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.