Jacques-Louis Monod, a French composer, conductor, pianist and editor who had a powerful influence on the development of postwar modern music in the United States, died Sept. 21 in Toulouse, France. He was 93.
The cause was a stroke, said Harry Bott, a friend and longtime student.
With the soprano Bethany Beardslee, who became his first wife, Monod traveled the United States in the early 1950s, presenting the works of Arnold Schoenberg, Alban Berg and Anton Webern, who were then considered the center of the musical avant-garde.
The complicated and highly abstract music, often described as atonal, was mostly unknown and unrecorded in the United States and seemed to have no connection with traditional classical stylings. To audiences it might have seemed like sounds from space.
Monod made the first recordings of Webern's Piano Variations and other works for Dial Records, a pioneering label best known for its albums of modern jazz. He founded his own ensemble, Musica Camera, at New York's Town Hall.
Rather than place an emphasis on dissonance and formal complications, his pieces were typified by clarity, poetry, delicacy and a distilled lyricism. He composed sparingly, though, and was fastidious about what he sent out into the world: some a cappella pieces for chorus, an early composition for organ, a duo for violin and cello, and not much else.
Monod viewed himself as a perfectionist in all musical matters, and his later conducting appearances were rare. "My experience has proved that you need at least one hour of rehearsal for every minute of music," he told The New York Times in 1985. "Less than that, and you cannot do justice to the piece."
"Whenever I prepare for a performance, I think, 'Maybe this time I'm going to do the piece as it should be done,'" he added.
Jacques-Louis Monod was born in Asnires, near Paris, on Feb. 25, 1927. A child prodigy, he was admitted to the Paris Conservatory when he was 8. In 1975, he founded the Guild of Composers, which he led for the following 20 years before turning over the duties to Plante, who then ran the group until it folded in 2001.