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Dennis Riley

Former Assistant Professor

New York Times, May 10, 1999 Dennis Riley picture

Dennis Riley, 55, a Composer Of Chamber and Vocal Works


Dennis Riley, a prolific composer with an extensive catalog of works published by C. F. Peters, died on Thursday at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He was 55.

The cause was AIDS, said his daughter Alice.

Mr. Riley was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Lakewood, Colo. He received a master's degree in composition from the University of Illinois and a doctorate, also in composition, from the University of Iowa. Among his teachers were George Crumb and Ben Johnston.

He began his career as a teacher, notably at California State University in Fresno and Columbia University in New York. But during the mid-1980's, Mr. Riley was among the first group of composers to master and advocate the use of personal computer programs for the notation of music, and from that time on he earned his living primarily by preparing computer engravings of scores for other composers.

Mr. Riley's earlier works were written in a rhythmically intricate and texturally lucid post-Webern style. In later years, his music, though not appreciably tonal, became more romantic in character. His composed two one-act operas: ''Rappaccini's Daughter,'' completed in 1984, a work drawn from Hawthorne that has yet to be produced; and ''Cats' Concert,'' composed in 1983, a work for children. His catalog of chamber works is strikingly varied.

From his 10-year marriage to Emily L. Durham, Mr. Riley had three children: his daughter Alice, of Manhattan, another daughter, Elizabeth, and a son, Hugh. He is also survived by his mother, a sister, a brother and Reynaldo Garcia, Mr. Riley's companion of 15 years.

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