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Eric Whitacre, the American Composer

The American Composer named Eric Whitacre

Eric Whitacre was born on the date January 2, 1970 in the town of Reno, Nevada. Whitacre grew up in his home-town Reno and began his musical career with his junior high marching band led by a man named Jim Burnett. He later changed to playing synthesizer in techno-pop band and dreamt of becoming a rock star. Whitacre began his full musical training as an undergraduate at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, although he was unable to read music at the time, and eventually became a Bachelor of Music in Musical Composition. The first piece of word that he ever sang was called “Requiem” by Mozart, and he claims that the piece changed his entire life.

He then proceeded to study composition with Virko Baley, a Ukrainian composer, and studied choral conducting with David Weiller. Due to the help of these two, Whitacre finished his Bachelor of Music in 1995. Whitacre credits his inspiration that led him down the trail of music towards Weiller. Whitacre even presented his first piece that he wrote for his college class “Go, Lovely Rose” to Weiller because of his inspiration. He proceeded to receive his Master’s degree in Musical Composition at the Juilliard School. Also while at the Juilliard School, Eric met his future wife Hila Plitmann. Whitacre created his first Wind Ensemble piece, “Ghost Train” at the age of 23. Now, over 40 times, this piece has been recorded. After the extreme success of Ghost Train, Whitacre moved to Los Angeles to become a professional composer at the age of 25.Eric Whitacre has now produced around 80 pieces in his lifetime, and become a very successful composer.

In 2007 he was nominated for a Grammy in the category of Best Choral Performance with hsi album “Cloudburst and Other Works.” Then, in 2012 he received a Grammy award for Best Choral Performance thanks to the album called “Light and Gold.” Whitacre has clearly been a very successful composer. His most popular song is called “Enjoy the Silence” which is written for SATB.The first piece that I’m choosing to write about is Eric’s first song “Go, Lovely Rose.” “Go, Lovely Rose” is written for SATB and came out in 1991. It appears as though the only instrumentation that goes along with the piece is a piano. I chose this piece because it was his first ever composition and I kind of figured that it probably meant a lot to him due to the fact that it was in fact his first piece he created. The piece makes me think about a man who has finally given up on trying for a woman who was just wasting his time the whole time he was with her (because it says wastes her time and me in the first two lines). The tone of the song seems to be slow moving and sort of sad. The piece is written in English and was written for his college choir.

The second piece I’m writing about is called “Ghost Train.” I’m choosing this piece because it was the composition that really got his career going, and helped him choose his path. He said he listened to his college wind ensemble play a song and said that he could present the man (his name was Thomas Leslie) with a song of his own for the group to perform. Leslie gave him permission to do so, and if it was good enough to his liking, the group would play it at their next performance. Whitacre worked on the song all through his Christmas break and gave it to Leslie to test out. Leslie said he loved the song and the group performed it. Whitacre is quoted saying “He played it beautifully at the convention, and BOOM… the thing took off like a shot. Band directors began calling me at home, trying to buy it from me, and my formal career as ‘composer’ had begun.” Whitacre also later wrote a second and third part of these songs to make a triptych. The song is dedicated to Thomas Leslie because he was the one who Whitacre gives credit to for helping it take off. The piece seems to be temp changing, and is very eerie sounding. This is my favorite song that he wrote because it sounds very much like a train, and definitely a ghost train for that sort. I love this piece because it is for band and the bands seem to make it sound so much like a train and it is just simply amazing.

The third piece I am writing about is “Enjoy the Silence.” I have chosen this piece because it is supposedly one of his more popular pieces. I am not as much of a fan of this one because it sounds so slow and boring. It is written for SATB and is in English. He wrote the song in a choral version that was already written by someone else. I really enjoyed researching Eric Whitacre and I learned a lot about him that was actually pretty interesting. I really like his “Ghost Train” song , but the other two I wasn’t quite as fond of. Overall though, I think he is a pretty good composer. I honestly think I might go and listen to some of his other songs and see what I missed out on.

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