In Memoriam Arthur Komar (1934-1994)
Pianist, theorist, author, university professorArthur Komar was all of these, but his interests ranged far wider than specifically musical ones. During the years in which I saw him regularly he taught me much about literature, film, painting, cooking (specifically, how best to poach eggs and make ratatouille). He held several musical evenings in his home in which, while he accompanied on the piano, his guestssingers or notgot through Brahms's Liebeslieder waltzes, and once, the entire Magic Flute. His interest in literature, in which he majored for his B.A. from Columbia, determined the approach he took in his Music and the Human Experience (Northeastern University Press, 1980). This excellent book, conceptual in nature and drawing salient relationships between music and literature, failed to achieve its goal of being widely used as a text in university music appreciation courses. This sad neglect is a reflection on the all-too-common approach to this subject: watered-down history of musical styles, replete with facts for memorization.
More widely read were his two previous publications of 1971, Theory of Suspensions (Princeton) and the edition of Schumann's Dichterliebe for Norton Critical Scores (New York), the latter containing his important discussion of the cycle and of coherence in general in multimovement works. Arthur was also an expert on another Schumann cycle, the Eichendorff Liederkreis, Op. 39, but restricted himself to lectures on this work rather than publication.
Theory of Suspensions was written during 1965-1968 as his doctoral dissertation at Princeton. Subtitled "A Study of Metrical and Pitch Relations in Tonal Music," it anticipated by a few years a topic that in the later 1970's became very much a trend: the general subject of tonal rhythm as influenced by a consideration of Schenker's writings. This book was frequently cited, with mentions or extended discussionby no means always favorablein virtually all American periodicals devoted to music theory. His ideas were certainly controversial and Komar himself entertained many thoughts of altering or expanding the book. For various reasons, however, the 1979 reprint remained essentially unaltered save for a new preface and the inscription "In Memoriam Godfrey Winham 1934-1975." (Winham is also the dedicatee of Komar's last book, Linear-Derived Harmony, reviewed above.) In conversation, Arthur continually mentioned Godfrey as an important influence in his life, a virtual mentor, and it is typical of him to acknowledge his debt in print.
In those who knew him and read him, Arthur Komar stirred up thoughts and questions about music that one has to come to grips with, if only by disagreement. If he spoke his mind with a certain force, it was not (as some thought) that he had an abrasive personality, but that he felt deeply that music, and all art, matters.
Douglass M. Green (1926-1999) attended school in Los Angeles. After service in the Navy in the Pacific theater during World War II, he received his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Redlands in California and his doctorate from Boston University, where he wrote his dissertation on Leonardo Leo. He received a Fulbright award which enabled him and Marquita to spend a year in the 1950s in Florence, Italy, where they had many wonderful adventures. Widely known as an expert in the music of Debussy and Berg, Dr. Green was the author of many articles and books on musical form, harmony, and Neapolitan opera overtures. At the time of his death, he was working on the second volume of Principles and Practice of Counterpoint and on a CD-ROM version of Harmony Through Counterpoint.
Dr. Green’s teaching career included positions in Japan, the University of California at Santa Barbara, St. Joseph College in Connecticut, the Eastman School of Music, and The University of Texas at Austin, where he joined the faculty in 1977. He was also the choirmaster and organist at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd from 1978 to 1991 and at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church from 1991 to 1996.
Dr. Green was highly regarded for his wide-ranging knowledge of music and for his complete devotion to his students, to whom he gave countless hours of help and conversation outside of the classroom. His love of music spanned all time periods and all genres from Berg to Debussy, Brahms, Mozart, and Josquin, and his knowledge of music literature was encyclopedic.
In spite of his accomplishments, he was a person of uncommon modesty. One of his former students recalled that Dr. Green, with his customary enthusiasm, told the class about the Baudelaire-George text in the sketches of Berg's Lyric Suite and how the discovery of this poem in Berg’s sketches led to the eventual unraveling of the work’s "secret program.” A few months later the student learned one detail that Dr. Green had omitted—that it was Douglass Green himself who had first discovered the poem in a library in Vienna.
In many ways, Dr. Green was the heart and soul of the music theory faculty at The University of Texas. Almost every day faculty members would gather around the table in his office for a brown-bag lunch, over which he would preside with humor and an endless supply of musical anecdotes. Every fall he and Marquita generously opened their house to all of the theory and composition faculty and graduate students to help the new people feel welcome and to reinforce a general sense of community. Dr. Green was universally admired by his colleagues and students in the School of Music. He will be terribly missed by them and by his friends and ex-students around the world.