Alexander Hales Freeman

Alexander Hales Freeman
Alex Freeman: A Profile

Alex Freeman (b. 28 April 1972) grew up in Raleigh, North Carolina. Around the age of 13 he became interested in composing. As his trombone teacher in those years, Bruce Reinoso, was also a composer and student of the renowned American composer Robert Ward, who was then teaching at Duke University, his trombone lessons slowly became composition lessons. He left North Carolina in 1990 to study at the Eastman School of music, where his teachers included Samuel Adler, Warren Benson, Joseph Schwantner, and David Liptak. There, in addition to his studies as a composer, he was an avid conductor of the music of his fellow composers. He then went to Boston to study with Lukas Foss and got his Master's at Boston University, spending two summers teaching young composers at the Boston University Tanglewood Institute with Charles Fussell and Richard Cornell, with whom he also studied during those years. In 1998 he moved to New York to begin his Doctoral studies at the Juilliard School, studying with Christopher Rouse. The focus of his doctoral document, The First Movement of Sibelius's Fourth Symphony: Sketch Study and Style Analysis, led him to Finland. The recipient of a Fulbright Full Fellowship, he moved to Helsinki in 2001 to research Sibelius's sketches and study composition with Eero Hämeenniemi at the Sibelius Academy. He was also a student of Jouni Kaipainen and Magnus Lindberg. He taught at Carleton College from 2007 to 2014.  Dr. Freeman is currently composing full-time and lives with his wife and son in Finland.

When describing Alex Freeman and his music, the one qualifier that leaps forward from the standard array of clichés is 'versatility', a word sometimes employed euphemistically to imply lack of focus or simplistic stylistic mimicry. But nothing could be further from the truth: versatility, as applied here, signifies an ability to hear connections between radically different types of music and, rather than merely colliding them for effect like so many toy trucks, audibly bring out the underlying logic in their being juxtaposed in the first place. His work is remarkably centered, sure of itself, and speaks urgently, regardless of the surface mannerisms employed at any given moment. This emotional directness is another striking element in Freeman's music, an essentially New World willingness, need even, to eschew formal complexity and appeal to the core of his listeners' humanity. Although perhaps surprising, given the gentle irony that marks his personality, it is not entirely shocking. He is, after all, as comfortable in the realm of the pop ballad as in that of the concert hall, and understands the forms and challenges of both worlds as completely as their respective idioms demand. Not for him, the no-man's-land of facile polystylism. And yet, Alex's songs are imbued with the craftsmanship and care one would expect of a composer of his formidable academic training, just as his concert works carry the emotional immediacy of popular music. From his hauntingly beautiful Magnolia for solo kantele, to his choral works, to his witty and wry Bass Trombone Concerto, he insists upon communicating to his audience. Simply appropriating a style is not in his nature. Tracking it to its essence, relating it to his own language seamlessly and expressively is the drive that makes Alex Freeman's music sing, in the truest sense of the word.

•-Matthew Whittall
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