Acclaimed contemporary classical composer talks his career and his cinematic music for the concert hall, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, his approach to composition and how much John Williams’ music touched him since childhood and inspired him to become a composer
Few contemporary classical composers have such a wide-ranging, colorful and personal style like Kevin Puts. Winner of the coveted Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for his debut opera Silent Night, he has become one of the leading American composers of his generation. Critically acclaimed for a richly colored, harmonic, and freshly melodic musical voice that has also been described as “emotional, compelling, and relevant,” his works, which include two operas, four symphonies, and several concertos, have been commissioned, performed, and recorded by leading orchestras, ensembles and soloists throughout the world.
A native of St. Louis, Missouri, Kevin Puts started to study piano during childhood. His love for music was ignited by the John Williams’ scores for such films as Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, which made a lasting effect on him and were among the main inspirations to pursue a career as a composer.
His love for movie music, and specifically John Williams, led him to a musical style characterized by a strong storytelling element. His compositions have been often described as “cinematic” and “film-like” by music critics and commentators, an observation that Puts always took as a compliment.
Puts’ catalogue is truly impressive and includes major orchestral, symphonic and operatic works and a great deal of chamber music as well. His Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night is probably his most important and successful work so far. It was premiered by Minnesota Opera in November 2011, and marked his debut in the genre of opera and vocal works. Describing his work, Puts said he was “going for a cinematic quality, commenting on the action and the emotions of a scene as it unfolds as a great film composer like John Williams might do it”.
In this conversation, Kevin talks about his career as a contemporary classical composer, his approach to composition as storytelling, and how much the music of John Williams inspired him since childhood, particulary the score of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial.