One of America’s greatest artists of the 20th century, Paul Bowles, helped form a distinctive American style of music composition that will be showcased at BYU this week, more than 10 years after Bowles’ death.
A free concert of Bowles’ work will be held in the Museum of Art auditorium today at 5:30 p.m.
The famous American author, composer and translator died in Morocco in 1999, and since then Carole Blankenship and Irene Herrmann have traveled the world performing Bowles’ works. Blankenship, a soprano and assistant professor of music at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., and Irene Herrmann, a pianist and staff accompanist for the University of California Santa Cruz, will perform a musical portrait at the Museum of Art auditorium celebrating Bowles’ artistic accomplishments.
Bowles dropped out of college and traveled across the world as a young man to pursue a career as a writer and composer. Bowles learned from some of the greatest artistic minds of the nation in the 1930s such as Orson Welles and Aaron Copeland.
Herrmann researched Bowles’ music in special collections and archives until she decided to fly to Tangier, Morocco to meet the highly respected artist.
“He wrote more than 100 artistic songs in English, French and Spanish,” Herrmann said. “They are perhaps his greatest contribution to American music of the 20th century.”
Although he was a prominent contributor to artistic achievements in the United States, Bowles moved to Morocco at the age of 37 and lived there until his death at the age of 88. Herrmann, who developed a lasting friendship with Bowles, said Bowles loved the Arabic culture and music of Northern Africa.
After Bowles’ death in 1999, Herrmann became the curator of Bowles’ music estate. As the designated musical heir of Bowles’ estate, Herrmann said she is constantly occupied as people from across the globe request permission for his music.
Since 2008 Herrmann and Blankenship have performed Bowles’ songs at universities throughout the nation and at the Centennial-International Paul Bowles Conference at the University of Lisbon, Portugal in 2010.
Blankenship’s intrigue for Bowles’ music led her to Herrmann. Now Herrmann and Blankenship work together to bring Bowles’ accomplishments to the public.
“Bowles’ songs have been mostly unavailable to the public,” Blankenship said. “It is a hope of mine that the songs will soon be available for singers and students of singing to access and then enjoy.”
According to Blankenship, the concert in the Museum of Art auditorium will be an interactive experience. Herrmann and Blankenship will present an assortment of music, poetry and story-telling.
Diane Reich, assistant professor of voice and professor of vocal and opera literature at BYU, invited the two artists to perform at BYU. Reich said Herrmann and Blankenship are the leading experts on Bowles’ life and work. Reich said the concert will feature piano and voice as Blankenship and Herrmann tell the story of Bowles’ fascinating life.
Herrmann said the concert will be a unique experience for everyone in attendance.
“People will hear music that they’ve never heard before and stories about the music and my friendship with the composer,” Herrmann said. “That is a very unusual feature of any concert.”