Kelley, Edgar Stillman


American composer of great talent and brilliancy; was born at Sparta, Wisconsin. His mother, a well trained musician, began his piano education when he was eight years old, and continued to teach him until he was seventeen. He gave up work at  college on account of ill health, and in 1874 went to Chicago to study counterpoint and harmony under Clarence Eddy, and piano under Ledochowski. After two years in Chicago he went to Stuttgart, where he studied composition and orchestration with Max Seiffritz, organ with Finck, and piano with Kruger and Speidel. In 1880 he returned to America and went to San Francisco, where he soon became known as one of the leading musicians and musical critics of California. Here he wrote his first large composition, the music to Macbeth, a piece full of originality and intensely interesting as descriptive music, but too daring and unconventional ever to become popular. His next work was a comic opera, which, however, was not staged. It was followed by the capital music for the comic opera, Puritania, brought out in Boston in 1892, where it ran for over a year, during a part of which time Mr. Kelley himself conducted. This was followed by Gulliver in Lilliput, a most graceful and charming symphony. After this he wrote the Chinese suite, Aladdin, unique because of the employment in it of the Chinese scale of five tones and Chinese idea of harmony. Mr. Kelley's conscientiousness and musical thoroughness may be seen by the fact that in connection with this composition he studied Chinese music and harmony from the Chinese themselves. Mr. Kelley's thoroughness is shown not only in Aladdin, but also in music for an adaptation of Prometheus Bound by George Parsons Lathrop. For this composition he carefully studied the theory of Greek music.  Another important piece of work is his arrangement of music for the stage production of General Lew Wallace's Ben Hur. In this, too, there are evidences of careful study, and in several places the use of Greek scales and progressions and even of Arabic scales has lent it an interest and appropriateness not to be denied. The song of Iras is particularly beautiful and has an unusually fine accompaniment. Among Mr. Kelley's smaller works, two of the best are settings of Foe's poems, Eldorado and Israfel. Another wellknown one is the quaint Lady Picking Mulberries. His setting of Walt Whitman's beautiful poem, O, Captain, My Captain, is well worthy the words, and is becoming known as a patriotic song. Beside his work as a composer, Mr. Kelley has worked at journalism and proved himself an able and conscientious critic, and has entered the lecture field in University Extension work. At present he is professor of composition in the New York College of Music.