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Friday, August 28, 2009

Joe Maneri (1927-2009) RIP

I last saw him on May 10th when his beautiful work Kohtlyn (2000) was performed by soprano Jennifer Ashe and trombonist Will Lang at a concert organized by the Boston Microtonal Society.

Composer, theorist, reedsman, poet, and educator Joe Maneri died on Monday August 24th at the age of 82 of heart failure. His presence on the music scene will be sorely missed.

Lee Mergner of the JazzTimes wrote (8/27/09), "For most of his life Maneri toiled in obscurity, spending his time as both a student and teacher of creative music."

In 1995 Ran Blake said of his colleague at the New England Conservatory, "Joe Maneri is one of the 20th century's greatest clarinetists."

What I find amazing about Maneri's career is how he worked in so many different musical genres.

Jazz enthusiasts will know him from his early work with Gunther Schuller's 20th Century Innovations Ensemble performances of "Third Stream" music at Carnegie Hall.

Schuller had arranged a record deal for Maneri with Atlantic, but the 1963 recording was not released by the record company.  In 1988, the Atlantic recording session tapes were made available to the Avant label and released under the title "Paniot's Nine."  In the 1990's Joe Maneri released 14 additional attention grabbing albums on the ECM, Hat Hut, Leo labels, often in collaboration his his son Mat - a free-style violinist/violist.

He taught many students the art of composition, often using Arnold Schoenberg's harmony and counterpoint books as his method. One of Maneri's notable music students is the prominet composer Richard Danielpour (who I knew from my days at NEC).

As a composer, Joe Maneri was mostly self-taught. He dropped out of school in the eighth grade - perhaps because of an undiagnosed attention deficit disorder - but went on to develop his musical abilities with intense private study. He studied the works of Stravinsky, Schoenberg, and Webern under the tutelage of Josef Schmid (a student of Alban Berg) over a period of ten years.  His compositions were featured at Carnegie Recital Hall in 1961, including his "Divertimento" for piano, drums, and double bass.

Maneri was hired to teach 16th-century counterpoint and music composition at the Brooklyn-Queens Conservatory of Music in NY, and it was there that he met Sonja Holzwarth, whom he later married.  From 1970-2007 was on the faculty at the New England Conservatory in Boston. He was very active organizing concerts of new music during his tenure at NEC. Joseph Gabriel Esther Maneri was awarded an honorary doctorate from NEC in May of 2009 for his lifetime of work in the field of music.

Maneri composed for a time in a pointalistic serialist style. Robert Ceely, a Boston Composer and colleague of Maneri at the New England Conservatory recalls watching pianist Zita Carno at Tanglewood sight-read through Maneri's piano concerto Metanoia. Carno played both the piano and orchestral parts, which was an accomplishment since Maneri's concerto is rather complex. The piece was commissioned by Boston Symphony Orchestra music director Eric Leinsforf, but never performed by them. However, in 1985 Metanoia did receive its' long awaited premiere performance by the American Composer's Orchestra at Alice Tully Hall in NY. The piano soloist with the ACO was the late and great new music advocate, Rebecca ("Becky") la Brecque - who died much too soon.

Returning to his Sicilian roots, Maneri became interested in European folk music, particularly that of Eastern Europe. The microtonal inflections of Greek folk music fascinated him and led him on a new path of musical exploration.

Joe Maneri began composing with the 72-note scale developed by his colleague Ezra Sims. His microtonal improvisations and composed pieces are remarkable. As a dedicated teacher and co-founder of the Boston Microtonal Society, Maneri inspired a whole generation of composers to work in the microtonal system. He invented a keyboard the had 588 notes: 72 pitches per octave.  Maneri is co-author (with Scott Van Duyne) of a theory book titled "Preliminary Studies in the Virtual Pitch Continuum."

I understand that a private Roman Catholic funeral will be held for Maneri this morning in Framingham, and that a public memorial service and concert will be scheduled for the future. He is survived by his wife Sonia, five children, and eight grandchildren.

His presence as a musical force and teacher in Boston will be missed.