Peter Dickson Lopez was born in Berkeley, California in 1950. Peter began studying piano at the age of six, but these early lessons ended shortly thereafter because Peter was impatient with the slow pace of the lessons. In fact, he emphatically declared that he wasnít learning anything.
Two years later he resumed his piano lessons with Theodore Gorbacheff, a Russian choral director and piano teacher. Peter studied with Mr. Gorbacheff until the end of high school. During this time, Peter would often attempt to write music snippets emulating the style of the pieces he was studying, and in high school he wrote and improvised music for his jazz trio.
It wasnít until college that Peterís penchant for composition began to take off. However, it was piano that he majored in during his undergraduate years. Peter spent his first year of college in 1968-1969 at the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California where he studied piano with Edward Shadbolt. Mr. Shadbolt had studied with BÈla BartÛk years earlier in Europe, and from this experience developed a technique of playing which placed emphasis on arm weight, relaxation, and control. At that point in time, this was exactly what Peter needed, and his performance style progressed accordingly. During the year at Stockton, Peter continued to compose piano pieces on his own, quite independently of any courses he was taking. On occasion, however, his interest in composition would get the better of him. At one point in a harmony class, his teacher reprimanded him for turning in an assignment that was too complex to grade! It was also during this year at Stockton that Peter became involved with vocal music, taking voice lessons and performing as a member of the A Cappella Choir. This love of, and participation in, vocal music would become a major factor in Peterís musical aesthetic. In following years, Peter would accompany and conduct choral groups, accompany vocal soloists, and compose for voice. Beyond this, Peterís compositional style is marked throughout by a singing, lyrical quality that is influenced as much by vocal tradition as by composers whom he admires. Peter spent the remainder of his undergraduate studies from 1969-1972 at Cal State Hayward where he performed numerous concerts. At Hayward, he studied piano with Donald King Smith whose technical and musical guidance and attention to detail were of great benefit to Peterís musical training. It was also at Hayward that his love of counterpoint and innate desire for order and structure in his own composition came into clearer focus. Peter had studied the music of J. S. Bach for many years, but the academic disciplines of species counterpoint and analysis helped to bring clarity and refinement to his musical senses.
By his senior year, Peter had already decided to switch his major from piano to composition, and so began the process of applying to graduate school. He was accepted at U.C. Berkeley into the Masterís composition program where Joaquin Nin-Culmell took him under his wing. Peter studied with most of the composition faculty at Berkeley including Joaquin Nin-Culmell, Edwin Dugger, Olly Wilson, and Andrew Imbrie. After earning his M.A. in Music Composition, Peter married his childhood sweetheart, Irene Gee, in the summer of 1974. The next year, the Music Department at Berkeley awarded Peter the prestigious George Ladd Paris Prize for composition, and the year following, Peter and
Irene went to Europe where they lived for two years in Paris from 1976-78. During this time in Paris, Peter composed nearly day and night, besides going to many concerts. During these concerts, he had the opportunity to hear firsthand the music of Xenakis, Messiaen, Boulez, Berio, Stockhausen, and many other
European composers. By the end of this sojourn, Peter had completed a 45- minute work for male voice and chamber orchestra with electronic devices
entitled The Ship of Death, based on a poem of the same name by D.H. Lawrence. This piece turned out to be his doctoral dissertation, and it was subsequently performed in the Netherlands by the Dutch Radio Chamber Orchestra under the direction of Ernest Bour with John Duykers performing the part for male voice.
It was later also performed and recorded by the Arch Ensemble for Experimental Music in Berkeley, conducted by Robert Hughes with Tom Buckner as male vocalist.
Although Peterís early music career had started off well, including a post-doctoral fellowship at U.C. Berkeley, a fellowship at the Berkshire Music Festival (Tanglewood), a four-year part-time teaching assignment at U.C. Davis, a performance at Carnegie Recital Hall in New York and other performances throughout the United States, a performance in Poland, and a recording, Peter was unable to pursue these successes as a composer due to personal and medical reasons. During the time he taught part-time at U.C. Davis from 1982-1986, Peter had become increasingly interested in computers and computer applications in music. At the beginning of that decade, IBM had come out with its original Personal Computer. It so happened that Irene had been using the PC at her work at Pacific Bell, so this presented a perfect opportunity to explore the ìinstrumentî. As is well known, IBM also published the complete assembler kernel for the original PC, so Peter picked up a copy of the source code and taught himself assembler. Shortly thereafter, Peter also learned Forth, a programming language which allowed programmers at that time to write programs using very little memory. Forth also allowed direct access to hardware control, ideal for music applications. Peter developed a music applications development language which he created using assembler and Forth. Features of this language, which he named ELUS, not only included the typical programming control structures and memory management, but also MIDI programming utilities, serial interface programming, and graphics libraries. Although Peter marketed the product nationally, the software never found its market, and he was forced to abandon this project. Eventually Peter was able to find work as an IT consultant which enabled him to deal with those personal and medical concerns. Composition would have to be put on the back burner.
As the confluence of time and seemingly disparate events have a way of conspiring to alter oneís course in life, so it was with Peter in 2008. During the late spring and summer of 2008 Peter took on two piano students from his neighborhood. Fortuitously a neighbor had sent out a request for a piano teacher to the local homeownerís association via a group email. Peter hadnít contemplated starting up his piano studio, but the opportunity presented itself, and as a result he soon had not one but two students. Earlier in the year Peter had also Lopez at his computer music workstation reviewing a score. committed to his mother to present another concert at her residence. As it had been six years since the last concert, it was in fact well overdue. So, Peter also began to practice more regularly and energetically to prepare for the concert that was scheduled in December later that year. It didnít take long for Peter to realize how much he had missed music, music making, and sharing the joy of music with others. Nevertheless, the exigencies of running his consultancy continued to occupy most of Peterís time. Since he had completed a major project for BART in 2006, projects were fewer and harder to land. Then the bottom fell out of the economy in the last quarter of 2008, and Peterís business fell victim to the recession.
The recession, difficulties in business, the unexpected yet reasonable mitigation of those personal and medical factors which initially had denied Peter his lifeís work, and resurgent focus on music combined to form an undeniable mandate in Peterís mind to return to his roots in music: teaching, composing and performing. Beyond
Lopez at his piano reviewing the early, incomplete version of his orchestral work, Embroidery of Imagination this, Peterís family encouraged him to follow his music path. To that end, Peter initiated a multi-pronged strategy during the 2nd quarter of 2009 to once again pursue his lifeís work in music. This strategy entailed such diverse actions as reconnecting with old friends and colleagues in the music world, applying to numerous academic positions, reaching out to local venues and performers for performance and collaborative opportunities, and embarking on an ambitious work plan of music projects which he documented and detailed on his music projects web site. These projects included work on both old and new compositions, engraving and publishing his works, transferring older analogue sound media to digital format for easier distribution, and preparation of a very challenging program for his next piano concert including works of Schubert, Debussy, Villa-Lobos, Scriabin and Lopez. For this program, Peter restarted work on his Moment Pieces for Extended Piano (Piano with Digital Devices) which he had already decided would be one of several volumes of pieces to comprise his Pieces from a Distant Land, Series III. At this time, Moment Pieces is his most extensive work for piano, integrating quasi-mathematical stochasticism, controlled improvisation, computer software technology (for compositional processes, device control, and audio signal processing), and his signature cantabile lyricism. He also began work on orchestrating a very early piano piece, which was a project he had long wanted to pursue, as a kind of ìwarm-upî to the numerous orchestral projects he had left unfinished years ago. Work on all of these projects is ongoing.