HENRY BRANT, America's pioneer explorer and practitioner of acoustic spatial music, was born in Montreal in 1913 of American parents and began to compose at the age of eight. In 1929 he moved to New York where, for the next 20 years, he composed and conducted for radio, films, ballet and jazz groups, at the same time composing experimentally for the concert hall. From 1947 to 1955, he taught orchestration and conducted ensembles at Juilliard School and Columbia University. He taught composition at Bennington College from 1957 to 1980; every year he presented premieres of orchestral and choral works by living composers.
In 1950 Brant began to compose spatial music in which the planned positioning of the performers throughout the hall, as well as on stage, is an essential factor in the composing scheme. This procedure, which limits and defines the contrasted music assigned to each performing group, takes as its point of departure the ideas of Charles Ives. Brant's principal large-scale works and chamber music since 1950 are all spatial. His catalogue now comprises 112 such works, each for a different instrumentation, each requiring a different spatial deployment in the concert hall, and with maximum distances between groups prescribed in every case; each work has been commissioned.
Brant's long career has been recognized by numerous awards and honors, most recently the 2002 Pulitzer Prize in Music for Ice Field (2001). Other awards include two Guggenheim Fellowships, the Prix Italia (which he was the first American composer to win, in 1955), the American Music Center's Letter of Distinction, and election to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 1983 Mayor Kevin White's official proclamation made March 7-11 a Henry Brant Week in Boston, and Mayor David Dinkins presented New York City's Certificate of Appreciation in August 1992, "on the occasion of the world premiere at Lincoln Center of his extraordinary 500: Hidden Hemisphere." In June, 1984, the Holland Festival presented a special week of 10 all-Brant retrospective concerts. Brant received an ASCAP/NISSIM Award in 1985, a Fromm Foundation grant in 1989, and a Koussevitzky Foundation award in 1995. In 1998, The Paul Sacher Foundation in Basel acquired Brant's complete archive of original manuscripts including over 300 of his works. Brant received the honorary degree of Doctor of Fine Arts from Wesleyan University in September, 1998.
Brant's Pulitzer Prize-winning Ice Field, for large orchestral groups and organ, was commissioned by Other Minds for the San Francisco Symphony and was premiered by the San Francisco Symphony in December, 2001. Michael Tilson Thomas conducted with the composer as organist. Ghosts & Gargoyles, a concerto for flute solo with flute orchestra, commissioned by New Music Concerts, Toronto, had a May 26, 2002 premiere. Ghosts & Gargoyles is a spatial sequel to Angels & Devils (1932) - the interval between their premieres spanning exactly 70 years of the composer's career.
Glossary, for solo voices and 12 instrumentalists, Prophets for four cantors and a shofar player, and Crystal Antiphonies for the Swarovski Wind Ensemble and the Vienna Radio Orchestra, received their premieres in 2000.