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John Alden Carpenter


John Alden Carpenter (1874–1951) was among the first American modernists and a major Chicago-based composer.

John Alden Carpenter (1876–1951) was a lifelong Chicagoan whose early musical inspiration came from his mother, a professional singer. He studied music at Harvard and returned to Chicago after his studies to divide his time between working as a businessman at his father’s firm, George B. Carpenter & Co., and composing music. Although the Metropolitan Opera produced his ballet Skyscrapers (a work commissioned by Russian Impresario Serge Diaghilev) and American orchestras continue to program his Adventures in a Perambulator with some regularity, his songs are his most enduring musical legacy, bringing together a warm gracefulness, inspired by Impressionism, with humorous and eclectic elements, often deriving from jazz or patriotic themes. Carpenter’s most famous songs include his cycle of Rabindranath Tagore poems, Gitanjali, and his Four Negro Songs to Langston Hughes texts.