Joseph Summer began playing French horn at the age of 7. While attending the Eastern Music Festival in North Carolina at age 14 he studied composition with the eminent Czech composer Karel Husa. At age 15 he was accepted at Oberlin Conservatory, studied with Richard Hoffmann, Schönberg’s amanuensis, and graduated with a B.M. in Music Composition in 1976. Recruited by Robert Page, Dean of the Music Department at Carnegie Mellon University, Summer taught music theory at CMU before leaving to pursue composition full time.
For the next 20 years, Summer concentrated his efforts composing a series of comic operas based on the bawdy stories of Boccaccio’s The Decameron. These consist of four completed works: And The Dead Shall Walk The Earth; Courting Disaster; Their Fate In The Hands Of The Friar; and Gianetta. The fifth in a projected cycle of seven: Also Known As is currently in progress.
Summer is currently composing his ever expanding collection of settings of the bard’s ever living texts, which he titles The Oxford Songs, (titled thus due to Summer’s support of Edward De Vere, 17th Earl of Oxford, as the likely identity of the author also known as William Shakespeare). In addition to the individual scenes, sonnets, and songs from Shakespeare in The Oxford Songs, Summer completed the opera Hamlet, in 2006 and The Tempest in 2013. Summer’s operas Hippolytus and The Tenor’s Suite have been performed several times in piano reduction. In the recent past Summer has focused on string quartets, including The Garden of Forking Paths, the Sea Change Quartets (two quartets depicting littoral scenes), Invisible Women, and Variations on L. The Ulysses String Quartet is currently engaged in a long term project performing and recording all of Summer’s quartets. — Joseph Summer