Revered composer and beloved teacher Ingram Douglass Marshall, of Hamden, Connecticut, died May 31 at St. Raphael’s Hospital in New Haven of complications from Parkinson’s disease. Marshall, whose work introduced listeners to highly imaginative new soundscapes, taught composition at the Yale School of Music as an adjunct faculty member. He was 80 years old.
Born in 1942 in the New York suburb of Mount Vernon, Marshall attended Lake Forest College in Illinois, then graduate school in musicology at Columbia University in the mid-1960s. There he encountered music electronics for the first time and worked at the legendary Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. After a stint at New York University’s Composers’ Workshop, where he worked with Morton Subotnick and Serge Tcherepnin, he attended the California Institute of the Arts, where he earned an MFA in 1971, then stayed on to give courses in electronic music and textual sound compositions. In an interview for Yale’s Oral History of American Music (OHAM), Marshall commented:
“The deepest thing that happened to me at Cal Arts had nothing to do with electronic music – it was Indonesian music. They had a Javanese gamelan there and a few Indonesian musicians, mainly a man named Ki Wasitodipura, or “Pak Chokro,” as we called him. He marked me a lot musically. He was very wise, one of those gurus. We all loved him. The first year of working with him and learning gamelan entered my inner being. I lost interest in electronic music for a little while. I wanted to make Javanese music. So in 1971 I went to Indonesia for about four months and heard a lot and studied a lot. It really changed my way of thinking. I realized that the kind of formally organized “zip and zap, beep and blap” electronic music I was trying to do just wasn’t my way and I had to find a slower, deeper way to approach it. electronic music. I think the Javanese sense of slowing down time had a lot to do with it.
“I also appreciated the beautiful quality of the music itself. Instinctively, I always went for that, but sometimes a rational side of me said, “No, that’s not enough.” You need to create some kind of structure here that will override that. Structure is very important, but I have come to rely more on my own instincts to go towards the dark, the beautiful and the infinite. Indonesian music helped me a lot with that.
“The word “beautiful” is hard to define, but somehow it always sticks in my head when I write. I’m looking for a certain sense of the beautiful or the beautiful or the magnificent, the sensual: something that grips, that is palpable and that is not unpleasant on the surface. I really think that a musical experience should be enveloping, and that the success of a track could be based on a real involvement of the listener, almost in a narcotic way — not to be zoned or in a trance, exactly, but to be really irritated. inside.
When Marshall returned to the United States in 1971, he continued to work in electronic music, but with a new approach colored by his experiences in Indonesia. Experimenting with live electronics and tape delays, he developed “The Fragility Cycles.In 1973 he moved to the San Francisco Bay Area where he struck up a lifelong friendship with composer John Adams who conducted the first performance of one of Marshall’s best-known pieces, ” Fog Tropes,in 1981. In the late 1980s, after living nearly 20 years on the West Coast, Marshall moved with his family to Connecticut, where he resided for the rest of his life.
In addition to his Master of Fine Arts from Cal Arts, Marshall held a BA from Lake Forest College and an honorary doctorate from Lake Forest College. He has taught or been artist-in-residence at the California Institute of the Arts, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Evergreen State College, Brooklyn College, Hartt School, Dartmouth College, and Yale School of Music. He has received awards from the Guggenheim, Fromm, and Rockefeller Foundations, the Fulbright Scholar Program, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as residencies at the American Academy in Rome, Bellagio Center in Italy, and the Djerassi Foundation. Among his many commissions and performances have been those of the Kronos Quartet, the San Francisco, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Baltimore and Seattle Symphonies, the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, the Orchestra Minnesota, Netherlands Wind Ensemble, Voice Theater, American Composers Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and Bang on a Can All Stars.
In addition to the ensembles mentioned above, Marshall has written a number of solo pieces for famous instrumentalists such as Benjamin Verdery, Sarah Cahill, Todd Reynolds, Libby Van Cleve, Lisa Moore, Ashley Bathgate and Timo Andres ’07 ’09 MM
“Ingram possessed a gentle and powerful wisdom,” Verdery wrote. “His music goes to the heart of human emotion and experience and will remain timeless. Dear friend and mentor, Ingram Marshall was a giant standing beside us who made us all feel like giants.
Although not a career academic, Marshall has taught many students, including Andres, who said, “I first met Ingram as a campus personality. He would kindly slip into the music library where I worked at the loan desk, help him find sheet music and recordings, and we would strike up a conversation.
“These conversations continued throughout my time as a student of Ingram, a decidedly unrigorous but rather broad, discursive, and all-encompassing program of study; we were as likely to discuss poems by Tomas Tranströmer, or a film by Bergman, or the best way to cook wild mushrooms, as to analyze what I was writing at the time.
“I discovered that I loved performing Ingram’s music, especially the solo piano piece ‘Authentic Presence’ and later a chamber concerto he wrote for me called ‘Flow’. His music is full of contradictions and inexplicable things; ephemeral but heavy; vast but never bombastic; discreet but without fear of deep emotion or dramatic gesture. He quotes profusely, sometimes basing entire tracks on pre-existing material, but his music never sounds like anything but itself. His music is simple on the page, sometimes to the point of inscrutability, leading to many interesting challenges for performers. Yet, in the right hands, these are some of the most beautiful and moving scores I know.
Various nicknames have been used to describe Marshall’s music, including California Minimalist, New Romantic, and Post-Moderist, but the only term the composer himself endorsed was Expressivist. Adam Shatz of The New York Times wrote that “his music is some of the most moving spiritual art to be found in America today”. While Edward Strickland described its “dark romantic sense of lingering gloom with hints of transcendence”.
Marshall described his composition process in an interview with OHAM: “I realized that the way I put my pieces together — they’re constructed in a very fragile way. It’s like when I build something, I forgot to put a foundation beforehand to make it really solid – but I’m going to keep going because I know I’m on the right track. Rather than go back and fix everything, I keep going and hope the structure holds. Somehow, miraculously, it does. That’s how I compose. Sometimes I don’t think I’m going into it from top to bottom. I start in the air. So maybe structurally my music is still a bit fragile.
Marshall was sweet, kind, modest and friendly. He leaves behind many devoted friends such as photographer Jim Bengston, with whom he collaborated on “Alcatraz” and “Eberbach” and whose photographs appear on most of Ingram’s recordings.
Composer and bassist Jack Vees said, “Ingram and his music both offer a heartwarming presence. However, this is not just about simple platitudes. Instead of dramatic (and unnecessary) complication, it offers honest complexity, where our attention is gently guided to check out the myriad relationships between a few basic elements, rather than flooding the field with too much thrift.
“I think most people feel clean after listening to an Ingram track – or having a conversation with him. This is partly due to the encounter with his own authenticity, but, in fact, his deeper artistry may be that he manages to bring out our own authentic presence for at least a few minutes.
“He had his own unique musical voice, and it’s a rare treasure that will stay with us,” added composer Steve Reich. “He lived much of his early musical life in the Bay Area and, as usual, listened intently to what was going on around him. His famous “Fog Tropes” combines recorded fog horns with brass and shifting A-centric harmonies to capture the sound and vibe of the Bay Area while remaining utterly elusive. “Hymnodic Delays” begins in C major with the character of the anthem loud, clear and intensified by the tape’s delayed repeats. By the third movement, “Swept Away,“We’re in minor with a few chords intentionally out of tune. Ingram Marshall’s music is not so simple. Like all true art, it is impossible to pin down, but its beauty and intelligence are dazzlingly clear. »
Marshall is survived by his wife, Veronica Tomasic ’01 Ph.D., son, Clement Marshall, stepdaughter Samantha Do, and two granddaughters, daughter Juliet Simon, and two grandsons. He was predeceased by his father, Harry Reinhard Marshall, Sr.; mother, Bernice Douglass Marshall; brother, Harry Reinhard Marshall, Jr; and half-sister, Patricia Jewett. Marshall’s remains will be cremated and interment will be private.
A concert in Marshall’s honor will be presented by the Yale School of Music’s composition department in the upcoming academic year. Additionally, a group of musicians are currently planning a concert in New York in honor of Ingram. Memorial donations can be made to the BMI Foundation: https://bmifoundation.org/donate. Please indicate in the comments section of the webpage that donations are made in memory of Ingram Marshall. The funds will be used to support young composers.
Some of the content above was used in the New World Record liner notes, used with permission from Anthology of Recorded Music, Inc. © 2009.