John Eaton, composer, Died at 85


John Charles Eaton was born on March 30, 1935, and died on December 2, 2015.

He was an American composer (Anon. n.d.(a); Morgan 2001), recipient of the Prix de Rome, Guggenheim Fellow (Morgan 2001), MacArthur Fellow and professor emeritus of composition at the University of Chicago (Anon. 2008).

John was born in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.

He attended Princeton University, where he graduated in 1957 (Morgan 2001).

John later lived in Rome (1957 to 1968), returning to Princeton to earn a Ph.D. in 1970 (Anon. n.d.(c)).

He subsequently held faculty appointments at Indiana University (1970–1992) and the University of Chicago (1989–1999) (Morgan 2001; Anon. n.d.(b)).

John was a prominent composer of microtonal music, and worked with Paul Ketoff and Robert Moog during the 1960s in developing several types of synthesizers (Chadabe 1967; Frankenstein 1968; Morgan 2001).

He innovated a compositional genre called pocket opera, operas scored for a small cast of vocalists and a chamber group.

His most famous opera is The Cry of Clytaemnestra (1980), a re-telling of some of the events surrounding the Trojan War from the perspective of Agamemnon’s wife Clytaemnestra, which has been hailed as the first feminist opera.

It was premièred in Bloomington, at the Indiana University Opera Theater, on 1 March 1980, and received a number of subsequent productions, most notably in New York and California (Morgan 1992b).

John Eaton’s opera, The Tempest, with a libretto by Andrew Porter after William Shakespeare, was premièred at the Santa Fe Opera on 27 July 1985 (Morgan 1985a; Morgan 1992c; Morgan 2001), and subsequently performed in the autumn of 1986 at the Indiana University School of Music (Anon. 2010).

During his tenure at the University of Chicago, Eaton concentrated on works for smaller ensembles, including chamber operas that involved the dramatic participation of the instrumentalists alongside the singers.

John founded and directed The Pocket Opera Players, a professional troupe dedicated to the performance of his works in this genre, and occasionally those of fellow composers interested in the form.

He continued to lead the Pocket Opera Players in New York City, after his retirement from Chicago in 2001.

John passed away in New York City, on December 2, 2015.

His works can be researched through the American Composers Alliance.