"Each time, we drew a great number of young people," he told the L.A. Times in 1996. "They were actually theme concerts years before theme concerts became normal programming devices, and they were designed for the informal entrance and exit of the listeners, for an atmosphere of looseness."
Foss was a two-time Guggenheim fellow (1945 and 1960) and won the Rome Prize in 1950 and an American Society for Composers, Authors and Publishers award for adventurous programming in 1979. He held more than 20 honorary degrees.
He was often criticized for picking up on compositional trends rather than initiating them.
"What some people don't notice when they call me trendy is that I got there after the trend, and usually out of simple curiosity," he told the L.A. Times in 1987. "Like Ives, who usually got there too early, I did nothing at the right time. I usually got there too late."
In a 2002 Boston Herald interview, Foss elaborated on his composing style:
"Twenty years ago we had this club, the avant garde, and that's no longer really very functional. Now any style is OK. Minimal, aleatoric, 12-tone, these are all just techniques. I use them all -- the more the merrier, the richer your vocabulary. It's wrong to think style is personality. If somebody says, 'I'm a 12-tone composer,' it's like Bach saying, 'I'm a fugue composer.' "
As for the future, "I hope justice will prevail and that my music will get its fair share of performances when I'm gone," Foss told the Miami Herald in 2001. "I think much of it is very good, very important."
Foss is survived by his wife, painter Cornelia Brendel Foss, whom he met in 1949 as a student at the American Academy in Rome; a son, Christopher, and a daughter, Eliza Foss, both of New York; a brother, Oliver, who lives near Paris; and three granddaughters, Olivia, Sabina and Eugenia.
Pasles is a freelance writer.