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John Charlton Crawford

Professor Emeritus of Music

UC Riverside

1931 – 2012


Professor John C. Crawford came to UCR in 1970 from Wellesley College in Massachusetts and taught music theory, composition, and advanced ear training until his retirement in 1994. He was an active composer whose works were published, performed, and admired nationally. At UCR, Prof. Crawford chaired the Music Department from 1984 to 1986, organized the university's Festival of Contemporary Music, and developed one of the first inter-disciplinary arts courses at UCR together with Professor Christina Schlundt of the Dance Department. As a scholar, Prof. Crawford produced several elegant articles and an important book on early twentieth-century music.


Prof. Crawford’s career was informed by his superb education. He received his MM degree from the Yale School of Music in 1953 and his PhD from Harvard in 1963. He studied composition with Nadia Boulanger in Paris on a Fulbright Fellowship, as well as with such eminent composers as Paul Hindemith, Quincy Porter, Walter Piston, and Randall Thompson. Harvard awarded him its Boott Prize in choral composition for his Magnificat (1957) and the Paine Traveling Fellowship for the study of Arnold Schoenberg's vocal expressionism in Vienna. Many of his first published compositions received performances on the East Coast by choral ensembles such as the New England Conservatory Chorus; the Glee Clubs of Amherst, Harvard, and the University of Virginia; Chorus Pro Musica (Boston); Incarnation Concerts (New York); and the Swarthmore College Choir. Prof. Richard Wilson, a distinguished composer at Vassar College, writes, “What I remember of Jack’s music at the time—choral settings mainly—was a fine attention to the rhythm and sound of the words. He chose his poems with great sensitivity and sought to enhance them with clear declamation and an economy of means.” Other vocal works include a one-act farcical opera, Don Cristóbal and Rosita (1970), composed using a text by Federico Garcia Lorca; an oratorio, Ash Wednesday, with texts by T.S. Eliot; Two Shakespeare Sonnets (1969) for soprano and piano; and Calvaries of Love (1980), a dramatic song cycle for soprano, clarinet, cello, and piano on poems and letters by Emily Dickinson. The opera and the songs for soprano were composed for performance by his wife, Dorothy Lamb Crawford. The Wellesley College Choir and Harvard Glee Club performed his oratorio at Wellesley College, Don Cristobal gained later performances in Los Angeles and Riverside, and his Magnificat for chorus and string orchestra has received countless performances by first-rate ensembles.


The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Sequoia and Brandeis String Quartets, and the Hartt Chamber Players, among many other professional groups, have performed Prof. Crawford’s instrumental music. The Cleveland Chamber Orchestra and the New England Philharmonic presented his last composition, a viola concerto.


Beyond his compositional activity, Prof. Crawford published acclaimed articles and a classic volume, Expressionism in Twentieth-Century Music (1993), co-authored with his wife. This first comprehensive treatment of musical expressionism in English found critical acclaim in Britain and the United States. David Matthews stated in The Times Literary Supplement, "Expressionist music is meticulously chronicled by the Crawfords in this well-researched, intelligently written and beautifully produced book." In The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, Lydia Goehr writes, “Their text is solid and reliable, nicely illustrated, and replete with examples and bibliographical recommendations.” In 1984, Prof. Crawford translated letters and documents and wrote an essay for a publication relating Arnold Schoenberg and Wassily Kandinsky. Peter Arnheim in The Musical Quarterly praised Crawford’s work with these words: “the translation is excellent, careful, and reliable. Crawford has enriched the English edition with an essay on the composer’s development to 1911.” In the New York Review of Books, Robert Craft found the publication to be “indispensable for anyone concerned with the arts in the years immediately preceding World War I.”


Pedagogy was always a significant facet of Prof. Crawford’s career. His earliest experiences as a teacher are described by Prof. Wilson: “In 1960-61, Jack Crawford was teaching assistant to Professor John Ward, who terrorized Harvard undergraduates in his music history class with scathing criticisms, surprise quizzes, and incomprehensible reading assignments. Beleaguered Jack had to mediate between the ogre and his frightened charges--clarifying, amplifying, pacifying. He tried manfully to teach us to sing quilismas, liquescent neumes and isorhythmic motets. He was youthful, spirited, friendly and--for many of us--his classes were the happiest part of the course.” Dr. Donald Johns, who was chair of the music department when Dr. Crawford arrived in Riverside, reflected upon his hiring: “In a small department like music, we tried to be very careful about the potential contributions of each new appointment, and Jack was a great colleague on all accounts. He was a thorough scholar in an important area of the history of music, the transitional period bridging the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.” Prof. Crawford’s superb education at Yale and Harvard, as well as his extraordinary musicality and calm demeanor, were indeed a perfect fit for the relatively small UCR department. He quickly became a popular and beloved teacher as revealed by student evaluations with glowing comments such as these: “Dr. Crawford is particularly adept at ferreting out weaknesses in a student’s composition and correcting them with very helpful suggestions. His relaxed and amiable manner contributes to a positive learning environment.” “I consider Music 250H to be one of the most valuable courses available to composition students. Dr. Crawford was a lively and engaging guide throughout the semester and did a fine job in stimulating the students to perform at their peak.”


Even more telling are tributes from young composers, many of whom prepared compositions for their MA theses under Prof. Crawford’s astute and thoughtful guidance. Michael Karmon (MA, UCR; PhD, U. of Minnesota), a successful free-lance composer, recalls, “Professor Crawford was my first composition teacher and his keen musicianship, his skill as a composer, and his humility are still vivid in my mind. He was patient and encouraging as a teacher, never critical, and infectiously enthusiastic when music came together nicely; I'm certainly a better musician because of him.”


Prof. Crawford’s inspiration and enduring influence are eloquently expressed by Joseph Butch Rovan (MA, UCR; PhD, UC Berkeley), now a tenured professor and co-director of Multimedia and Electronic Music Experiments and the PhD program in computer music at Brown University: “Prof. Jack Crawford was an incredible mentor and teacher. His talents and interests were far ranging--in addition to acoustic composition he had an interest in electronic music, and it was in his class that I started on a path that led from UCR to UC Berkeley to France, and now to teaching computer music and multimedia. Some of my most memorable moments, however, came from counterpoint class with Prof. Crawford. He could sight-read and analyze every possible aspect of a student's project, all on the fly at first glance. His conviction that form was not ‘form’ but a generative process, opening up the implications of a musical idea, became the basis for my later career as a composer and performer of real time interactive music. His example has inspired my own teaching of young musicians and for that I am grateful.”


Upon retirement in 1994, John Crawford returned to Cambridge, Mass., where he enjoyed participating in the area's rich concert life as his health would allow. He was a member of the Harvard Musical Association, served on the Board of the Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund, and heard his Viola Concerto premiered by Richard Pittman and the New England Philharmonic with the distinguished violist Bayla Keyes as soloist. After courageously enduring Parkinson’s disease, which meant that he lacked the physical ability to compose music for the last twenty-three years of his life, Prof. Crawford finally succumbed to the disease on January 5th of this year. He is survived by his wife of fifty-seven years, Dorothy Lamb Crawford, a noted author and composer in her own right; his son, Peter R. Crawford; a daughter, Susan P. Crawford; a daughter-in-law, Glorietta; and a granddaughter, Venise.


Frederick K. Gable, Chair, Professor of Music, emeritus

Byron Adams, Professor of Music

Anthony F. Ginter, Professor of Music, emeritus

Donald C. Johns, Professor of Music, emeritus

(with the assistance of Dorothy Lamb Crawford)