Martirano, Salvatore (1927-1995) | University of Illinois Archives

Name: Martirano, Salvatore (1927-1995)

Historical Note:

Born in Yonkers, Salvatore Martirano (1927-1995) grew up in New Rochelle, New York where he graduated from high school in 1945.  While there he was the leader of "The Sonny Martin Band," the name of which came from Martirano's childhood nickname "Sonny."  After graduating, Martirano served as a Marine for fourteen months in 1945 and 1946, during which time he performed with the Parris Island Marine Band and a touring USO show.

Martirano received his undergraduate degree in 1951 from Oberlin College, where he studied composition with Herbert Elwell.  A year later he completed his master's degree in composition at the Eastman School of Music, where he studied with Bernard Rogers.  During the same year, Martirano received a Fulbright to study composition in Italy with Luigi Dallapiccola from 1952 to 1954.  Martirano continued to work in Italy from 1956 to 1959, when he was a resident fellow at the American Academy.  Between 1959 and 1964, Martirano received commissions, awards, and fellowships from the Guggenheim, Ford, Koussevitzky, and Fromm Foundations, as well as from the American Academy of Arts and Letters and Brandeis University.  In 1963, Martirano joined the Theory and Composition Department at the University of Illinois, where he remained on the faculty until his retirement and death in 1995.  He was also a resident composer at the NSW Conservatorium of Music in Sydney (1979), IRCAM in Paris (1982) and the California Institute of the Arts (1993).  Composers including Phil Winsor, Mark Zanter, Thorsteinn Hauksson, Stuart Saunders Smith, Maggi Payne, and Yehuda Yannay studied with Martirano while students at the University of Illinois.

Many of Martirano's early works incorporate twelve-tone compositional techniques as well as jazz, vernacular, and multimedia idioms.  His best-known composition, "L's GA" (Lincoln's Gettysburg Address), was widely performed in the late 1960s and early 1970s and became associated with the anti-war movement.  In the early 1960s, Martirano became interested in electronic music, and this interest guided much of his work from the 1960s on.  Martirano was among the very first composers in the United States to utilize and invent new computer technology for composition.  Martirano created a series of electronic music systems, including the Sal-Mar Construction and YahaSALmaMac, which enabled him to write and perform music that mixed human and computer-generated sounds and composition.

Note Author: Elizabeth Surles

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