Elliott Schwartz will be celebrating his birthday in style next week with the Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO).

In honor of turning 75 last Wednesday, Schwartz, the Robert K. Beckwith Professor of Music Emeritus, who taught at the College from 1964 to 2007, has composed a Diamond Jubilee Concert to be performed Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in Portland City Hall's Merrill Auditorium.

The piece will be about the passage of the past 75 years since Schwartz's birth in 1936.

"1936 to present is an interesting span of time," he said, acknowledging that many might say the same of other 75-year spans. But "[in 1936] the U.S. was just out of a depression, and entering into WWII," he said. "People had rotary phones back then...TV was something people were talking about."

"It's really about my view of history," he said. "The world as I remember it—my world."

Each of the piece's three movements will correspond to 25-year segments of Schwartz's life: 1936 to 1961, 1961 to 1986 and 1986 to present, together constituting a "crazy quilt of images and names."

Using PSO's high-tech projection booth, commonly employed by operas to provide English translations, Schwartz will project various images up on a screen.

Included in the visual element are political figures, sports highlights, high and popular culture, world events and changes in technology. The first 25-year segment features the Yalta Conference, Muhammad Ghandi and Jackie Robinson, as well as an old rotary-dial telephone, a car with tail fins and TV Puppet Howdie Doodie. Current images include those from The Simpsons, 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.

A few motives and themes that crop up in the piece include the musical spellings of key dates and Schwartz's own name. A four-note fragment from his first orchestral piece, composed in 1960, runs through the composition, as does an old Victorian pop song called "My Lost Youth" that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, class of 1825, set to a tune. Beyond the tune's Bowdoin connection, it has familial significance for Schwartz: "Longfellow spent his childhood in Portland," Schwartz said. "My father grew up in Portland, so this has special meaning to me."

For every one of the three sections, Schwartz brings back an earlier piece of his own.

"I'm not the first composer to do this," he said, noting how Strauss quoted his own compositions in "A Hero's Life."

"[Strauss] had an enormous ego," said Schwartz, adding jokingly: "I hope I'm not that egotistical."

Other elements adding to the definitive character of this composition include humming and speaking by the members of the orchestra, harmonicas, electronic music and a chorus of cell phones. Schwartz reiterated that his piece in part examines the changing nature of technology and the arts over time.

Peter McLaughlin '10 composed a segment of electronic music for the piece.

"I met Elliott my freshman year and took the last course he taught at Bowdoin: 'A Survey of 20th Century Classical Music,'" said McLaughlin. "He retired that spring, but we would get lunch frequently." After his retirement, however, Schwartz continued to work with Bowdoin student musicians.

"This past summer I was staying with Professor Schwartz, living in his basement while looking for a place of own," McLaughlin said. "That's when he pitched it to me: 'It occurred to me that you compose a lot of electronic music,' he said, 'perhaps you could compose it.'"

Schwartz has kept in close touch with many of his students, and his Bowdoin years have been inextricably woven into his personal history.

"I find it hard to believe, but 47 of my 75 years—almost two-thirds of my life so far—have been spent at Bowdoin," explained Schwartz. "The College has changed enormously since I first arrived in 1964. The student body then was only 750 in number, mostly from New England, all male, virtually all white, and relatively uninvolved in the arts.

"Concert sites, practice rooms, and instrument storage facilities were makeshift; student performance was strictly extra-curricular and carried no academic credit," he said. "What a difference a half-century makes!"

"I'm delighted to have witnessed so many changes, and to have contributed in my own way to a number of them," said Schwartz. "There are many vivid memories of my time here: chief among them are the three 'Elevator Music' performances in Coles Tower, the 18-hour performance of Satie's 'Vexations,' the 1980s 'Ears' series of student improv concerts, my courses called 'Composing and Improvising,' and—most recently—the chamber works I wrote for members of the Bowdoin New Music Ensemble which flourished circa 2007 to 2010."

"Bowdoin has been very supportive of artistic innovation and experimentation, and it's been a great place in which to make music," he added.

"In my class of 35 [in Fall 2006]—which had a lot of people [from] non-musical background[s]—I think he won over most people," said McLaughlin. "[He made it] hard not to care."

"Without a doubt, he is unbelievably engaging as a professor. I wish I had come to Bowdoin a few years earlier [to take more of his classes]," McLaughlin added. "He really has a true passion for the things that he teaches."

Both McLaughlin and Professor of Music Robert Greenlee described Schwartz's enthusiasm as "infectious." Greenlee first met Schwartz when Schwartz interviewed him for his job a quarter of a century ago and has since then performed in many of Schwartz's compositions as a keyboardist and conductor.

"He distills essential elements of various styles and teaches them. He teaches it all, and teaches it well," said Greenlee.

Of Schwartz's legacy, McLaughlin said: "He left a mark on Bowdoin College."