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Born 19 May 1926 in Victoria, Illinois, Paul Cooper was educated at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles, the Conservatoire National, and the Sorbonne in Paris, studying with, among others, Ingolf Dahl, Ernest Kanitz, Roger Sessions, Halsey Stevens, and Nadia Boulanger. Distinguished as both composer and teacher, Cooper taught at the Universities of Michigan and Cincinnati and was composer-in-residence and professor of music at the Shepherd School of Music of Rice University. He died on 4 April 1996.
Cooper's work list includes compositions for orchestra, chamber ensemble, voice, choir, and solo piano. His six symphonies and string quartets and multiple solo and choral works are formally economical and encompass a wide variety of musical styles. Cooper's music ranges from the rich, nontonal harmonies of the
to the mystical, harmonically spare and modal elements of the
, a work for soprano, double chorus, and orchestra that draws from original 13th-century melodies.
Cooper was honored by numerous commissions and awards or grants from the Guggenheim, Ford, and Rockefeller Foundations, the National Endowment for the Arts, American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and ASCAP. He wrote a textbook,
Perspectives in Music Theory
, as well as for publications such as the