National Medal of Arts, Pulitzer Prize, and Grammy Award-winner William Bolcom (born May 26, 1938) is an American composer of chamber, operatic, vocal, choral, cabaret, ragtime, and symphonic music. His American teachers include George Frederick McKay and John Verrall. He also studied piano with Madame Berthe Poncy Jacobson. His foreign teachers include Olivier Messiaen and Darius Milhaud at the Paris Conservatoire. He taught composition at the University of Michigan from 1973–2008.
Bolcom wrote tonal, atonal, popular and classical pieces. He is known of his eclecticism, particularly his use of ragtime as one of his primary link in combining serious and popular music.
Cabaret songs are best performed with theatrical settings. Bolcom along with Arnold Weinstein (1927-2005), the poet, wrote two collections of twenty-four Cabaret Songs. They are great examples of a mixture of European cabaret song and classical art song along with the American jazz, and musical theater to create a uniquely American form of cabaret songs.
Toothbrush Time from Cabaret pieces Vol.2. Composed from 1977-85, the pieces feature independence of the piano, partnership of the piano and voice, complex harmonies, rhythms, and modulations, and tactful and expressive word setting and word painting. The singer usually acknowledges the audience during the performance of these songs; not a custom for a traditional voice recitals. is the patter of a world-weary lover. The jagged melody lines reaffirms the frustration and disenchantment of the singer.
Benjamin Britten’s cabaret songs are another stellar example of the genre. The poet is W.H Auden. Britten’s O Tell Me the Truth about Love and Bolcom’s Toothbrush Time are both opening songs of a set. Where the singer ponders about love. The text is more descriptive and sophisticated than Bolcom and Morris. The piano accompaniment begins with graceful rising broken chords. After the repeated F-sharps in the singer’s first verse, the piano accompaniment switches to a dotted rhythm chordal accompaniment. Less coloristic than Bolcom’s. The mood of Britten’s is slightly more lively and less weary than that of Bolcom’s. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uGlWPhUzTbs
Cabaret songs are enjoyable for the pianists, singer, and audience because of the theatrical elements which allows a greater level of communication. The inclusion of cabaret songs into programs of vocal recitals, especially at the end of a concert can be effective as the performance of such pieces tend to engage the audience more.