Alec Wilder
Alec Wilder was an American
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

A composer is a person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition, for interpretation and performance, or through direct manipulation of sonic material through electronic media...



His family was prominent in Rochester; a downtown building (at the "Four Corners") bears the family's name. As a young boy, he traveled to New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 with his mother and stayed at the Algonquin Hotel
Algonquin Hotel
The Algonquin Hotel is a historic hotel located at 59 West 44th Street in Manhattan . The hotel has been designated as a New York City Historic Landmark....

. It would later be his home for the last 40 or so years of his life. He attended several prep school
University-preparatory school
A university-preparatory school or college-preparatory school is a secondary school, usually private, designed to prepare students for a college or university education...

s, unhappily, as a teenager. Around this time, he hired a lawyer and essentially "divorced" himself from his family, gaining for himself some portion of the family fortune.

He was largely self-taught as a composer; he studied briefly at his hometown's Eastman School of Music
Eastman School of Music
The Eastman School of Music is a music conservatory located in Rochester, New York. The Eastman School is a professional school within the University of Rochester...

 in the 1920s, but left without completing his degree. While there, he edited a humor magazine and scored music for short films directed by James Sibley Watson
James Sibley Watson
Dr. James Sibley Watson, Jr. was a Rochester, New York, medical doctor, philanthropist, publisher, editor, and early experimenter in motion pictures....

. Wilder was eventually awarded an honorary degree in 1973.

He was good friends with Frank Sinatra
Frank Sinatra
Francis Albert "Frank" Sinatra was an American singer and actor.Beginning his musical career in the swing era with Harry James and Tommy Dorsey, Sinatra became an unprecedentedly successful solo artist in the early to mid-1940s, after being signed to Columbia Records in 1943. Being the idol of the...

, Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee
Peggy Lee was an American jazz and popular music singer, songwriter, composer, and actress in a career spanning six decades. From her beginning as a vocalist on local radio to singing with Benny Goodman's big band, she forged a sophisticated persona, evolving into a multi-faceted artist and...

, Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett
Tony Bennett is an American singer of popular music, standards, show tunes, and jazz....

 and other luminaries of the American popular music
American popular music
American popular music had a profound effect on music across the world. The country has seen the rise of popular styles that have had a significant influence on global culture, including ragtime, blues, jazz, swing, rock, R&B, doo wop, gospel, soul, funk, heavy metal, punk, disco, house, techno,...

 canon. Among the popular songs he wrote or co-wrote were "I'll Be Around
I'll Be Around (1942 song)
I'll Be Around" is a popular song written by Alec Wilder and published in 1942. The song has become a well-known standard, recorded by many artists....

" (a hit for the Mills Brothers
Mills Brothers
The Mills Brothers, sometimes billed as The Four Mills Brothers, were an American jazz and pop vocal quartet of the 20th century who made more than 2,000 recordings that combined sold more than 50 million copies, and garnered at least three dozen gold records...

), "While We're Young" (recorded by Peggy Lee and many others), and "It's So Peaceful in the Country". He also wrote many songs for the cabaret
Cabaret is a form, or place, of entertainment featuring comedy, song, dance, and theatre, distinguished mainly by the performance venue: a restaurant or nightclub with a stage for performances and the audience sitting at tables watching the performance, as introduced by a master of ceremonies or...

 artist Mabel Mercer
Mabel Mercer
Mabel Mercer was an English-born cabaret singer who performed in the United States, Britain, and Europe with the greats in jazz and cabaret. She was a featured performer at Chez Bricktop in Paris, owned by the hostess Bricktop, and performed in such clubs as Le Ruban Bleu, Tony's, the RSVP, the...

, including one of her signature pieces, "Have You Ever Crossed Over to Sneden's?"

In addition to writing popular songs, Wilder also composed classical
Classical music
Classical music is the art music produced in, or rooted in, the traditions of Western liturgical and secular music, encompassing a broad period from roughly the 11th century to present times...

 pieces for exotic combinations of orchestral instruments. The Alec Wilder Octet, including Eastman classmate Mitch Miller
Mitch Miller
Mitchell William "Mitch" Miller was an American musician, singer, conductor, record producer, A&R man and record company executive...

 on oboe, recorded several of his originals for Brunswick Records
Brunswick Records
Brunswick Records is a United States based record label. The label is currently distributed by E1 Entertainment.-From 1916:Records under the "Brunswick" label were first produced by the Brunswick-Balke-Collender Company...

 in 1938-40. His classical numbers, which often had off-beat, humorous titles ("The Hotel Detective Registers"), were strongly influenced by jazz
Jazz is a musical style that originated at the beginning of the 20th century in African American communities in the Southern United States. It was born out of a mix of African and European music traditions. From its early development until the present, jazz has incorporated music from 19th and 20th...

. He wrote eleven operas; one of which, Miss Chicken Little (1953), was commissioned for television by CBS
CBS Broadcasting Inc. is a major US commercial broadcasting television network, which started as a radio network. The name is derived from the initials of the network's former name, Columbia Broadcasting System. The network is sometimes referred to as the "Eye Network" in reference to the shape of...

. Sinatra conducted an album of Wilder's classical music. Wilder also arranged a series of Christmas carol
Christmas carol
A Christmas carol is a carol whose lyrics are on the theme of Christmas or the winter season in general and which are traditionally sung in the period before Christmas.-History:...

s for Tubachristmas
Tubachristmas is a music concert in cities worldwide that celebrates those who play, teach, and compose music for instruments in the tuba family...


Wilder wrote the definitive book American Popular Song: The Great Innovators, 1900–1950 (1972). He was also featured in a radio series based on the book, broadcast in the mid '70s. With lyricist
A lyricist is a songwriter who specializes in lyrics. A singer who writes the lyrics to songs is a singer-lyricist. This differentiates from a singer-composer, who composes the song's melody.-Collaboration:...

 Loonis McGlohon, he composed songs for the Land of Oz
Land of Oz (theme park)
The Land of Oz is a mostly now-defunct theme park located in the resort town of Beech Mountain, North Carolina. It was opened in 1970 by Grover Robbins, who had been successful with Tweetsie Railroad, and was fully operational until 1980. The park was based on the book rather than the film...

 theme park in Banner Elk, North Carolina
Banner Elk, North Carolina
-Attractions:During summer time there is hiking, whitewater rafting, fishing, and other activities. The largest lake in the area, Watauga Lake, is a favorite spot just 30 minutes away for boating, fishing and wake boarding. In the winter the main event is skiing and snowboarding. There are two...


Wilder loved puzzle
A puzzle is a problem or enigma that tests the ingenuity of the solver. In a basic puzzle, one is intended to put together pieces in a logical way in order to come up with the desired solution...

s: he created his own cryptic crossword
A crossword is a word puzzle that normally takes the form of a square or rectangular grid of white and shaded squares. The goal is to fill the white squares with letters, forming words or phrases, by solving clues which lead to the answers. In languages that are written left-to-right, the answer...

s, and could spend hours with a jigsaw puzzle
Jigsaw puzzle
A jigsaw puzzle is a tiling puzzle that requires the assembly of numerous small, often oddly shaped, interlocking and tessellating pieces.Each piece usually has a small part of a picture on it; when complete, a jigsaw puzzle produces a complete picture...

. He also loved to talk (he had an encyclopedic knowledge of the world) and most of all, laugh. Displeased with how Peggy Lee improvised the ending of While We're Young, he wrote her a note: "The next time you come to the bridge [of the song], jump!" He often maintained that music publishers "stole everything", but in a reflective moment, noted that as badly as he had been treated by the powers-that-be of the music industry, black
African American
African Americans are citizens or residents of the United States who have at least partial ancestry from any of the native populations of Sub-Saharan Africa and are the direct descendants of enslaved Africans within the boundaries of the present United States...

 artists had been treated worse.

Wilder is buried in a Catholic cemetery in Avon, New York
Avon, New York
Avon, New York is the name of two places located in Livingston County in the State of New York in the United States of America.*Avon , New York*Avon , New York...

, outside Rochester.

Selected works

  • The Lowland Sea (1952)
  • Miss Chicken Little (1953)
  • Sunday Excursion (1953)
  • Kittiwake Island (1954)
  • The Long Way (1955)
  • The Impossible Forest (1958)
  • The Truth about Windmills (1973)
  • The Tattooed Countess (1974)
  • The Opening (1975)
  • The Churkendoose (?)
  • Rachetty Pachetty House (?)
  • Herman Ermine in Rabbit Town (?)

  • Pinocchio (1957)
  • Hansel and Gretel (1958)
  • Miss Chicken Little (1953).
  • Nobody’s Earnest (1978).

Film Music
  • The Fall of the House of Usher (1928)
  • Lot in Sodom
    Lot in Sodom
    Lot in Sodom is a short silent experimental film, based on the Biblical tale of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah. It was directed by James Sibley Watson and Melville Webber....

  • Make Mine Music
    Make Mine Music
    Make Mine Music is an animated feature produced by Walt Disney and released to theatres by RKO Radio Pictures on August 15, 1946. It is the eighth animated feature in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series....

  • Albert Schweitzer
    Albert Schweitzer (film)
    Albert Schweitzer is a German biographical documentary made in 1957, directed by Jerome Hill. It won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature for 1957.-Cast:* Fredric March - Voice of Albert Schweitzer* Albert Schweitzer - Himself...

    (1957), documentary by Jerome Hill
    Jerome Hill
    Jerome Hill was an American filmmaker and artist. He was born into the family of Louis W. and Maud Van Corlandt Hill, one of the prominent families of Saint Paul and heirs to the railroad fortune of James J. Hill, the famed “Empire Builder.”He attended St...

  • The Sand Castle (1961), directed by Jerome Hill
  • Open the Door and See All the People (1964), directed by Jerome Hill

Large Ensemble
  • A Child’s Introduction to the Orchestra (1954). Text by Marshall Barer. A musical primer. Eighteen movements featuring individual instruments of the orchestra. [Ludlow]
  • Children’s Plea for Peace (1968). Children’s SSAA chorus, narrator and wind ensemble. Text by Wilder, adapted from writings of Avon, New York schoolchildren. Dedicated to Rev. Henry Atwell. [Margun]

Chamber music and Solo Instruments
  • Air for Flute and Strings (1945). For Julius Baker.
  • Air for Oboe and Strings (1945). For Mitch Miller.
  • Brass Quintets: No 1 (1959) For the New York Brass Quintet; No 2 (1961); No. 3 (1970); No. 4 (1973) For Harvey Phillips; No. 5 (1975) For the Tidewater Brass Quintet; No. 6 (1977) For the Tidewater Brass Quintet; No. 7 (1978) For Frances Miller; No. 8 (1980) For Frances Miller.
  • Concerto No. 1 for Trumpet and Wind Ensemble (1967). For Doc Severinson.
  • Effie Suite (1960) for Tuba, Vibraphone, Piano and Drums. For Harvey Phillips
  • Fantasy for Piano and Wind Ensemble (1974). For Marian McPartland
  • Jazz Suite for Four Horns (1951). Four horns with harpsichord, guitar, bass, drums.
  • Octets (1939–41) Flute/Clarinet 2, oboe/English horn/, clarinet 1, bass clarinet, bassoon, harpsichord, bass, drums: Bull Fiddle In A China Shop; The Children Met the Train; Concerning Etchings; Dance Man Buys A Farm; A Debutante’s Diary; Her Old Man Was Suspicious; His First Long Pants; House Detective Registers; It’s Silk, Feel It!; Kindergarten Flower Pageant; Little Girl Grows Up; Neurotic Goldfish; She’ll Be Seven In May; Such A Tender Night; Walking Home In Spring.
  • Sonata for Alto Saxophone and Piano (1960). For Donald Sinta.
  • Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (1963). For Glenn Bowen.
  • Sonata for Trumpet and Piano (1963). For Joe Wilder.
  • Sonata for viola and piano (1965)
  • Suite for Unaccompanied Flute (1975). For Virginia Nanzetta.
  • Suite No. 2 for Tenor Saxophone and Strings (1966). For Zoot Sims. [Margun]
  • Suites for Tuba and Piano: Suite No. 1 (1960) for Harvey Phillips; Suite No. 2 (Jesse Suite), *Suite No. 3 (Suite for Little Harvey) and Suite No. 4 (Thomas Suite)
  • Three Ballads for Stan [also exists in Wilder’s piano reduction as Suite No. 1 for Tenor Saxophone and Piano] (1963). For Stan Getz. [Margun]
  • Woodwind Quintets: No. 1 (1954) For the New York Woodwind Quintet
    New York Woodwind Quintet
    The New York Woodwind Quintet is an ensemble-in-residence at the Juilliard School in New York City, originally appointed in 1987. At Juilliard, the members of the New York Woodwind Quintet present seminars each year for student woodwind ensembles, give regular coachings, and perform.The quintet's...

    ; No. 2 (1956); No. 3 (1958); No. 4 (1959) For Bernard Garfield; No. 5 (1959); No. 6 (1960); No. 7 (1964); No. 8 (1966) [also known as Suite For Non-Voting Quintet; No. 9 (1969); No. 10 (ca. 1968); No. 11 (1971) For John Barrows; No. 12 (1975) For the Wingra Quintet; No. 13


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