Alan Hovhaness

From Wind Repertory Project
Alan Hovhaness


Alan Hovhaness (8 March 1911, Somerville, Mass. – 21 June 2000, Seattle, Wash.) was an American composer.

Hovhaness was an important 20th Century American composer whose music anticipated many future musical trends and aesthetic values. Rejecting the vogues of Americana, serialism and atonality, he pioneered contemporary development of archaic models and was amongst the earliest to integrate Western musical idioms with Eastern ones, making him a pioneer of East-West 'fusion' decades before the term 'World Music' had been coined. The visionary and mystical nature of his work, often intoxicating in its directness and simplicity, rank him as the musical progenitor to the later, so-called New Age-ists and Spiritual Minimalists.

His parents did not particularly encourage his preoccupation with music but were educated and cultured. Hovhaness began composing during childhood and continued prolifically until old age, despite destroying whole periods of work with which he became dissatisfied. In the 1930s, he studied composition at Boston’s New England Conservatory of Music. At this time, he also became fascinated by Eastern music after attending a performance of visiting Indian dancer Uday Shankar. In the 1940s he took serious interest in his paternal Armenian heritage as a means for creative renewal, and studied the works of Armenian composer Gomitas Vartabed and Armenian liturgical music. In the 1950s this influence receded somewhat, and in the early 1960s his trips to India, Japan and Korea added different but equally strong exotic hues to his music. From the 1970s onwards his style became less overtly Eastern.

One of the 20th century's most productive composers, Hovhaness wrote for an unusually wide variety of musical ensembles, from small chamber music to large orchestral works. Even allowing for all his destructive tendencies, he left over 500 published works including 30-odd concertos and around 70 designated symphonies, several with very accomplished but highly individual scoring for large wind ensembles.

Works for Winds