John Alden Carpenter

John Alden Carpenter's work in general has an impressionistic lightness, but ranges widely in expression from light and humorous to the poetic and moody, from jazz-inspired to patriotic, and from the popular to the non-Western. His ballet Skyscrapers was given at the Metropolitan Opera, but he is perhaps most famous for his great output of piano pieces and songs.

--The Newberry Library, Chicago

Photo: John Alden Carpenter, bust, 1932, courtesy of the Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, Digital ID: cph.3a43348

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About

Together with Charles Wakefield Cadman and Deems Taylor, John Alden Carpenter was considered one of the foremost “modern” composers of the 1920’s and 30’s. Born into an affluent Chicago shipping family, Carpenter traced his ancestry back to the Pilgrims. His musical studies began with his mother, a passionate amateur singer, and continued with John Knowles Paine at Harvard and in later life with Elgar in Rome and Bernard Ziehn in Chicago.

After his graduation in 1897, he entered the family business, and, like Ives, for the rest of his career worked as an executive by day and a composer in his leisure hours. Unlike Ives (who hurled invectives at Carpenter’s early work Adventures in a Perambulator), however, his music was far more mainstream and accessible. In 1915 Carpenter became interested in incorporating elements of popular music–Tin Pan Alley and jazz–into his works.

His 1921 musical pantomime Krazy Kat, with its dazzling orchestration that influenced Gershwin, enjoyed a great success and resulted in a commission from Russian impresario Serge Diaghilev for an American ballet. Carpenter’s resulting composition, Skyscrapers, eventually was premiered at the Metropolitan Opera in 1926, greatly enhancing his reputation as a composer. Until his death in Chicago in 1951, he devoted his life to creating two symphonies, a violin concerto, several tone poems, and over 100 songs. Carpenter’s vocal literature is enlivened by his impeccable taste in poetry, his luxuriant melodic inspiration, and his fluid settings of text. His most famous songs include his cycle of Rabindranath Tagore poems, Gitanjali, his Four Negro Songs to Langston Hughes texts, and his Four Poems by Paul Verlaine.

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

Related Information

Videos

Recordings

Songs from Chicago

(Ernst Bacon, Margaret Bonds, John Alden Carpenter, Louis Campbell-Tipton and Florence Price)

2018


View recording

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

Echoes of Nightingales

(Leonard Bernstein, John Alden Carpenter, Celius Dougherty and James H. Rogers)

2009

As This Morning Fair: The Songs of John Alden Carpenter

(John Alden Carpenter)

1999

Paul Sperry Sings Songs of an Innocent Age

(Amy Marcy Beach, Charles Wakefield Cadman, John Alden Carpenter, George Whitefield Chadwick, Arthur Foote, Henry F. Gilbert, Charles Griffes, Charles Ives, Edward MacDowell and Ethelbert Nevin)

1990

A Collection of American Songs

(John Alden Carpenter, Aaron Copland, John Woods Duke and Ned Rorem)

1980

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

Kirsten Flagstad, Vol. 4

(Samuel Barber, James H. Rogers, John Alden Carpenter, Richard Hageman and Stephen Foster)

1936

Ernestine Schumann-Heink, Contralto

(John Alden Carpenter, Stephen Foster, Ethelbert Nevin, John Stafford Smith and Traditional)

1935

Books

John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Composer

By Howard Pollack

John Alden Carpenter: A Bio-Bibliography

By Joan O'Connor

Modern Music-Makers: Contemporary American Composers

By Madeleine Goss

Published in 1952, this volume is dated but does contain a thorough biography, chronology, and catalog for many important song composers, including Charles Ives, John Alden Carpenter, Marion Bauer, William Grant Still, Virgil Thomson, Aaron Copland, Lousie Talma, Samuel Barber, William Schuman, and Leonard Bernstein.

Gitanjali

By Rabindranath Tagore

Songs

A Cradle Song

John Alden Carpenter

William Blake

Four Negro Songs

Song Collection

John Alden Carpenter

Langston Hughes

Gitanjali: Song Offerings

Song Collection

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

I Am Like a Remnant of a Cloud of Autumn

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

Song Collection: Gitanjali: Song Offerings

Jazz-Boys

John Alden Carpenter

Langston Hughes

Song Collection: Four Negro Songs

Light, My Light

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

Song Collection: Gitanjali: Song Offerings

Looking-Glass River

John Alden Carpenter

Robert Louis Stevenson

May the Maiden

John Alden Carpenter

Sidney Lanier

On the Day When Death Will Knock

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

Song Collection: Gitanjali: Song Offerings

On the Seashore of Endless Worlds

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

Song Collection: Gitanjali: Song Offerings

Shake Your Brown Feet, Honey!

John Alden Carpenter

Langston Hughes

Song Collection: Four Negro Songs

That Soothin' Song

John Alden Carpenter

Langston Hughes

Song Collection: Four Negro Songs

The Cryin' Blues

John Alden Carpenter

Langston Hughes

Song Collection: Four Negro Songs

The Day is No More

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

The Green River

John Alden Carpenter

Lord Alfred Bruce Douglas

The Home Road

John Alden Carpenter

John Alden Carpenter

The Little Fly

John Alden Carpenter

William Blake

The Sleep That Flits on Baby's Eyes

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

Song Collection: Gitanjali: Song Offerings

When I Bring to You Colour'd Toys

John Alden Carpenter

Rabindranath Tagore

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

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Four Negro Songs

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Song(s): 1. Shake Your Brown Feet, Honey!
2. The Cryin' Blues
3. Jazz-Boys
4. That Soothin' Song

View via WorldCat

John Alden Carpenter Sheet Music

Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

IMSLP: John Alden Carpenter Sheet Music

Find via IMSLP

Gitanjali

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Song(s): 1. When I Bring to You Colour'd Toys
2. On the Day When Death Will Knock
3. The Sleep That Flits on Baby's Eyes
4. I Am Like a Remnant of a Cloud of Autumn
5. On the Seashore of Endless Worlds
6. Light, My Light

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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

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Songs of John Alden Carpenter (Medium Voice)

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Voice Type: Medium

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

"The Little Fly"

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

"The Day is No More"

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Buy via Sheet Music Plus

"Looking-Glass River"

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

"May the Maiden"

Composer(s): John Alden Carpenter

Buy via Classical Vocal Reprints

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