Obituary: Roland C. Jordan Jr., composer, professor emeritus, 84

Roland C. Jordan Jr., who taught composition and music theory at Washington University in St. Louis for more than three decades, died Thursday, May 18, 2023, in St. Louis, from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 84.

Jordan (Photo courtesy of the family)

Born in Galveston, Texas, in 1938, Jordan earned a bachelor’s degree in music from the University of Houston in 1960. That year, he joined the Wilmington Music School in Delaware, serving as chair of theory. In 1965, Jordan completed his master’s in music from the University of Pennsylvania and then joined the faculty at Auburn University.

Jordan came to WashU as a doctoral candidate in 1968. After earning his degree, in 1973, he joined the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences as an assistant professor, teaching classes on theory, composition and 20th century music, among other topics. His scholarship explored links between music and literature as well as the implications of phenomenological research for structuralist and post-structuralist theory, and included several articles co-written with Emma Kafalenos (PhD ’74), a senior lecturer in comparative literature in Arts & Sciences. Jordan was promoted to associate professor in 1979 and named professor emeritus in 2004.

Jordan’s major works include the evening-length “Maps” (1978), for voice and a large instrumental ensemble, which was written and presented, with sponsorship from the New Music Circle, to mark WashU’s 125th anniversary. In the 1990s, St. Louis ensemble Synchronia and the Saint Louis Symphony Chamber series both presented Jordan’s “Years of the Plague,” a work marking the first 13 years of the AIDS crisis.

Other notable compositions include “Times Space (Encounters)” (1973); Sonata for Piano (1980), commissioned by the New Music Circle; and “Songs for Li Po” (1982), commissioned by River Styx. His final two works were “Night Music” and “Brief Encounters: Five Movements for Woodwind Quintet and Percussion,” which were written, respectively, for his grandchildren Emily Deguzis and Micah Gharavi, and performed as part of their own graduate thesis recitals.

Jordan also is survived by his daughters, Leslie Jordan and Jennifer Jordan; a third grandchild, Fox Cashell; and his nieces Julie Day, Medusa Artemis and Megan Reta. Memorial donations are suggested to the Alzheimer’s Association. Leave a remembrance on the memorial website.

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