Robert F. Graettinger
He began his career as an alto saxophonist with Benny Carter and several lesser-known bands in California, but he soon put his sax away because, as he said, "I have more to say than I can express with just one instrument". At the age of seventeen Graettinger heard a series of performances by Stan Kenton in Hollywood, and it was at this time that he submitted one of his own arrangements. "Amateurish, but ambitious" Kenton judged; he encouraged the boy to keep writing, but forgot about him.
Six years later, Kenton received another arrangement from Graettinger, this time Thermopylae. He hired him immediately, seeing in him someone able to help achieve his goal of shaking off the "dance-band image", and opening the door to prestigious venues like Carnegie Hall.
The association between Graettinger and Kenton came to an end when the latter's band, the "Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra", was disbanded (for financial reasons) in 1953. Nothing more was heard from Graettinger until his death some years later (March 12, 1957).
Graettinger's most epoch-making compositions were written in 1951/52 for Kenton's "Innovations in Modern Music Orchestra", an extensive big band with strings. In particular, the suites City of Glass and This modern World evoked disconcerted responses: "he tried to write electronically with conventional instruments" (drummer Shelly Manne), "more science fiction than art" (Metronome Magazine), but also appreciation: "a genuine pioneer" (Down Beat) and "The boundaries of music – as we know them up until today – are transcended with real genius. The suite, City of Glass, blazes a trail towards a new musical culture, a vivid dramatic expression, combining intelligence and instinct in one" (Dutch musical periodical "Glorieuze Klanken", 1955).
Stan Kenton, that unsurpassed big-band leader, deserves the credit for having cajoled a reluctant Capitol Records management into recording Graettinger's music (5 and 7 December, 1951). "His music is great, I know it's great. No doubt in my mind!" The piece was never performed publicly in its entirety, though certain sections were presented independently.