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The music of Karl Korte has a scope and a variety that makes classification of it difficult. Professor Emeritus of Composition at the University of Texas at Austin and recently a Visiting Professor of Music at Williams College, he is now retired from teaching and lives in Cambridge, N.Y. Raised in Englewood, N.J. his father was a sculptor and was responsible for his earliest exposure to classical music. In high school, his musical influences and activities were mostly in the areas of jazz and popular music, and he played the trumpet in a variety of bands and orchestras. After discharge from the Army, where he played trumpet with the First Army Band, he entered the Juilliard School where his teachers included Peter Mennin, William Bergsma and Vincent Persichetti. Later teachers include Geofreddo Petrassi, Otto Luening and Aaron Copland. Over the years he has created a body of work that ranges from chamber music to symphonies, as well as choral works ranging from oratorios to a number of short works intended for school and church use. Much of this music has attracted attention through publication, performance, recordings and many significant national and international prizes and awards: two Guggenheim Fellowships, Fulbright Grants to Italy and New Zealand, Grants from the Ford Foundation Young Composer’s in Residence Program, a gold medal in the Queen Elizabeth International Composition Competition, Grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, First Prize in the Missouri Contemporary Music Competition, as well as awards from the National Flute Association, the Vanguard Arts competition and the Tampa Bay Composer’s Forum. In 2002 his Four Songs of Experience (Blake) for treble voices and piano won "Top Honors" in the Waging Peace Through Singing international competition.
In addition to his acoustic compositions, Korte has written many works making use of electronic media. (One of his earliest efforts in this respect was Remembrances for flute and tape. Recorded by flutist Samuel Baron for the Nonesuch label in 1971) In the mid ‘80s, with the ready availability of digital recording and processing equipment, the composer returned to electronic music, and created a number of compositions using this new technology. Although several of these works are for tape alone, most of his compositions in this area involve the use of a live instrumentalist whose pallet of sounds has been "extended" through the addition of a taped electronic accompaniment.
"For me, one of the most interesting aspects of using the computer as a compositional tool is its powerful ability to extend the vocabulary of existing musical instruments by blurring the distinctions between sounds which have been acoustically ("naturally") created by a musical instrument and those that have been electronically manufactured. For the performer this may mean extending the boundaries between what is physically possible on an acoustic instrument and what is not and for the listener it often means a blurring of such distinctions. If in listening to these compositions one sometimes finds it difficult or impossible to tell where these boundaries lie, at least in part, I consider that I have been successful."
— Karl Korte