Gerald Plain

        Gerald Plain grew up during the 1940s and 50s in Sacramento, a small town in western Kentucky.  He recalls the town coming alive on Saturdays when farmers in white shirts, overalls, and freshly-polished shoes came in for their weekly shopping.  There was a small movie theater with rowdy audience participation.  Sound from the roller rink (amplified organ music and skate rollers) carried throughout the town.  His grandfather Plain owned a general store, selling everything from groceries to horse collars, and his father owned the local building-material supply and cabinet-making shop.

 

        There was early exposure to church music; his father was director of the local Baptist church choir.  As a child, he sang trios with his parents.  An important musical influence was his grandfather Salmon (1875-1966), who was a gifted storyteller and singer of folk songs.  Also a church choir director, his grandfather was a singing-school teacher, who traveled to regional churches teaching shaped-note singing in the tradition of the colonial composer, William Billings.  Plain’s musical interest gradually shifted to the pedal steel guitar; by the time he reached his teens, he was playing various types of popular music.

 

        At university in Kentucky, Plain studied double bass.   During his undergraduate years, he developed an interest in composition.  He earned a master’s degree from Butler University, where he studied with Philip Slates, and continued his education at the University of Michigan, where his teachers were Ross Lee Finney and Leslie Bassett.  He was encouraged, especially by Finney, to develop his own style based on his unique back-ground and experiences.  His work in the electronic music studio produced Golden Wedding and aCHATtaNOOgaCHOO.

 

        For many years he lived in upstate New York where he composed Sally Goodin, Pretty Polly, Clawhammer, and Concerto for Recorder.  During the last few years Plain has concentrated on composition at his home in Louisville, Kentucky.  Most recently he has written A Memory Suite and Ah! Ha! San Antone.

 

        Plain is the rarest of composers, a man with a personal vision and a single-minded purpose in realizing it as accurately as possible.   The sounds, musical and otherwise, from his Kentucky background (trains, dance halls, fireworks), his experience of the 1960s and 70s avant-garde, and experiments with electronics and the double bass fuse into a rich language.   This is no catch-all jumble-up.   Plain is a master of transition.   Ideas and sounds transform themselves with the most beguiling magic, finding relationships that surprise and delight the listener.   However, without his command of form and the constant forward thrust of his music, it would not have the marvelous sense of adventure that the music conveys.  The impression is of a rich riot of color meticulously constructed, imparting boundless energy, pathos and a lively sense of humor.    Jeffrey A. Bishop

 

Short Bio

Gerald Plain is one of the most original and creative of today’s American composers. Born in Sacramento, Kentucky, in 1940, Plain has borrowed heavily from his early exposure to folk music through his parents and his Grandfather Salmon. In addition, his music reflects his passionate interest in the pedal steel guitar, which he played as an adolescent.
    Studying principally with Ross Lee Finney and Leslie Bassett, both of the University of Michigan, Plain has received numerous awards, including the Rome Prize Fellowship in 1974, the Prince Pierre of Monaco Prize in Musical Composition in 1980, the Charles Ives Fellowship in 1988, and the Academy Award in Music in 2001, the latter two awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters  in New York City. Most recently, he earned the 2011 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship by the Kentucky Arts Council.
     Plain’s professional career includes teaching at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities in Chicago and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. His music has been performed by numerous orchestras in the United States and in Europe.

Longer Bio

Gerald Plain is one of the most original and creative of today’s American composers. Born in Sacramento, Kentucky, in 1940, Plain has borrowed heavily from his early exposure to folk music through his parents and his grandfather Salmon. In addition, his music reflects his passionate interest in the pedal steel guitar, which he played as an adolescent.
    Studying principally with Ross Lee Finney and Leslie Bassett, both of the University of Michigan, Plain has received numerous awards, including the Rome Prize Fellowship in 1974, the Prince Pierre of Monaco Prize in Musical Composition in 1980, the Charles Ives Fellowship in 1988, and the Academy Award in Music in 2001, the latter two awards from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters in New York City. Most recently, he earned the 2011 Al Smith Individual Artist Fellowship by the Kentucky Arts Council.
Plain’s professional career includes teaching at DePaul and Roosevelt Universities in Chicago. After receiving the Rome Prize Fellowship and spending two years in Rome, he returned to teach at the University of Wisconsin, Stevens Point,  and the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York.
Plain’s music has been widely played. In the United States, his works have been performed by  Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra, Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Alabama Symphony Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Chamber Symphony, and Pro Arte Chamber orchestra of Boston. European orchestras presenting Plain’s music include Radiotelevisione Italiana Orchestra of Rome (RAI) and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte Carlo.


OPEN YOUR EARS

LISTEN

THE

SOUND

FLOWS

OBJECTIVE

I have been using folk materials in my compositions since 1969 and my objective has always been to artfully fuse these elements into a modern sound fabric.

My Performance Conductors:

Gianluigi Gelmetti, Massimo Pradella, Oleg Kovalenko, Gerhard Samuel, Lukas Foss, Lawrence Foster, Michael Morgan, Kenneth Jean, Paul Polivnick, Gunther Schuller, Steven Smith, Sydney Hodkinson, Stewart Robertson, Andrew Davis, Edwin London, John McL. Williams

PROFESSIONAL ORCHESTRAS

Cleveland Chamber Symphony, Louisville Orchestra,  Vermont Symphony Orchestra,  Richmond (VA) Symphony,  Atlantic Classical Orchestra,  Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,  Long Beach Symphony,  Civic Orchestra of Chicago,  Alabama Symphony Orchestra,  Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra,  Brooklyn Philharmonic Symphony Orchestra,  Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Radiotelevisione Italiana Orchestra of Rome, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, Philharmonic Orchestra of Monte Carlo.