Andrew Imbrie

Born in New York, Andrew Imbrie went to Paris in 1937 to study briefly with Nadia Boulanger. He returned to the United States the next year to attend Princeton University where he studied with Roger Sessions, receiving his undergraduate degree in 1942. His senior thesis there, a string quartet, was recorded by the Juilliard Quartet. He then went to the University of California, Berkeley, where he received an M.A. in Music in 1947; there he continued to study with Sessions, who had taken a position at Berkeley.

Imbrie taught composition, theory, and analysis at Berkeley from 1949 until his retirement in 1991. In addition to his principal teaching job at Berkeley, he served as a visiting professor at the University of Chicago, Brandeis University, Northwestern University, New York University, the University of Alabama, and Harvard University, and had a regular teaching post at the San Francisco Conservatory. He died at his home in Berkeley, California at the age of 86. His notable students include Larry Austin, Richard Festinger, Alden Jenks, Frank La Rocca, Neil Rolnick, Allen Shearer, Tamar Diesendruck, Laura Schwendinger, Kurt Rohde, Hi Kyung Kim and Leslie Wildman.

Imbrie's style was influenced early by Béla Bartók, and then by Roger Sessions. Imbrie preferred harmonies that are non-triadic, or if triadic, non-functional, and he wrote a tightly organized, often atonal contrapuntal texture with attention to careful motivic development; he avoided the serial techniques which dominated art music composition after the Second World War. Imbrie was also attentive to melodic line and shape, as one of the ways to make a free atonal language accessible.

Imbrie wrote both vocal and instrumental music; he wrote two operas (Three Against Christmas, 1960, and Angle of Repose, 1976), as well as numerous orchestral, chamber, choral, and solo vocal compositions. The Requiem was a memorial to his younger son John.