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William Hibbard. Parson's Piece. William Parsons, percussion. String Quartet. Stradivari Quartet (Allen Ohmes and John Ferrell, violins; William Preucil, viola; Charles Wendt, violoncello). Bass Trombone, Bass Clarinet, Harp. Jon English, bass trombone; Charles West, bass clarinet; Motter Forman, harp; William Hibbard, conductor. Menage. Phyllis Bryn-Julson, soprano; Benjamin Hudson, violin; Allan Dean, trumpet. Schickstuck. Steven Schick, vibraphone. Handwork. Garrick Ohlsson, piano. Liner notes by Lowell Cross, William Hibbard, William Parsons, and Steven Schick. 1991. Music and Arts CD-675.
One of the unforeseen benefits of the CD revolution is that living composers no longer need to wait to be discovered by the big recording companies but can now, either through their own efforts or those of their patrons (e.g., universities, friends, or supporters), issue their own works for the public to evaluate. Thus a veritable deluge of new music has hit the market in the last several years. Even if much of it winds up in the "remaindered" bin at Tower Records, enough radio stations and individual modern music fans will buy these recordings and come to know the composer's work to a degree heretofore unknown, and at least broadcast performances of the most obscure and underrated composers are certain to occur.
The fact of the matter is simply this: there is huge overproduction and equally high underconsumption of new music these days, resulting in many a deserving composer remaining either completely unknown to the public at large or, at best, known only in his or her own small area of this very large country.
A good case in point is the recent CD put out by Music and Arts of the music of William Hibbard (1939-89). I must confess that in spite of attending hundreds, if not thousands, of modern music concerts in my life, I cannot recall ever having heard a note of Hibbard's music. Cofounder and music director of the University of Iowa's Center for New Music, Hibbard was very well known in that area. Even though his ensembles toured the Midwest and even New York, it would be hard to say he was a national figure in music, although perhaps he deserved to be.
The disc at hand presents a generous survey of his music from 1967 through 1986 in the forms of a String Quartet (1971), two solo percussion works, a piano solo, a wordless voice-violin-trumpet piece, Menage (1974), and a work simply called Bass Trombone, Bass Clarinet, Harp (1973). Although the program booklet quotes Hibbard as stating, "I am a strict serial composer," his work sounds nothing at all like any of the "Viennese Three," or Boulez or Babbitt for that matter. His music struck me as highly original, recalling almost no other composer I …