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Biography of

Alec Wilder

16 feb 1907 (Rochester) - 24 dec 1980 (Gainesville)
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Alec Wilder
Birth name Alexander Lafayette Chew Wilder
Born February 16, 1907(1907-02-16)
Origin Rochester, New York, U.S.A.
Died December 24, 1980 (aged 73)
Gainesville, Florida, U.S.A.
Genres Popular music
Occupations Composer

Alec Wilder (born Alexander Lafayette Chew Wilder in Rochester, New York, February 16, 1907; d. Gainesville, Florida, December 24, 1980) was an American composer.



His family was prominent in Rochester; a downtown building (at the "Four Corners") bears the family's name. As a young boy, he traveled to New York City with his mother and stayed at the Algonquin Hotel. It would later be his home for the last 40 or so years of his life. He attended several prep schools, unhappily, as a teenager. Around this time, he hired a lawyer and essentially "divorced" himself from his family, gaining for himself some portion of the family fortune.

He was largely self-taught as a composer; he studied briefly at his hometown's Eastman School of Music in the 1920s, but left without completing his degree. While there, he edited a humor magazine and scored music for short films directed by James Sibley Watson. Wilder was eventually awarded an honorary degree in 1973.

He was good friends with Frank Sinatra, Peggy Lee, Tony Bennett and other luminaries of the American popular music canon. Among the popular songs he wrote or co-wrote were "I'll Be Around" (a hit for the Mills Brothers), "While We're Young" (recorded by Peggy Lee and many others), and "It's So Peaceful in the Country". He also wrote many songs for the cabaret artist Mabel Mercer, including one of her signature pieces, "Have You Ever Crossed Over to Sneden's?"[1]

In addition to writing popular songs, Wilder also composed classical pieces for exotic combinations of orchestral instruments. The Alec Wilder Octet, including Eastman classmate Mitch Miller on oboe, recorded several of his originals for Brunswick Records in 1938-40. His classical numbers, which often had off-beat, humorous titles ("The Hotel Detective Registers"), were strongly influenced by jazz. He wrote eleven operas; one of which, Miss Chicken Little (1953), was commissioned for television by CBS. Sinatra conducted an album of Wilder's classical music. Wilder also arranged a series of Christmas carols for Tubachristmas.

Wilder wrote the definitive book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (1972). He was also featured in a radio series based on the book, broadcast in the mid '70s. With lyricist Loonis McGlohon, he composed songs for the Land of Oz theme park in Banner Elk, North Carolina.

Wilder loved puzzles: he created his own cryptic crosswords, and could spend hours with a jigsaw puzzle. He also loved to talk (he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world) and most of all, laugh. Displeased with how Peggy Lee improvised the ending of While We're Young, he wrote her a note: "The next time you come to the bridge [of the song], jump!"[citation needed] He often maintained that music publishers "stole everything",[citation needed] but in a reflective moment, noted that as badly as he had been treated by the powers-that-be of the music industry, black artists had been treated worse.

Wilder is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Avon, New York, outside Rochester.

Selected works

  • The Lowland Sea (1952)
  • Miss Chicken Little (1953)
  • Sunday Excursion (1953)
  • Kittiwake Island (1954)
  • The Long Way (1955)
  • The Impossible Forest (1958)
  • The Truth about Windmills (1973)
  • The Tattooed Countess (1974)
  • The Opening (1975)
  • The Churkendoose (?)
  • Rachetty Pachetty House (?)
  • Herman Ermine in Rabbit Town (?)
  • Pinocchio (1957)
  • Hansel and Gretel (1958)
  • Miss Chicken Little (1953).
  • Nobody’s Earnest (1978).
Film Music
Large Ensemble
  • A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra (1954). Text by Marshall Barer. A musical primer. Eighteen movements featuring individual instruments of the orchestra. [Ludlow]
  • Children’s Plea for Peace (1968). Children’s SSAA chorus, narrator and wind ensemble. Text by Wilder, adapted from writings of Avon, New York schoolchildren. Dedicated to Rev. Henry Atwell. [Margun]
Chamber music and Solo Instruments
  • Air for Flute and Strings (1945). For Julius Baker.
  • Air for Oboe and Strings (1945). For Mitch Miller.
  • Brass Quintets: No 1 (1959) For the New York Brass Quintet; No 2 (1961); No. 3 (1970); No. 4 (1973) For Harvey Phillips; No. 5 (1975) For the Tidewater Brass Quintet; No. 6 (1977) For the Tidewater Brass Quintet; No. 7 (1978) For Frances Miller; No. 8 (1980) For Frances Miller.
  • Concerto No. 1 for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble (1967). For Doc Severinson.
  • Effie Suite (1960) for Tuba, Vibraphone, Piano and Drums. For Harvey Phillips
  • Fantasy for Piano and Wind Ensemble (1974). For Marian McPartland
  • Jazz Suite for Four Horns (1951). Four horns with harpsichord, guitar, bass, drums.
  • Octets (1939–41) Flute/Clarinet 2, oboe/English horn/, clarinet 1, bass clarinet, bassoon, harpsichord, bass, drums: Bull Fiddle In A China Shop; The Children Met the Train; Concerning Etchings; Dance Man Buys A Farm; A Debutante’s Diary; Her Old Man Was Suspicious; His First Long Pants; House Detective Registers; It’s Silk, Feel It!; Kindergarten Flower Pageant; Little Girl Grows Up; Neurotic Goldfish; She’ll Be Seven In May; Such A Tender Night; Walking Home In Spring.
  • Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1960). For Donald Sinta.
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1963). For Glenn Bowen.
  • Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (1963). For Joe Wilder.
  • Sonata for viola and piano (1965)
  • Suite for Unaccompanied Flute (1975). For Virginia Nanzetta.
  • Suite No. 2 for Tenor Saxophone and Strings (1966). For Zoot Sims. [Margun]
  • Suites for Tuba and Piano: Suite No. 1 (1960) for Harvey Phillips; Suite No. 2 (Jesse Suite), *Suite No. 3 (Suite for Little Harvey) and Suite No. 4 (Thomas Suite)
  • Three Ballads for Stan [also exists in Wilder’s piano reduction as Suite No. 1 for Tenor Saxophone and Piano] (1963). For Stan Getz. [Margun]
  • Woodwind Quintets: No. 1 (1954) For the New York Woodwind Quintet; No. 2 (1956); No. 3 (1958); No. 4 (1959) For Bernard Garfield; No. 5 (1959); No. 6 (1960); No. 7 (1964); No. 8 (1966) [also known as Suite For Non-Voting Quintet; No. 9 (1969); No. 10 (ca. 1968); No. 11 (1971) For John Barrows; No. 12 (1975) For the Wingra Quintet; No. 13



This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Alec Wilder. Allthough most Wikipedia articles provide accurate information accuracy can not be guaranteed.
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