Class of ’60 Lecture: Walter Frisch

“Meet the Wizard: Harold Arlen, Over the Rainbow, and American Popular Song”

The Williams College Department of Music presents musicologist Walter Frisch of Columbia University in a lecture titled, Meet the Wizard: Harold Arlen, ‘Over the Rainbow,’ and American Popular Song. Professor Frisch delivers his lecture in Room 30 of Bernhard Music Center on the Williams College campus on Thursday, April 5 at 4:15 p.m. This free event, sponsored by the Class of 1960 Scholars Fund, is open to the public.

Walter Frisch is H. Harold Gumm/Harry and Albert von Tilzer Professor of Music at Columbia University in New York, where he has taught since 1982. Prof. Frisch has also been a guest professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany, Yale University, Princeton University, and the University of Pennsylvania. He has lectured on music throughout the United States, and in England, France, Spain, Germany, and China. His writings have been translated into French, German, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, and Chinese. Professor Frisch is a specialist in the music of composers from the Austro-German sphere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, ranging from Schubert to Schoenberg. He is the author of German Modernism: Music and the Arts (2005), which investigates the relationships between music and its cultural context in Austria and Germany during the period 1880-1915. He has written numerous articles and two books on Brahms, including Brahms and the Principle of Developing Variation (1984) and Brahms: the Four Symphonies (1996). He served as editor of the volume Brahms and His World (1990, rev. ed. 2009) and was the founding president of the American Brahms Society in 1983. He is the co-author, with George S. Bozarth, of the Brahms article in the second edition of the New Grove Dictionary (2000). Professor Frisch’s publications on Schoenberg include the book The Early Works of Arnold Schoenberg, 1893-1908 (1993) and the edited volume Schoenberg and His World (1999). He also edited and contributed to a volume on Schubert’s music, Schubert: Critical and Analytical Studies (1986). Professor Frisch is currently serving as general editor of a new series of period music histories from W.W. Norton, Western Music in Context. He has written one volume in the series, Music in the Nineteenth Century, which will appear in Fall 2012. He is also working on the music of the American songwriter Harold Arlen. Professor Frisch has twice won the ASCAP-Deems Taylor award for his writings. He has also been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in Germany, and the Center for Scholars and Writers at the New York Public Library.

Professor Frisch has provided the following description of his public talk:

The songs of Harold Arlen (1906–1986) are far better known than his name. Working with a variety of top lyricists across forty years, from about 1930 to 1970, Arlen composed many of the standards of the Great American Songbook, including “Stormy Weather,” “Get Happy,” “Come Rain or Come Shine,” “Blues in the Night,” and the classic score for the film The Wizard of Oz. This lecture will explore the richness and variety of Arlen’s songs, which are at once formally and harmonically complex, and powerfully expressive. Arlen’s peers, like Gershwin and Berlin, recognized him as a master of his art. His songs were taken up by some of the finest singers of the 20th century, including Ethel Waters, Lena Horne, Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, and Barbra Streisand. In addition to recordings by some of these artists, Prof. Frisch will consider Arlen’s own remarkable performances as arranger, singer, and pianist, which reveal him to be one of the most complete musicians of the golden era of American popular song.

The Class of 1960 Scholars Fund, established at their 25th Reunion, brings eminent academics from other colleges and universities to campus to engage with Williams students both in the classroom and informally, and share their work with the college community in public lectures.