Two composers, one fatal car crash

This past Sunday a car crash in Roseville, Minnesota took the lives of two new music composers, Franz Kamin and James Brody. You can read more about the crash, and their respective biographies here.

I asked Philip Blackburn of American Composers Forum for his thoughts on the loss of Kamin and Brody. Here’s what he wrote:

Franz Kamin was as caring and generous as he was crotchety and curmudgeonly. He was your favorite uncle with a mysterious past full of artistic talent and mystery, from a musical era where experimentation was not a dirty word. He could play the piano tenderly but often took a more Charles Ivesian approach with 16 ton weights. He inspired loyalty and devotion in young creative musicians who eagerly participated in pieces for a dozen electric guitars or watched one of several conductors displaying cards according to their stopwatch timings. His pieces were inspired lunacy with a serious purpose. He was a teacher whose opinions you valued with trepidation because he wanted you so fiercely to be yourself.

James Brody, Franz’s erstwhile teacher, was of the same non-conformist cloth. In the early 1970s, Brody was an aspiring composer on the verge of a brilliant career. Having studied composition at Indiana University with Xenakis, Brody was an authority on electro-acoustic and stochastic methods and even transcribed rhythms of a Geiger Counter for solo percussionist. He was awarded a position in composition, theory and electronic music at East Texas State University…and then he disappeared. He was just doing his thing in his studio in New Mexico all along, and creating right up until last week when he was in St. Cloud for the national SEAMUS convention (Society for Electroacoustic Music in the US).

Neither was in good health. Losing one would be sad enough. Together they leave a crater in the midst of the musical underground; for their generations of students and cult followers. They don’t make eccentric heroes in quite the same way any more.

American Composers Forum’s record label, Innova, carries James Brody’s work. You can listen to it here.