The Composer is Dead...and Alive

There is only one thing more alarmingly stunning than The Composer is Dead, a musical collaboration between Lemony Snicket, one of the most popular children's authors of our time, and Nathaniel Stookey, a preposterously talented composer. And that is the fact that G. Schirmer/AMP, through a publishing agreement with the writers, has willingly acquired rights to the work, which San Francisco Chronicle critic Joshua Kosman called "a deliciously morbid entertainment" upon its premiere at the San Francisco Symphony on 8 July 2006.

The Composer is Dead was crafted in the tradition of Prokofiev's Peter and the Wolf, introducing listeners of all ages to orchestral music using an irresistible murder mystery in which every member of the orchestra is a suspect.

Shockingly, the San Francisco Symphony and conductor Edwin Outwater have recorded the 30-minute work for future release as part of a book-CD package to be published by HarperCollins Children's Books. In fact, the only thing worse than a recording of The Composer is Dead is a live performance of it — a disturbing possibility, since it is available immediately for live performances from G. Schirmer/AMP and its international affiliates. Lemony Snicket allegedly will make personal appearances as the Narrator, if he can be located — most likely via his agent, Charlotte Sheedy at

Nathaniel Stookey's existing compositional catalogue, also acquired by AMP, includes the orchestral works Out of the Everywhere, Big Bang, Wide as Skies, and Double, a concerto for two violins and strings, and several pieces for chamber ensemble, recorded on Albany Records. The San Francisco native began his musical life as a violinist and violist in the San Francisco Symphony's Youth Orchestra; at age 17, he became the youngest composer ever commissioned for the orchestra's "New and Unusual Music Series." At 23, he became resident composer at the Hallé Orchestra and subsequently served in the same capacity at the North Carolina Symphony. Currently he is working on a piano trio for the Lee Trio.

Lemony Snicket's published accounts of the Baudelaire orphans in A Series of Unfortunate Events have now sold more than 50 million copies worldwide in 39 languages, or possibly vice versa; the first three books in the series formed the basis for the 2004 hit film "Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events." The End, the thirteenth and final installment in the series, will be published on 13 October 2006. Mr. Snicket is represented in all legal, literary, and social matters by Daniel Handler, who has also written three novels for adults, The Basic Eight, Watch Your Mouth, and Adverbs.

"I have been asked if I might say a word or two about the text of The Composer is Dead, and the one or two words are ‘Boo hoo.' The story — which, as far as I know, is absolutely true — is so heartbreakingly glum that I cannot imagine that you will be able to listen to it without dabbing at your tears with a nearby handkerchief, or, if necessary, the program you are now holding in your hands."
— Lemony Snicket

"I hope I'm not giving too much away by saying that The Composer is Dead ends with a funeral march. The march is made up of music about death by some of the world's greatest composers, a solid majority of whom are alas no longer with us. Classical composers have always had a preoccupation with death, partly because we are human, like you, partly because we grapple with the mysteries of the universe, partly because death sells records and always has, even before there were records. Most of the great classical composers wrote at least one piece about death. Many wrote several. The funeral march that ends The Composer is Dead includes brief quotations from some of these works, which happen to represent some of the most extraordinary music of all time. (All the rest of the music in the piece is mine and will also be by a dead composer some day, which is very sad if you stop to think about it.)"
— Nathaniel Stookey

More information:
   works by Nathaniel Stookey
   online scores
   Classical On Demand

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