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Sunday, January 11, 2009

A patron of new music dies

Betty Freeman died at the age of 87 in Beverly Hills Los Angeles. She privately commissioned hundreds of works from approximately 80 composers over a period lasting four decades. The list of composers receiving support is formative: John Adams (for "Nixon in China" and other works), Pierre Boulez, John Cage (annual grant for living expenses), Harrison Birtwistle, Steve Reich (for "Different Trains" written for the Kronos Quartet), Kaija Saariaho (for the opera “L’Amour de Loin”), Tod Machover (“Hyper-Violin Concerto" for the LA Philharmonic), Lou Harrison ("Piano Concerto" for Keith Jarrett), George Benjamin ("Three Inventions for Chamber Orchestra"), Derek Bermel ("Elixir" for American Composers Orchestra), David Cope, Charles Dodge, Paul Dresher, Jacob Druckman, Robert Erickson (five works!), Morton Feldman, Alexander Goehr, Daniel Lentz, Steve Mackey, Magnus Lindberg, Witold Lutoslawski, Ingram Marshall, Thea Musgrave, Conlon Nancarrow, Matthias Pintscher, Mel Powell, Terry Riley, Ned Rorem, Christopher Rouse, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Leonard Stein, Marco Stroppa, Morton Subotnick, James Tenny, Virgil Thomson, and La Monte Young. The list goes on, and on...

She also underwrote the performances and recordings of many of these compositions and provided generous funding to contemporary music festivals and new music ensembles. Freeman provided annual living grants to select composers, stage directors, and choreographers - including John Cage, Bill T. Jones, Peter Sellars, Robert Wilson, Merce Cunningham, and Harry Partch.

Freeman met composer Harry Partch in 1964 when the composer was homeless and nearly destitute. She provided him with a place to live and financial support for the final decade of his life.

Noted music critic Norman Lebrecht called Freeman "the midwife of postmodernism."

Everyone involved with the world of contemporary music should be eternally grateful for her un-yielding support of their art form. She will be sorely missed.