bill albright

William Albright (musician)

William Albright (October 20, 1944September 17, 1998) was an American composer, pianist and organist.

Albright was born in Gary, Indiana, and began learning the piano at the age of five, and attended the Juilliard Preparatory Department (1959-62), the Eastman School of Music (1962-63) and the University of Michigan (1962-70), where he studied composition with Ross Lee Finney and George Rochberg, and organ with Marilyn Mason. He interrupted his studies for the 1968–69 academic year when he received a Fulbright scholarship to study with Olivier Messiaen in Paris. Upon his graduation in 1970 he was appointed to the faculty of the University of Michigan, where he taught until his death from liver failure in Ann Arbor, Michigan in 1998 (Griffiths 1998).

His music combined elements of tonal and non-tonal classical music (in particular the influence of Messiaen) with American popular music and non-Western music (Gillespie 2001), in what has been described as "polystylistic" or "quaquaversal" music (Chambers 1999, 32)—which makes the definition of an overall style difficult (Perone 1988, abstract). In particular, he was an enthusiast for ragtime (Bassett 1999, 28–29), and was "a principal figure with William Bolcom in the revival of interest in Scott Joplin, Joseph Lamb and other ragtime composers from the turn of the century."

In addition to his compositional and teaching activities, he pursued an active career as an organist and commissioned new works for this instrument from other contemporary composers to play on his concert tours of North America and Europe (Griffiths 1998).

Albright's notable students include Gabriela Lena Frank. , Carter Pann, Michael Timpson, Derek Bermel, and Chihchun Lee.


  • Bassett, Leslie. 1999. "In Praise of William Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 27–29.
  • Beckford, Richard Edward. 1997. "The Organ Symphony: Its Evolution in France and Transformation in Selected Works by Composers of the Twentieth Century". DMA diss. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University.
  • Chambers, Evan. 1999. "In Memoriam William Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 31–33.
  • Gillespie, Don C. 2001. "Albright, William". The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. S. Sadie and J. Tyrrell. London: Macmillan.
  • Griffiths, Paul. 1998. " William Albright, 53, Composer of Ragtime Music for the Organ". New York Times (23 September).
  • Krahn, Stephen W. 1994. "Structural, Tonal, and Linear Problems in William Albright's Symphony for Organ". DMA diss. Lincoln: University of Nebraska.
  • Little, Jeanie R. 1975. "Serial, Aleatoric, and Electronic Techniques in American Organ Music Published between 1960 and 1972." Ph.D. diss. Ames: University of Iowa.
  • Perone, James Edward. 1988. "Pluralistic Strategies in Musical Analysis: A Study of Selected Works by William Albright". Ph.D. diss., Buffalo: State University of New York at Buffalo.
  • Santos, Eric. 1999. "Requiem for Bill Albright". Perspectives of New Music 37, no. 1 (Winter): 35–37.
  • Szoka, Marta. 1994. "Twórczosc Williama Albrighta na tle wspólczesnej muzyki organowej w USA" [The Works of William Albright against the Background of Contemporary Organ Music]. In Organy i muzyka organowa IX (Prace specjalne 52), edited by Janusz Krassowski. Gdańsk: Akademia Muzyczna im. Stanisława Moniuszki.

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