René Joseph (b. 1952) is a composer, pianist, and synthesist. His music has been recorded in North America and in Europe, performed on National Public Radio, and heard in concerts around the Pacific Northwest where he lives.
René grew up in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of an American embassy official. He began piano lessons at age seven, first with an Armenian teacher and then with the Russian pianist Michael Cheskinov. He began composing at age fourteen and on his own worked through the Baroque counterpoint manual Gradus ad Parnassum (also used by Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, and other celebrated composers).
After the family returned to the U.S. in the late 1960s, René studied music at the university of Oregon under Homer Keller (composition), Hal Owen (theory, counterpoint), and Rumanian pianist Alexandru Hrisanides (piano), receiving baccalaureate degrees in Music and German (1973). Subsequently, he studied with the late Polish pianist Adam Kapuscinski (student of A. Michalowski, himself a pupil of Liszt).
René continued to compose through the decades and also became involved with electronic music in the late 1980s. He coordinated the Eugene Electronic Music Collective (EEMC) for several years, giving concerts on synthesizers and piano. In 1991 René composed and premiered his ‘Voyager’ Concerto for piano and synthesizers. This work is the first and only concerto ever written for that combination of keyboard instruments. One enthusiastic listener commented:
“I was transported by the magnitude and beauty of the Voyager work. You have truly married the head and the heart, your Bach and your Chopin. Congratulations. I feel that your music will attract a large audience. It is definitely understandable and a sensual delight to experience. The blend of synthesizer and piano is pure genius.”
Rene’s cover article “Electronic Orchestration” appeared in Electronic Musician magazine (Nov. 1991). The article continues to be used in college music courses as a benchmark reference in the field.
As noted in Keyboard Magazine, in 1992 René toured the Northwest performing the world premiere of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations on synthesizers and in quadraphonic sound. During the 1990s he participated in the Seventh Species New Music Concert Series, performing original works on piano and synthesizers.
In 1994 René founded the Alliance Recognizing Talent in Eugene (A.R.T.E.), a consortium of 40+ musicians and artists that he managed for several years. During the 1970s, 80s, and 90s he taught piano privately and also worked part time as a Mental Health Associate, caring for severely mentally ill patients in various hospital settings.
In 2000 the Eugene Symphonic Band premiered Rene’s Processional in a performance with over 100 musicians. The popular piece has subsequently been recorded in Germany and transcribed for organ, brass quintet, and concert band.
Ever the experimenter, René is exploring what he calls “episodic music”—a method of composing in which a musical work is broken into ‘episodes’ that are to be performed in whatever order the performer desires. In this way, the piece is ever fresh, while the performer also becomes partly the ‘composer.’
About his music, René says: “I want my music to sing. I would like it to be immediately intelligible to anyone, regardless of his or her musical background. I’d like people to see themselves through my music, and thus to acknowledge and affirm themselves on a deep and meaningful level.”