The Music of Morten Lauridsen (b. 1943), Distinguished Professor of Composition at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music and Composer-in-Residence of the Los Angeles Master Chorale from 1995-2001, occupies a permanent place in the standard vocal repertoire of the Twenty-First Century. His seven vocal cycles, numerous art songs, instrumental works and series of sacred a cappella motets are performed throughout the world and have been recorded on over one hundred-fifty CDs.
Born in Colfax, Washington and raised in Portland, Oregon, Lauridsen worked as a Forest Service firefighter and lookout near Mount St. Helens before traveling to Los Angeles to study composition with Ingolf Dahl, Halsey Stevens, Robert Linn and Harold Owen. He chaired the Department of Composition at the USC Thornton School of Music from 1990–2002.
In speaking of Lauridsen’s sacred works in his book, Choral Music in the Twentieth Century, Nick Strimple described him as “the only American composer in history who can be called a mystic, (whose) probing, serene work contains an elusive and indefinable ingredient which leaves the impression that all the questions have been answered.” From 1993 Lauridsen’s music rapidly increased in international popularity, and by century’s end he had eclipsed Randall Thompson as the most frequently performed American choral composer.
In 2006, Morten Lauridsen was named an “American Choral Master” by the National Endowment for the Arts, and in 2007 he was awarded the National Medal of Arts, the highest artistic award conferred by the United States government, by the President in a White House ceremony “for his composition of radiant choral works combining musical beauty, power, and spiritual depth.” He now divides his time between his storybook cottage in the Hollywood Hills and his rustic waterfront cabin on a remote island off the northwest coast of Washington State.