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Paul Creston was born 10 October 1906 in New York of Italian parentage. Entirely self-taught with the exception of piano and organ lessons in his youth, Creston pursued studies in theory, composition, literature, and philosophy while working to support himself and his poor immigrant family. Fiercely independent by nature, the composer developed his style free of any particular school of thought or teacher's influence and made rhythm a cornerstone of his work, often emphasizing shifting subdivisions of regular meters. He created works in many genres including five symphonies, concertos for violin, piano, saxophone, and marimba, several dance works, songs, and choral, chamber, and instrumental pieces.
Creston considered his greatest "teachers" to be Bach, Scarlatti, Chopin, Debussy, and Ravel. He wrote in an accessible, conservative style that incorporated song and dance idioms and often featured unusual instruments like the trombone, marimba, or saxophone. Lush harmonies and expansive orchestrations characterize an often brash and spontaneous body of work, organized around a remarkable mastery of thematic development evident in works such as the
Symphony No. 2
Chant of 1942
Creston was the recipient of many awards and honors including a Guggenheim Fellowship and the New York Music Critics' Circle Award for his
Symphony No. 1
. He is the author of
Principles of Rhythm and Rational Metric Notation
as well as numerous articles analyzing four centuries of rhythmic practice.