David Cope is Dickerson Emeriti Professor at the University
of California at Santa Cruz (email@example.com) where he
teaches theory and composition, and Honorary Professor of Computer Science at Xiamen University (China). He also teaches regularly in the annual Workshop in Algorithmic Computer Music (WACM)
held in June-July at UC Santa Cruz. He was born in San Francisco, California
on May 17, 1941. Following early study on piano (including an extensive
performance career) and violoncello, he completed degrees in composition
at Arizona State University and the University of Southern California
studying with George Perle, Halsey Stevens, Ingolf Dahl and Grant Fletcher.
His over seventy published compositions
have received thousands of performances throughout the U.S. and abroad,
including those by the Vermont, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, Cabrillo Festival,
and Santa Cruz Symphony Orchestras, as well as numerous university orchestras
and wind ensembles. His compositions include 9 symphonies, 6 string quartets, and 4 piano sonatas. Thirty-six of Cope's works appear on recordings
including Variations (piano and wind orchestra; Cornell University),
Re-Birth (concert band), Concert (piano and orchestra,
Mary Jane Cope, soloist) and Threshold and Visions (orchestra).
Complete albums of his music have appeared on Folkways (2), Opus One
and Epoc Music (24) and include a wide diversity of works from large
ensembles (his nine symphonies), to string quartets (six), to soloists with electronic and computer-generated tape.
Steven Mamula writes about Cope's work in a definitive
article in the American Record Guide (May, 1982):
"David Cope is unquestionably one
of this generation's most ambitious, prolific and multifarious composers.
His music in a large measure is marked by tension, achieved through
sharply dissonant, sustained tonal clusters, sporadic and impulsive
phrasing, and wide skips in the linear movement. His textures are
transparent, though not always sparse, and rhythms seem to fall at
extremes: either subtle and almost not pulsating, or fiercely aggressive
with frequent juxtapositions of both. David Cope's Concert
For Piano and Orchestra (1980) exemplifies much of this essence.
The work contains several passages that are a multilayering of single
note drones played in succession by individual instruments. A crescendo
builds as each instrument enters, creating an anxiety that approaches
the teeth-grinding level. Much as in serial music, repose is achieved
here not by succeeding dissonance with consonance, but rather by succeeding
dissonance with lesser degrees of dissonance. The piano serves a minimal
but judicious role, delivering angular, single line statements marked
with huge leaps, and brief, repeated arpeggiations in the upper register
that together produce a striking antithesis to the orchestral fabric.
During the work's latter half, a furious, single note figure erupts
at the piano's bottom end, which churns in syncopation soon imitated
by numerous percussion instruments, followed by powerful crescendos
in brass lines.
"For the past three years Cope has
also been involved with creating a massive work (two hours) for single
performer. The composer became interested in finding a place that
he loved and that fascinated him, exploring its history, lore, religions,
etc., and then creating a piece from that intimacy. Canyon de Chelley
in Arizona has been such a place for him. He began by studying all
published material on the Canyon's archaeological roots and art history
(Anasazi art, petroglyphs primarily), as well as learning as much
of the Navajo language as possible, then went to live for a time in
the Canyon, exploring it thoroughly and continuously sketching musical
ideas from the mountain of research. Also, during this time he built
many instruments (not as a craftsman but as a composer, i.e., instruments
not beautiful or masterful, since some contained only one note). Some
were made with materials such as prayer stones and sheepbone mallets,
though very few artifacts were removed and all with permission. Cope
declares '...slowly but surely a piece is emerging, one so personal
and intensely real that 'performance' hardly describes the results.'
The title of his cosmically ambitious work is THE WAY."