Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles was a composer who turned with great success to writing. From 1947 on he lived in Morocco, where he wrote his best-known novel, The Sheltering Sky. His energetic songs include settings of Tennessee Williams and his own poetry.

Photo: Paul Bowles, public domain

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About

On September 19, 1995, a frail 84-year-old Paul Bowles acknowledged the cheers of New York’s Alice Tully Hall concert audience, which had just listened to his Pastorela, Concerto for Two Pianos and Orchestra, and song suite Secret Words, performed by the EOS Ensemble. Not only was it the first time in almost five decades that he had set foot on native soil, it was also the first time since his expatriation in 1947 that a serious revival of his music was being launched.

Born in Jamaica, Queens (New York City) on December 30, 1910, Bowles sought refuge from an unhappy childhood in the life of the imagination. He wrote poetry, studied piano, composed music, and was fascinated by the visual arts. He was unable to decide which artistic direction to pursue professionally until Henry Cowell praised his music and recommended him to Aaron Copland. Bowles followed Copland to Paris, Berlin, and Morocco, immersing himself in the European cultural world and acquiring his first taste for the wanderlust that would become a hallmark of his life.

Back in the States from 1933 to 1947, Bowles composed for the theatre, ballet, and films; married novelist Jane Auer (with whom he would remain until her death in 1973 despite the stormy, unconventional nature of their relationship); wrote short stories and journalism; and traveled extensively in Latin America. In 1947, Bowles relocated to Morocco and in 1949 he published the novel that would secure his literary reputation and complete his transformation from musician to writer: The Sheltering Sky.

Bowles’s musical compositions from the 1930’s and 40’s blend the influences of the French avant-garde with American folk and popular elements, and compare favorably with the works of Copland, Thomson, and Blitzstein from the same period. His entire song opus dates from this period, too. Vigorous, witty, theatrical, and endowed with an uncanny ability to fuse words and music, Bowles composed appealing melodies supported by clever accompaniments, many of which used jazzy rhythms. Perhaps best known for his folksy-bluesy Blue Mountain Ballads, to texts by Tennessee Williams, he also created some fine settings of Gertrude Stein, William Saroyan, and of his own and his wife’s poems.

–Thomas Hampson and Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold, PBS I Hear America Singing

Related Information

Videos

Recordings

Out of the Shadows: Rediscovered American Art Song

(Paul Bowles, John Woods Duke, Stephen Paulus and Randall Thompson)

2016

Stopping By

(Mark Abel, Samuel Barber, Amy Marcy Beach, Leonard Bernstein, Charles Wakefield Cadman, Elliott Carter, Aaron Copland, Celius Dougherty, John Woods Duke, Stephen Foster, Charles Griffes and Ned Rorem)

2013

Wondrous Free

(Leonard Bernstein, Paul Bowles, John Alden Carpenter, John Woods Duke, Stephen Foster, Sidney Homer, Francis Hopkinson, Charles Ives, Edward MacDowell, William Grant Still, Traditional and Elinor Remick Warren)

2009

The Life of Paul Bowles DVD

(Paul Bowles)

2003

Samuel Ramey: Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye

(Paul Bowles, Samuel Barber, Stephen Foster, Charles Griffes and Tennessee Williams)

1996

Paul Sperry Sings Romantic American Song

(Paul Bowles, Theodore Chanler, Arthur Farwell, Richard Hundley and Virgil Thomson)

1995

Paul Bowles: A Musical Portrait

(Paul Bowles)

1994

American Song Recital

(Leonard Bernstein, William Bolcom, Paul Bowles, John Corigliano, John Woods Duke, Richard Hundley, Lori Laitman, John Musto and Richard Pearson Thomas)

1992

Works By Thomson, Bowles, Hoiby, Hundley

(Paul Bowles, Lee Hoiby, Richard Hundley, John Musto, Virgil Thomson and Tennessee Williams)

1988

But Yesterday is Not Today

(Samuel Barber, Paul Bowles, Theodore Chanler, Aaron Copland, John Woods Duke, Robert Helps and Roger Sessions)

1977

Songs by 20th Century American Composers (Vol. I & II)

(Ernst Bacon, Samuel Barber, Paul Bowles, John Alden Carpenter, Theodore Chanler, Aaron Copland, Charles Griffes, Charles Ives, Otto Luening, Edward MacDowell, Virgil Thomson and Ned Rorem)

1962

Books

Paul Bowles on Music

By Paul Bowles; Mangan & Herrmann, eds.

Includes the last interview with Paul Bowles

The Sheltering Sky

By Paul Bowles

The Stories of Paul Bowles

By Paul Bowles

An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles

By Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno

Their Heads Are Green And Their Hands Are Blue

By Paul Bowles

Audio

Blue Mountain Ballads

Track:

    Songs

    A Little Closer, Please (The Pitchman's Song)

    Paul Bowles

    William Saroyan

    April Fool Baby

    Paul Bowles

    Gertrude Stein

    Blue Mountain Ballads

    Song Collection

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Cabin

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Blue Mountain Ballads

    Cuatro Canciones de García Lorca

    Song Collection

    Paul Bowles

    Death Is High

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Gothic Suite

    Faint as Leaf Shadow

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Gothic Suite

    Farther From the Heart

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    Gothic Suite

    Song Collection

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Heavenly Grass

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Blue Mountain Ballads

    Her Head on the Pillow

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    In the Platinum Forest

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    In the Woods

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    Letter to Freddy

    Paul Bowles

    Gertrude Stein

    Lonesome Man

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Blue Mountain Ballads

    My Sister's Hand in Mine

    Paul Bowles

    Jane Bowles

    Night Without Sleep

    Paul Bowles

    Charles Henri Ford

    Once a Lady Was Here

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    San Sebastiano di Sodoma

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Gothic Suite

    Secret Words

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    Sleeping Song (Baby, Baby)

    Paul Bowles

    Paul Bowles

    Song for My Sister

    Paul Bowles

    Charles Henri Ford

    Sugar in the Cane

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Blue Mountain Ballads

    Testa dell'Efebo

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Song Collection: Gothic Suite

    The Goths

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Three

    Paul Bowles

    Tennessee Williams

    Sheet Music

    28 Songs by American and British Composers

    Composer(s): John Duke

    Song(s): Barber: Must the Winter Come so Soon?
    Bernstein: Two Love Songs (Extinguish My Eyes, When My Soul Touches Yours)
    Bowles: Heavenly Grass
    Carpenter: When I Bring to You Colour'd Toys
    Corigliano: Christmas at the Cloisters, The Unicorn
    Dougherty: Sound the Flute!
    Duke: Peggy Mitchell
    Hoiby: An Immorality
    Moore: The Dove Song (The Wings of the Dove)
    Sargent: Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
    Thomson: English Usage, The Tiger
    Vaughan Williams: Hugh's Song of the Road
    Wells: Everyone Sang

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    Blue Mountain Ballads

    Composer(s): Paul Bowles

    Song(s): 1. Heavenly Grass
    2. Lonesome Man
    3. Cabin
    4. Sugar in the Cane

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

    "Cuatro Canciones de García Lorca"

    Composer(s): Paul Bowles

    Song(s): 1. Cancioncilla
    2. Media Luna
    3. Balada Amarilla
    4. Murío al Amanecer

    Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

    Selected Songs (Paul Bowles)

    Composer(s): Paul Bowles

    View via WorldCat

    Songs by 22 Americans

    Composer(s): Samuel Barber
    Leonard Bernstein
    Paul Bowles
    John Alden Carpenter
    Celius Dougherty
    John Duke
    Charles Tomlinson Griffes
    Richard Hageman
    Charles Naginski
    William Roy
    Gladys Rich
    Virgil Thomson
    Elinor Remick Warren

    Voice Type: High

    Buy via Sheet Music Plus

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