Paul Crabtree is a musical innovator whose music straddles the salons of Europe and the saloons of the American West. His music is the product of two cultures, combining the seriousness of the European tradition with the restlessness of the American spirit to produce perceptive works that are relevant to the twenty-first century experience.
Born in England in 1960, he graduated from the Music Faculty at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, where he studied with the renowned contrapuntalist Kenneth Leighton. He was also the keyboard player of a catastrophically unsuccessful garage band called Goats’ Opera. Winning a scholarship for post-graduate study in composition he chose the Musikhochschule in Cologne, Germany, where he stayed for two years.
Moving to California on a religious quest in his early 20s and becoming an American citizen, he escaped the constrictions of the English class system and integrated into his rigorously disciplined music a passion for Progressive Rock and pop culture. A strong believer that mythology underpins contemporary experience, he is able to intermingle ideas as diverse as Latin poetry and 1960s girl groups, yet his music maintains a seriousness of purpose that intensifies both ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultural references.
The critical reception to this startling marriage of separate worlds has been perceptive. “The Anglo-American composer Paul Crabtree possesses the rare and admirable ability of being able to use the most unlikely artifacts of popular culture and fashion them into highly sophisticated art without mocking the sources or having them sound incongruous.” (Palm Beach ArtsPaper 2009)
The same critic catches that musical innovation is based on past models: “He has shown that it is possible to re-imagine the cantata in a moving, fresh way, and his example should give other composers a good model for pursuing a similar trajectory.” Dubbed “…a composer of impressive power who responds well to his sources and who can write utterly compelling music that relates beautifully to our time” by the Palm Beach Post, and “…one of our most inventive and wickedly witty composers” by the Chicago Classical Review, his work has been the recipient of an AMC Composer’s Assistance Program Award (2007), four ASCAPLUS awards (2004, 2007, 2008, 2011) and a Subito award from the American Composers Forum (2005). Mr. Crabtree’s tenure as Composer-in-Residence for the San Francisco Choral Artists in 2004 resulted in Three Sacred Songs about Religion, Sex and Politics, which the Miami Herald called “an impressive work conveying a spiritual sensibility in a fresh, intelligent and strongly individual voice….Crabtree’s music is artfully constructed, challenging for singers and often strikingly beautiful.”
His first solo CD The Metamorphoses of Paul Crabtree was released in February 2009 on the Arsis label, featuring the two ballet-cantatas An American Persephone and Dive! a Water Music.