Wednesday, September 06, 2023

William Kraft Centenary

Today is a big day for my friend composer William Kraft, who passed away in 2022.  It's his centenary.  Better known to his friends and colleagues as Bill, he was born in Chicago on September 6, 1923, exactly 100 years ago today.  

Young William Kraft (colorized by

Last year I wrote two Mixed Meters articles in his memory, one about his music and the other about my personal memories.  I've written about someone's first 100 years only once before.  That was Bill's very good friend David Raksin, whose second century began in 2012.

Here are four videos about Bill.  

The first is a PBS documentary A Concerto for Mona made to accompany the premiere of his piano concerto.  In it he speaks, quite eloquently, about his music and about being a composer.  There are scenes of Bill hunting for good sounding instruments in a junk yard.  There are shots of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  The sound and video are maddeningly independent.  And this 14-minute video ends with over four minutes of credits.  Are you ready for some seventies television?

Here's another television clip, somewhat later, which shows Bill playing timpani with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  Someone edited the tape to show only the moments featuring Bill's timpani playing.  Also, it's a very cool Dvorak mash-up.

After Bill passed away, I made two short memorial videos.  These use pictures of him that I had taken through his office window.   The first is a collage of still shots:

The second shows Bill actually composing.  I believe it's his piece Songs of Flowers, Bells & Death.  You can faintly hear him through the glass checking harmonies.  Eventually he notices me and reacts in a very  Kraftian fashion.

Fun but irrelevant fact: did you know that the word scofflaw was invented in 1923, the same year Bill was born?

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