KPFA-FM Music Dept. ➔ American Mavericks: My Lunch with Mel Powell: An American Musical Feast

Analog Audio

Event Type
Program Series
American Mavericks
Program Length
59 min
1989-11-08 | broadcast
| 1989-11-08 | created
Mel Powell could probably never have been anything but an American. He was a marvelous talker, a consummate raconteur with a sonorous storyteller's voice to make the tales more mesmerizing. He grew up in a building that overlooked Yankee Stadium. He even gave up baseball to save his thumbs for the piano. He played jazz, very well but very briefly. It’s been said that no jazz musician of comparable stature has ever had such a short career as Powell, because, in a very American way, he became weary of playing the same tune night after night with the Benny Goodman Band. First he tried Hollywood, and spent some time composing for MGM movies. Then he made a major change: he shipped himself off to Yale to study with Paul Hindemith. With this act, he not only started a new career as a classical composer, but also became an educator: one so dedicated to learning that he was one of the founders of the California Institute of the Arts, where, until his death in 1998, he quietly taught and composed not far north of Los Angeles. The man that emerged from this eclectic and uniquely American experience is one of America’s most distinguished and beloved musical figures and a man well placed to comment on the current status of American music.

The centerpiece of this one hour program on Mel Powell is a far reaching conversation, recorded during a lunch, in which he reveals his personal enthusiasms, biases and obsessions for American music. Delightfully unrestrained, Powell uses the music of Copland, Ives, Babbitt and others, including himself, to demonstrate what he feels makes American music typically American. Under the direction of KUSC’s award winning co-producers Lucia DeLisa and Gail Eichenthal this hour reveals the true character of this American original as he takes listeners on a surprising and quirky whirlwind tour of the music of our own culture.

Note: Program description taken from promotional materials, probably provided by Eichenthal, et al.
20th century classical
Musical Selections
Symphony No. 3 [excerpt] (1944-46 (1:20) / Aaron Copland -- Symphony No. 2 [excerpt] (1944-46) (0:52) / Roger Sessions -- Dichotomy, Op. 12, for chamber orchestra [excerpt] (1931-32) (0:30) / Wallingford Riegger -- Symphony No. 4 [excerpt] (1950) (0:45) / Walter Piston -- Duet, for flute and clarinet [excerpt] (0:37) / Peter Zaferes -- L’Age d’Or, for six computer controlled electronic pianos (1987) (0:36) / Michael Jon Fink -- Symphony No. 4 [excerpt] (ca. 1912-18) (0:27) / Charles Ives -- [unidentified excerpt of electronic music] (0:29) / Mel Powell -- Symphony No. 3 [excerpt] (1938, rev. 1938) (1:18) / Roy Harris -- [excerpt of a 10th century Gregorian chant] (0:24) -- Nocturne, for solo violin [excerpt] (ca. 1983-85) (0:30) / Mel Powell -- Canonical Form, for solo piano [excerpt] (1983) (0:40) / Milton Babbitt -- String Quartet No. 3 [excerpt] (1971) (0:30) / Elliott Carter -- Sweet Consort, for flute and piano [excerpt] (1988) (1:17) / Yehudi Wyner -- Schweres Loos, for alto, bass clarinet, piccolo, and violin [excerpt, text by Albert Giraud] (1988) (0:45) / Stephen “Lucky” Mosko -- [excerpt of unidentified electronic music] (0:25) / Anna Rubin -- [excerpt of unidentified music for chamber ensemble] (1:00) / Lori Dobbins -- [unidentified field recording of an Hungarian peasant woman singing] (0:23) -- Piano Concerto No. 3 [excerpt] (1945) (0:29) / Béla Bartók -- Symphony in Three Movements [excerpt] (1942-45) (0:28) / Igor Stravinsky -- [excerpt of unidentified jazz music] (0:33) / Oscar Peterson -- [unidentified piano music] (0:43) / Milton Babbitt -- Madrigal, for flute [excerpt] (1988) (1:03) / Mel Powell
Karin Hoesli, flute (Duet)
Tim Bonenfant, clarinet (Duet)
Yoko Matsuda, violin (Nocturne)
Robert Taub, piano (Canonical)
Yehudi Wyner, piano (Sweet)
Rachel Rudich, flute (Madrigal)
20th century classical
Composers, United States
Chamber orchestra music
Clarinet and flute music
Sextets (Electric pianos (6))
Electronic music
Gregorian chants
Violin music
Piano music
String quartets
Flute and piano music
Songs (Low voice) with instrumental ensemble
Chamber music
Folk songs, Hungarian
Concertos (Piano)
Flute music
Funding for the preservation of this program made possible through a grant by the National Endowment for the Arts.