Waart, Edo de. 56 Wachmann, Eduard 56

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Williams, William Carlos

(b Rutherford, NJ, 17 Sept 1883; d Rutherford, 4 March 1963). American poet. He studied medicine at the Universities of Pennsylvania (1902–6) and Leipzig (1908–9), and worked as a physician until his retirement in the mid-1950s. He wrote novels, plays, short stories and essays, but is principally remembered as a poet. He published an autobiography in 1951 and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously, in 1963, for Pictures from Brueghel and other Poems (1962).

Williams’s poetry used an adaptive metre and line based on authentic American speech patterns. He consciously dissociated himself from the allusive verse of such contemporaries as Pound (a lifelong friend) and Eliot; the motto ‘no ideas but in things’, which appears in his five-book epic Paterson (1946–58), became an enduring tenet of his poetic imagination. Williams loved music and saw its rhythmic organization as analogous to poetic metre and line. His metrical experiments culminated in the creation of a new form, the variable foot and triadic line, best exemplified in Paterson. His collection The Desert Music (1955), later the basis of an extended orchestral setting by Steve Reich (1982–4), celebrates the ‘music of events’; here as elsewhere music is conceived as the image of the imagination, creating through its rhythmic cohesion a unity of subject and object.

The early imagistic poems Williams’s first major collections, Al Que Quiere! (1917), Kora in Hell (1920), and Spring and All (1923) have been more frequently set than his later ones, though in recent years the many rhythmic and musical references in his later works have attracted the interest of composers. Leibowitz set text by Williams in his dramatic symphony Perpetuum mobile ‘The City’ (1951), as well as in his op.6 and op.25 song collections. Other settings include This is Just to Say (1977) by Robin Holloway, two of The Nantucket Songs (1979) by Rorem and, among many others by American composers, works by Babbitt, Binkerd, Paulus and Harbison (Words from Paterson, 1989; The Rewaking, 1991).


P. Sherman: The Music of Survival: a Biography of a Poem by William Carlos Williams (Urbana, IL, 1968)

S.M. Sherwood: The New Poetry of William Carlos Williams: Poetic Uses of Music and Dance (Ann Arbor, MI, 1978)

William Carlos Williams Review, xv/2 (1989) [issue devoted to Williams and music, ed. P. Schmidt]

J. McKean: ‘Notes on Improvisation, William Carlos Williams, and Jazz’, Conversant Essays: Contemporary Poets on Poetry, ed. J. McCorkle (Detroit, 1990), 348–61

K. Rugoff: ‘Readings of William Carlos Williams by Contemporary American Composers’, Yearbook of Interdisciplinary Studies in the Fine Arts, iii (1992), 35–52


Williamson, John Lee.

See Williamson, sonny boy.

Williamson, Malcolm (Benjamin Graham Christopher)

(b Sydney, 21 Nov 1931). Australian composer, pianist and organist. He studied the piano privately with Sverjensky (1944–50) before enrolling at the NSW State Conservatorium of Music (1949–50) where his teachers included Eugene Goossens; he pursued further composition study in London with Elisabeth Lutyens and Erwin Stein (1953). After settling in London permanently, he worked in a publishing house, as an organist and choirmaster, and as a nightclub pianist before devoting himself to composition full-time. His breadth of interests has been reflected in his awards, which include a creative arts fellowship to the Australian National University to teach Scandinavian literature (1973) and a medical research fellowship to the University of NSW (1981). Other honours include appointments as Master of the Music to Her Majesty the Queen (1975), CBE (1976), Member of the Order of Australia (1987) and the Bernard Heinz Award (1989).

Soon after his conversion to Catholicism in 1952, Williamson made an intensive study of the religious and organ music of Messiaen. With Fons amoris for organ (1955–6), he embarked upon a whole repertory of music on religious themes. His view of worship as a participatory experience is embodied in his Carols of King David (1970), which requires congregational response. His two books of Peace Pieces for organ (1971) meld religious and human themes. Personal expressions of the liturgy are included in the Mass of the Feast of Christ the King (1977), the Mass of St Margaret of Scotland (1977–80) and the Mass of the People of God (1981). Understanding Catholicism as a branch of the ‘universal Jewish commitment’, he has expressed a connection with the Jewish experience in works such as Au tombeau du martyre juif inconnu (1976), for victims of the Holocaust, and Next Year in Jerusalem (1985) the latter quotes the Passover service in expressing a desire for home and peace for the human spirit. Built from an aggregate of germinal fragments, quoted material in the work includes a synagogue chant and the first phrase of the Israeli national anthem.

A love of literature is also fundamental to Williamson’s music. The poems of James McAuley gave rise to the Symphony for Voices (1962), Celebration of Divine Love (1963) and An Australian Carol (1968). After basing his chamber opera The Growing Castle (1968) on Strindberg’s A Dream Play, the Swedish government commissioned Williamson to compose Hallo Everybody (1969), a collection of 24 songs to use in teaching English. A celebrated meeting between Williamson and the Australian Aboriginal poet Oodgeroo Noonuccal (previously known as Kath Walker) resulted in the choral symphony The Dawn is at Hand (1989). Requiem for a Tribe Brother (1992) was written in honour of Noonuccal’s playwright son, Vivian.

In 1988, as part of the 15th anniversary celebrations of the Sydney Opera House, Williamson composed The True Endeavour, a large-scale popular work intended to be performed outside, which draws on texts by Australian historian Manning Clark. Earlier works in this genre include The Brilliant and the Dark (1966), an ‘operatic sequence for women’s voices’ to a text by Ursula Vaughan Williams. Created for the National Federation of Women's Institutes, each of the work's eight sections deals with an aspect of the lives of ordinary women. While women sing of the country, the sea, love and death, dancing and lamentation, continuity is provided by a chorus of embroiderers.

Williamson’s instrumental music typically features the piano, an instrument on which he has played with great skill. Indeed, his ability to perform his own virtuoso works was important to his growing reputation during the 1950s. The early works, such as the two sonatas (1955–6, 1957), were inspired by serial music, particularly that of Boulez and Messiaen. In these and later works, such as the Pas de quatre for flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and piano (1967), serial procedures are clearly evident in the opening stages, but tend to dissipate in later sections as distinct tonal areas emerge. Larger instrumental forms sometimes have a theatrical underpinning; the elegiac Violin Concerto (1965), for example, is a portrait of Edith Sitwell. Other works, such as the Piano Concerto no.2 (1960) and the Concerto grosso (1965) show the influence of Stravinsky.

Williamson’s humanitarian convictions are also present in a number of works, among them tributes to United Nations secretary Dag Hammarskjöld (Hammarskjöld Portrait, 1974) and Josip Broz Tito (Tribute to a Hero, 1981). His anti-armament stance provoked the commencement of an ambitious but abandoned project that included settings of Edmund Blunden’s poem August the Sixth (the date the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima) with Edith Sitwell’s Three Poems of the Atomic Age and The Cradle of Hope and Peace, settings of a collection of English, French, Russian, Hebrew, Latin, Swedish, Japanese and Serbo-Croat texts, including part of Tito’s speech on disarmament to the United Nations.

Among Williamson’s pieces for children are compositions he has called ‘cassations’. Originally intended as miniature concert operas for audience participation, these works were later used at a summer school for the disabled. Additional ‘performances’ in hospitals in Tanzania and Zambia convinced Williamson of their therapeutic effects. Generally under ten minutes in duration, early examples, such as Genesis (1971) and The Stone Wall (1971) developed into more ambitious and lengthy works, including The Winter Star (1973), The Terrain of the Kings (1974) and The Valley and the Hill (1977).


(selective list)


Our Man in Havana (op, 3, S. Gilliat, after G. Greene), 1963, London, Sadler’s Wells, 2 July 1963

The Display (ballet, 1, R. Helpmann), 1964, Adelaide, 14 March 1964

English Eccentrics (chbr op, 2, G. Dunn, after E. Sitwell), 1964, Aldeburgh, Jubilee Hall, 11 June 1964

The Happy Prince (children’s op, 1, Williamson, after O. Wilde), 1965, Farnham Parish Church, 22 May 1965

Julius Caesar Jones (children’s op, 2, Dunn), 1965–6, London, Jeannetta Cochrane, 4 Jan 1966

Sun into Darkness (ballet, 3, D. Rudkin, choreog. P. Darrell), 1966, London, Sadler’s Wells, 13 April 1966

The Violins of Saint-Jacques (op, 3, W. Chappell, after P. Leigh Fermor), 1966, London, Sadler’s Wells, 29 Nov 1966

Dunstan and the Devil (op, 1, Dunn), 1967, Cookham, 19 May 1967

The Growing Castle (chbr op, 2, Williamson, after A. Strindberg: A Dream Play), 1968, Dynevor Castle, 13 Aug 1968

Lucky-Peter’s Journey (op, 3, E. Tracey, after Strindberg), 1969, London, Coliseum, 18 Dec 1969

The Red Sea (op, 1, Williamson, after Bible, 1972), Dartington College, 14 April 1972

Perisynthyon (ballet, 1, Williamson), 1974, Adelaide, 1974

Heritage (ballet), 1985

Have Steps Will Travel (ballet), 1988

Cassations (audience, ens/pf): The Moonrakers, 1967; Knights in Shining Armour, 1968; The Snow Wolf, 1968; Genesis, 1971; The Stone Wall, 1971; The Winter Star, 1973; The Glitter Gang, 1974; The Terrain of the Kings, 1974; The Valley and the Hill, 1977; The Devil’s Bridge, 1982


Santiago de Espada, ov., 1956; Pf Conc. no.1, 1957–8; Sym. no.1, ‘Elevamini’, 1957; Pf Conc. no.2, 1960; Sinfonia concertante, 3 tpt, pf, str, 1960–62; Org Conc., 1961; Pf Conc. no.3, 1962; Concerto grosso, 1965; Sinfonietta, 1965; Sym. Variations, 1965; Vn Conc., 1965; Sym. no.2, 1968–9; Conc., 2 pf, str, 1973; Au tombeau du martyre juif inconnu, conc., hp, str, 1976; Sym. no.4, 1977; Lament, vn, str, 1980; Ode for Queen Elizabeth, str, 1980; Sym. no.5 ‘Aquerò’, 1980; In Thanksgiving Sir Bernard Heinz, 1982; Sym. no.6, 1982; Cortège for a Warrior, 1984; Sym. no.7, str, 1984; Lento, str, 1985; Concertino for Charles, sax, band, 1987; Bicentennial Anthem, 1988; Fanfare of Homage, military band, 1988; Pf Conc., no.4, 1994


Choral: Sym. for Voices (J. McAuley), SATB, 1962; Wrestling Jacob (C. Wesley), S, SATB, org, 1962; A Young Girl (E. Sitwell), SATB, 1964; The Brilliant and the Dark (choral-operatic sequence, U. Vaughan Williams), female vv, orch, 1966; Mowing the Barley, SATB, orch, 1967; An Australian Carol (McAuky), SATB, org, 1968; Hallo Everybody (C.-A. Axelsson, M. Knight, K. Sundin), chorus, 1969; Sonnet ‘On Hearing the Dies irae sung in the Sistine Chapel’ (O. Wilde), SATB, 1969; Carols of King David (Pss), unison chorus, org, 1970; In Place of Belief (P. Lagerqvist), chorus, pf 4 hands, 1970; Love, the Sentinel (A. Tennyson), SATB, 1972; Sym. no.3 ‘The Icy Mirror’ (cant., Vaughan Williams), S, Mez, 2 Bar, chorus, orch, 1972; Canticle of Fire (Bible, 13th-century hymn), SATB, chorus, org, 1973; Ode to Music (Vaughan Williams), children’s vv, orch, 1973; Mass of the Feast of Christ the King, chorus, orch, 1977; Mass of St Margaret of Scotland, SATB, org, 1977–80; Mass of the People of God, SATB, org, 1981; Now is the Singing Day, Mez, Bar, SATB, str, pf 4 hands, perc, 1981; A Pilgrim Liturgy, SATB, orch, 1984; Easter in St Mary’s Church, SATB, 1987; Galilee, SATB, 1987; The True Endeavour, spkr, SATB, orch, 1988; The Dawn is at Hand, SATB, orch, 1989; Mass of St Etheldreda, SATB, org, 1990; Requiem for a Tribe Brother, SATB, 1992

Other vocal: A Vision of Beasts and Gods (G. Barker), song cycle, S/T, pf, 1958; Celebration of Divine Love (cant., J. McAuley), S/T, pf, 1963; 3 Songs (W. Shakespeare), S/T, gui/pf, 1963; 4 North Country Songs, 1v, orch/pf, chorus ad lib, 1965; 6 English Lyrics (E. Waller, A. Tennyson, C. Rossetti, L. Hunt), A/B, pf, 1966; From a Child’s Garden (R.L. Stevenson), song cycle, S/T, pf, 1968; The Death of Cuchulain (W.B. Yeats), 5 male vv + perc, 1971; The Musicians of Bremen (Williamson), 6 male vv, 1972; Pietá (P. Lagerqvist), S, ob, bn, pf, 1973; Hammarskjöld Portrait (D. Hammarskjöld), song cycle, S, str orch, 1974; Les olympiques (H. de Montherlant), Mez, str orch, 1977; Tribute to a Hero, Bar, orch, 1981; Next Year in Jerusalem, S, orch, 1985; Vocalise, G, Mez, 1985; White Downs, low v, 1985; Day that I have Loved, low v, 1986; The Feast of Eurydice, female v, fl, perc, pf, 1986; The Mower to the Glowworms, low v, 1986; The White Island, low v, 1986; church music, hymns, carols

chamber and solo instrumental

Variations, vc, pf, 1964; Conc., wind qnt, 2 pf 8 hands, 1965; Pas de quatre, fl, ob, cl, bn, pf, 1967; Pf Qnt, 1967–8; Serenade, fl, pf qt, 1967; Partita on Themes of Walton, va, 1972; Pf Trio, 1976; Fontainebleu Fanfare, brass, perc, org, 1981; Ceremony for Oodgeroo, brass qnt, 1988; Fanfares and Chorales, brass qnt, 1991; Str Qt no.3, 1993; Day that I have Loved, hp, 1994

Pf: Sonata no.1, 1955–6; Sonata no.2, 1957, rev. 1970–71; Travel Diaries, 1960; 5 Preludes, 1966; Sonata, 2 pf, 1967; Himna Titu, 1984; Springtime on the River Moskeva, 1987

Org: Fons amoris, 1955–6; Résurgence du feu, 1959; Sym., 1960; Vision of Christ-Phoenix, 1961; Elegy – J.F.K., 1964; 2 Epitaphs for Edith Sitwell, 1966 [arr. str orch]; Peace Pieces, 1971; Little Carols of the Saints, 5 pieces, 1972; The Lion of Suffolk, 1977; Offertoire, 1981 [from Mass of the People of God]

Principal publisher: Weinberger


Grove6 (S. Walsh) [incl. further bibliography]

C. Mason: ‘The Music of Malcolm Williamson’, MT, ciii (1962), 757–9

S. Walsh: ‘Williamson the Many-Sided’, Music and Musicians, xiii/11 (1964–5), 26–9, 55

A. Payne: ‘Malcolm Williamson’s Second Symphony’, Tempo, no.91 (1969–70), 22–7

S. Walsh: ‘Williamson’s Organ Symphony’, MT, cxii (1971), 1108–9

C. Raney: ‘Malcolm Williamson’, Music Magazine, vii/2 (1973), 36–9

M. Hoyle: ‘Our Man in Havana’, Opera, xxxix (1988), 626–7

B. Kendall-Smith: The Symphonies of Malcolm Williamson (diss, U. of Queensland, 1994)

T. Radic: ‘Williamson, Malcolm Benjamin Graham Christopher’, Oxford Companion to Australian Music, ed. W. Bebbington (Melbourne, 1997), 592–3


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