Richard White: Biography

Photo of Richard White
Composer Richard White was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1947 and now resides in Tucson, Arizona. His musical life has been as varied as it has been colorful. In his music, White has continually sought to communicate his ideas to the listener using strongly etched melodic lines, colorful, fresh harmonies and a solid architectural design. "The latter," he freely admits, "is the consummate challenge to the composer. Whether or not the listener is aware of it, architecture is the chief component of intelligibility. If music is still unintelligible to the listener -- even after repeated hearings -- whatever the composer is trying to get across will be completely lost. Most listeners want to arrive at their final destination with as few encumbrances as possible. It is the composer's responsibility to see to it that their 'trip' is safe one, and one that includes as many adventures as possible!

"Finding ideas is not a problem for me, what to do with them is. Shaping ideas into a meaningful scenario in which they contrast, argue, fight, and eventually come to terms, is a monumental challenge for me. Ultimately, each piece of music must stand independently, be wholly logical, and with some assistance from the Muses, even sound inevitable. These qualities exist in all great music. I think form (structure and architecture) is really the issue for all creative artists. It is our struggle, our nemesis. In short -- how can we speak in the clearest, leanest and most unequivocal terms, yet excite the listener at the same time?"

White majored in composition at the Mannes College of Music in New York City, studying with Peter Pindar Stearns and William Sydeman. However, it was not until he met the noted American composer, Elie Siegmeister that, as he noted, "my musical education began in earnest. All through my schooling I had the gnawing sense that something was missing. I couldn't put my finger on it, though. After being out of school for a few years, a haunting, deeply felt paralysis set in, a newly noticeable inability to sustain a composition beyond a few minutes in length. Nothing would satisfy me. I decided something should be done, and quickly! By a stroke of great fortune I chanced upon a composition of Elie Siegmeister's on the radio. I made the necessary phone calls and was soon hard at work with him. The first few years were especially trying. I began again, from scratch, re-learning and re-thinking the simplest things -- the shapes of melodies and phrases, harmonic progressions, culminating in several arduous years of strict Sixteenth-century species counterpoint. In short, through intense personal supervision and the detailed study of every possible aspect of master composers and their music, every facet of my being as a composer was reshaped. Of course, I fought the process as much as I dared, but I knew in the end the process was what I had been seeking all along. After nine years of apprenticeship (I literally worked in the studio for hours on end, copying, cutting and pasting, and editing Elie's music in exchange for lessons) I finally began to feel some compositional 'muscle' take shape."

At a very early age White began singing in a church choir and has been singing in church ever since. He has also sung in choruses and opera choruses where his love of the human voice and the theater was fostered through numerous opera productions. "The human voice -- the purest and most direct of musical instruments -- has had a never-ending fascination for me."

White's musical output spans every facet of composition. His instrumental music includes four symphonies, a piano concerto, a violin concerto, sonatas for flute, oboe, and clarinet, (each with piano) Piano Variations, several woodwind quintets, a Suite for Two Guitars, Three Preludes for Solo Guitar, and a set of Variations on an Original Theme in Folk-Style for solo guitar. His vocal music includes, in addition to more than fifty songs, twenty-eight choral compositions (mostly sacred), two operas, a children's musical, a full-length musical based on the Conan Dolye character, Sherlock Holmes (story and libretto by the composer), and songs and incidental music to two Shakespeare plays, A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest.

Also an accomplished violist, violinist, guitarist, pianist and conductor, White made the freelance circuit in the New York City area for thirty-five years.

His music has been published by the Sacred Music Press and Carl Fischer, Inc. as well as his own Whitco Press. He is now at work on a set of 24 Preludes and Fugues for organ, a suite of Bagatelles for solo guitar, a Toccata for organ, and a Sonatina for flute and guitar.

Short Biography

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This site and its entire contents 2004 by Richard White (Whitco Press)

This page last updated September 20, 2004