- James P. Cassaro
(b New York, Sept 7, 1924). American composer. He studied at the Juilliard School (where he later taught) with Persichetti, Bernard Wagenaar, and Robert Ward. In 1970 he was appointed chairman of the music department at William Paterson College in Wayne, New Jersey, where he became professor of music in 1973.
With firm musical principles rooted in Classical models, Aitken uses various effects to produce what he considers to be appropriate moods for his works. His style can be characterized as conservative and neoclassical, with rich polyphonic textures reminiscent of Hindemith, although more lyrical. His style is best demonstrated in works such as the Aspen Concerto (1989) and the Violin Concerto (1986), the first of which emphasizes line and development, while the second employs long, angular melodies that are tossed between soloist and orchestra. Later works like Songs and Caprices (2001) are not harmonically adventurous, but use popular and international styles as inspiration. The percussion writing in this work is perhaps its most striking feature. Like Stravinsky and Charles Wuorinen, Aitken has looked to earlier music as an inspiration for several of his works. In ...