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Roger Huntington Sessions (December 28, 1896 – March 16, 1985) was an American composer, teacher, and writer on music.
Sessions was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a family that could trace its roots back to the American revolution. His mother, Ruth Huntington Sessions, was a direct descendent of Samuel Huntington, a signatory of the Declaration of Independence. Roger studied music at Harvard University from the age of 14. There he wrote for and subsequently edited the Harvard Musical Review. Graduating at age 18, he went on to study at Yale University under Horatio Parker and Ernest Bloch before teaching at Smith College. With the exception, mostly, of his incidental music to the play The Black Maskers, composed in part in Cleveland in 1923, his first major compositions came while he was traveling Europe with his wife in his mid-twenties and early thirties.
His works written up to 1930 or so are more or less neoclassical in style. Those written between 1930 and 1940 are more or less tonal but harmonically complex. The works from 1946 on are atonal, and beginning with the Solo Violin Sonata of 1953, serial--though not consistently employing Viennese twelve-tone technique. Only the first movement and the trio of the scherzo of the Violin Sonata, for example, employ a twelve-tone row strictly, the rest employing a scalar-constructed dissonant style. Sessions's usual method was to use a row to control the full chromaticism and motivic-intervallic cohesion that already marks his music from before 1953. He treats his rows with great freedom, however, typically using pairs of unordered complementary hexachords to provide "harmonic" aspects without determining note-by-note melodic succession, or conversely using the row to supply melodic thematic material while freely composing the subsidiary parts.
Some works received their first professional performance many years after completion. The Sixth Symphony (1966) was given its first complete performance on March 4, 1977 by the Juilliard Orchestra in New York City.
Andrea Olmstead papers, 1970-2013 Music Division, The New York Public Library. Olmstead's papers include correspondence with Sessions, transcripts of interviews with Sessions, and other records of Olmstead's Sessions research.