the premiere of Fantasy-Nocturne (2013) for piano and orchestra by pianist Steven Graff and Harlequinade (2015) for viola and orchestra by violist Todd Sullivan with Allegro, the Chamber Orchestra of Lancaster, with Brian Norcross conducting. His new oratorio, Soldiers of Remembrance (libretto by Sarah White) was  unveiled in 2015 by William Wright conducting the Franklin and Marshall College Chorus and Chamber Singers in collaboration with members of the Lancaster Symphony Chorus and Lancaster Symphony Orchestra. Current projects include two new works for clarinet and piano, to be recorded for the Zimbel label by clarinetist Doris Hall-Gulati and pianist Steven Graff and a new cello and piano work for Chiaroscuro.

John Carbon was awarded the Master of Music degree from Shepherd School of Music at Rice University and a Ph.D. in Musical Composition from University of California, Santa Barbara. His principal teachers were Peter Racine Fricker, Emma Lou Diemer, Thea Musgrave and Paul Cooper. He is presently the Richard S. and Ann B. Barshinger Professor of Music at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.

(for a condensed program-note blurb about John Carbon please see the home page)

 Photo Album

© John Carbon 2015