1 – Maria Newman
It is funny how you meet someone and all of the sudden – you realize that the world is incredibly small. My friend and fellow collaborator Hummie Mann introduced me to the wonderful musical world of Maria a little over a year ago. Little did I know the number of friends and colleagues we have in common who have written to tell me how amazing it has been to work with Maria and how fun and down-to-earth she is – not to mention – a freaking brilliant musician.
The Seattle Collaborative Orchestra performed her Brass Chorales in our last performance in February and the Saratoga Orchestra will perform the Concerto Grosso in C minor in our season next year (as our May concert has been cancelled due to Covid – 19). It will be a great opportunity to hear her music live. Also, if you love the Violin Concerto, be sure to check out Maria’s equally awesome Viola Concerto and Cello Concerto!!
2 – Leanna Primiani
I have had the pleasure of working with Leanna Primiani on her composition “1001 for Orchestra and Prerecorded Electronics.” This companion composition to Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov’s “Scheherazade” brings a different lens to Scheherazade’s experience. Please read more about this composition here.
In addition to “1001,” I would love to add a couple of her intense and musically evocative sound clips that show her brilliance of understanding the aural capacity of emotion.
3 - Angelique Poteat
Talented musicians seem to proliferate in the Seattle area. It has been amazing to be part of this music culture for almost 30 years (yikes!!). My favorite aspect has been watching hundreds of young people develop into amazing world-class musicians.
Angelique Poteat has been a person who I have had the privilege of watching over many years beginning as a clarinetist with the Classical Symphony during her time with the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra to her current status as a fantastic professional clarinetist and composer.
4 - Hanna Benn
Seattle has so many terrific ensembles that create, innovate, and inspire. One of these ensembles is NOCCO (North Corner Chamber Orchestra). I had the pleasure of hearing Hanna Benn’s world premiere of “Sankofa” (2017) with this orchestra. NOCCO’s mission to “put collaboration at the heart of their music-making…(to) perform an extremely diverse range of music…with the spontaneity and flexibility of chamber music” is in-line with my fundamental belief of necessary music making in today's world. My thanks go to this wonderful ensemble for introducing me to the amazing musical world of Hanna Benn.
Composition and vocal graduate from Cornish College of the Arts, Hanna has explored amazing sonic landscapes through her multi-disciplinary approach. Her music pulls you in.
5 - Barbara Strozzi (1619-1677)
To be an illegitimate daughter of poet Giulio Strozzi in the 17th century was a positive for Barbara. Because she spent her life living in liberal circle, her vocal and compositional talents were encouraged. Most of Strozzi’s works are written for the female voice though she was also known as a competent lute player.
I find Barbara Strozzi’s music to be mesmerizing. The first composition on my list had me weeping during my first listening. What I found more fascinating is that once I read the translation, it verified my intense emotional transformation.
6 - Ruth Gipps – 1921 - 1999
Ruth Gipps was one of the most prolific British composers at the time of her death. She wrote five symphonies, seven concertos, and numerous chamber and choral works. She founded both the London Repertoire Orchestra and the Chanticleer Orchestra, and served as music director for the City of Birmingham Choir. She considered herself and honorary male and preferred to NOT emphasize and align herself with the “women left behind.” Her music is filled with passion and drive. The first work on my list, Symphony No. 2, is a work in three sections intended to represent her life before the outbreak of war. Her musical perspective beautifully describes a young woman at the beginning of her creative life. It then follows the consequences from the outbreak of war (in the sense that a woman who is in love, but separated from her husband now lives with fear and isolation while dealing with everyday life). Finally, life returns to normal with a positive future (including the prospect of children and a career).
Symphony No. 2 (1945)
The impetus of my passion to explore music by women started with Sarah Bassingthwaighte - my friend, colleague, and musical collaborator. Eight years ago, Sarah most graciously met with me at Le Fournil coffeehouse to plot my DMA conducting recital. At this point, I was just beginning to understand what it meant to be a “female conductor.”
Sarah enthusiastically agreed to write “A Mountain Symphony” for my DMA recital. It was with Sarah’s inspiration and talent that initially encouraged me to advocate for the equal representation of women on the concert stage. The idea of gender in music has led me on an amazing and beautiful journey.
In Sarah’s first piece Flowing, she finds interesting ways to offer musical sound textures of water: trickling brooks, dripping branches, rushing rivers, and cascading waterfalls.
A Mountain Symphony – 1. Flowing (World Premiere with Seattle Collaborative Orchestra - 2012)
A Mountain Symphony – 2. Pesante (World Premiere with Seattle Collaborative Orchestra - 2012)
Echo of the Ancients (for four flutes)
8 - Stacy Garrop
The first phrase that comes to my mind when I think about the music of Stacy Garrop is “aural cinematic explosions.” Stacy’s musical storytelling is stunning. My first experience with her music was the performance of "Shadow" with the Saratoga Orchestra. This haunting story begins at the artists’ colony - Yaddo - in New York (for more info on this story, please check out Stacy’s website below). After telling the Saratoga audience the Yaddo story and providing examples of musical devices that Garrop uses for musical effect – audience response was palpable.
"Pandora Undone" and "Penelope Waits are movements from the "Mythology Symphony" (performed by the Chicago College of the Performing Arts Orchestra; Alondra de la Parra, conductor)
I am excited to perform "Pandora Undone" with the New Mexico All-State Orchestra in January 2021. Saratoga Orchestra also performed "Penelope Waits" with the Pacific Northwest Conducting Institute (2019) and Seattle Collaborative Orchestra will perform this composition at our next concert (whenever the COVID – 19 virus allows!). I also wanted to share an example of Stacy’s terrific chamber music writing.
Penelope Waits (part of the Mythology)
Bohemian Café (for Woodwind Quintet and double bass/or cello)
In 2015, the Catalyst String Quartet performed for the Meany Center for the Performing Arts International Chamber Music Series (formerly known as the UW World Series) and provided an educational residency program for young musicians in Seattle. Hundreds of students benefitted from this residency, including my students both at Roosevelt H. S. and Seattle Collaborative Orchestra.
At the end of the Catalyst residency, the Meany Center for the Performing Arts held an evening extravaganza – showcasing students from their residency. Musicians from the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra were invited to perform Jessie’s “Starburst.” I have been a huge fan ever since. I look forward to performing many more of her works. The Saratoga Orchestra was slated to perform “Strum” at our May concert, but this will be rescheduled for next season due to Covid-19.
Selections below include musicians from the Catalyst String Quartet (all members are internationally acclaimed alumni and winners from the Sphinx Competition - please check out the Sphinx Organization below as it is AMAZING!!). Jessie offers a unique, cross-cultural, and engaging musical voice that is terrific to hear.
10 - Jennifer Higdon
Though I have never had the opportunity to personally meet Jennifer, I feel extremely connected to her music. I have performed her “Blue Cathedral” as a violinist and have conducted three of her compositions – “Concerto for Orchestra,” and “Violin Concerto” (featuring Maria Larionoff) with the Seattle Collaborative Orchestra, and “Dance Cards” with Saratoga Orchestra.
If you read her bio, Jennifer offers hope and inspiration to all of us who may have not started studying music or our instrument as a toddler. She is a self-taught flutist (at the age of 15!), began her formal music education at the age of 18, and began composing at the ripe age of 21! Many musicians and educators might think a student like this would be “over the hill.” I am reminded of my own elementary school teacher who told me when I begged to join my elementary school orchestra in 6th grade, “Anna, you will never catch up to the other kids.”
Inspiration comes to all of us in funny and unexpected ways. Jennifer is a clear reminder that artistic innovation comes from diverse backgrounds, which include countless ingredients - race, gender, age, background, and the list goes on. To me, the more diverse the framework – the more my interest stretches.
11 - Julia Perry (1924 – 1979)
Julia Amanda Perry was a remarkable and prolific composer who grew up in Lexington, Kentucky during the civil rights era. During her career, Julia was acknowledged as one of a few significant American composers, whether black or female.
After completing her Master of Music degree at Westminster Choir College, Perry’s compositional talent began to blossom and spurred her on to study with both Luigi Dallapiccola and Nadia Boulanger. Julia won the Boulanger Grand Prix for her Viola Sonata and later won two Guggenheim Fellowship awards.
Perry suffered the first of two strokes in 1971, which required her to learn to write with her left hand in order to composer. During her much too short life, she completed 12 symphonies, two concertos, three operas, in addition to numerous smaller pieces. Julia Amanda Perry died at the age of 55 in Akron, Ohio.
12 - Louise Farrenc (1804 – 1875)
Another bohemian woman who has captured my musical heart. Louise grew up in Paris surrounded by sculptors, painters, and artistic women. Her musical talents were encouraged by Muzio Clementi and Johann Nepomuk Hummel and by the age of 15, she applied to the Paris Conservatory.
After completing her studies, she later became the only woman to be appointed as Professor of Piano at the Paris Conservatory, a position she held for thirty years. Considered to be one of the greatest piano professors in Europe, she was also the ONLY female professor at the Paris Conservatory during the entire 19th century.
One of my favorite aspects of Louise is that she battled for equitable pay at the Paris Conservatory and she WON! After being paid less than her male colleagues for ten years, after the brilliant premiere of her “Nonet,” she demanded and received equal pay.
For a fun listening exercise – please make sure to listen to the “Piano Quintet” below. See if you recognize the melody. Make sure you listen from the beginning, but a surprise will happen at 0:58.
Symphony No. 3 - 1847
Piano Quintet no. 2 in E, op. 31 - Andante
13 - Alexandra Gardner
Alexandra Gardner was Seattle Symphony’s 2017-2018 Composer-in-Residence and was commissioned to premiere her fantastic new symphonic work Significant Others (under the direction of Ludovic Morlot). Though I am not able to share this work with you today, it was a composition that continues to stay with me. I loved this piece!
While in Seattle, Alexandra led the Merriman Family Young Composers Workshop (an amazing program!!!) and led workshops with LGBTQ+ youth who were affected by homelessness to create a collaborative music composition entitled Stay Elevated.
The Way of Ideas (for flute, clarinet, violin, & cello)
Coyote (for string quartet)
14 - Margaret Brouwer
Margaret Brouwer (http://www.margaretbrouwer.com/) has been named on of “The Best of Female Classical Composers” list on Naxos (though I do not believe that Naxos should put a gender clarifying adjective before Classical Composer). She should just be on the "Best of" list. Margaret’s music is full of energy, depth, and passion.
Saratoga performed her “Sizzle” several years ago. It was a huge hit with both our orchestra and audience members. What a great piece! This composition “was inspired by the booming rhythms of rap music that emanated from a vibrating car waiting at a stoplight.” How awesome is that!!!
15 - Caroline Shaw
The way I listened to music was forever changed after hearing Caroline Shaw’s Partita for 8 Voices in 2014 – it was transformational. I was in my office listening to Nadia Sirota’s “Meet the composer” – here is the link to this podcast. If you have the opportunity, listen to “Partita for 8 Voices” with excellent surround sound speakers and turn to a healthy full-bodied volume. Close your eyes and indulge for twenty minutes. It will be worth it.
As musicians, artists, lovers of music – we all take in beauty from diverse perspectives. What I loved about this particular composition was the way Caroline brought together her knowledge of vocal components from a diverse population of cultures to meld together a completely new texture of sound.
Since this moment, I have closely followed Caroline’s compositional career and have had the opportunity to perform her “Entr’acte” with both the Saratoga and Seattle Collaborative Orchestras and to see her piano concerto “Watermark” with the Seattle Symphony. I look forward to more.
16 - Anna Clyne
Composer of acoustic and electro-acoustic music, Anna Clyne has incredibly inventive music and loves to collaborate with cutting edge artists and musicians worldwide. Her exuberance shines through her music.
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra had the opportunity to perform “Within Her Arms,” which pulls her listener through a powerful emotional journey of personal loss – stabbing grief, reflection, comfort and finally peace.
For all of you violinists out there – please check out her “The Violin – Complete Works” – you will love this!
17 - Nancy Galbraith
Chair of Composition at the Carnegie Mellon University School of Music, Nancy Galbraith defines contemporary diverse classical music. Nancy’s impressive compositional catalog offers listeners a wide range of sonic voyages through her compositional palette.
If you are a percussionist, check out her “Everything Flows” - Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra – Wow - super fun!!
18 - Emilie Mayer - (1821 – 1883)
Dubbed the “female Beethoven,” Emilie Mayer was a prolific composer whose
compositions were performed often during her lifetime, but fell into obscurity after her death. A visual artist as well as composer, Mayer began her studies in Friedland Germany on organ and piano. As a young woman, she dabbled with composing small compositions. However, in 1840 Mayer’s life took a sudden turn as her father took his own life. Seemingly to numb the sorrow of her father’s death, Mayer buried herself in her compositions. She began lessons with Carl Loewe who guided Emilie in her early years of serious music writing. Loewe clearly took note of Emilie’s talent once saying, “You actually know nothing and everything at the same time! I shall be the gardener who helps the talent that is still a bud resting within your chest to unfold and become the most beautiful flower!”
During Mayer’s prolific musical career, she produced eight symphonies, at least fifteen overtures, and numerous chamber works and lieder. Though she spent a considerable amount of money, time, and energy to prepare, travel, and perform her music; she was considered, by far, the most famous German woman composer during her lifetime. The Munich Philharmonic Society appointed her an honorary member and according to musicologist Eva Rieger, Mayer was considered to be “the most prolific German woman composer of the Romantic period.”
Faust Overture - 1880
Symphony No. 4 in B minor - 1851
19 - Lili Boulanger - (1893- 1918)
Lili Boulanger was the first woman composer to win France’s distinguished Prix de Rome prize for composition at age 19 in 1913. Her incredible talent was unfortunately cut short by her premature death at age 24 from intestinal tuberculosis, now known as Crohn’s disease. Despite her early death and chronic illness, Lili wrote more than fifty compositions.
D’un matin de printemps (Of a Spring Morning) is a delicately orchestrated composition clearly influenced by Impressionism. Boulanger's tonal colors provide a clear feeling of joy and lightness from the initial flute and violin solos, yet in the middle of the piece you can hear her musical reaction to her life of pain and struggle.
Pie Jesu (Nadia Boulanger – conducting)
British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) was the first major classical composer of African descent. His father Daniel Peter Hughes (D.P.H.) Taylor was originally from Freetown, Sierra Leone and had been rescued from transport into American slavery by the British navy. Once in London, D.P.H. Taylor studied medicine, but later returned to Africa after his background apparently discouraged potential patients. It is unclear if D.P.H. knew about his son, Samuel as he left London before Alice Hare Martin gave birth.
As a young boy, Coleridge-Taylor devoted himself to the violin with voracity as music was his outlet for coping with racial insults at school. In one horrible incident, his hair was set on fire. Through hard work and perseverance, at age 15, he entered the Royal College of Music in London. During his time at the Royal College, Coleridge -Taylor became interested in composition as well as violin performance. By the time he finished his studies in 1897, he was well on his way for being known as a composer. Edward Elgar, the lead British composer at the time, recommended Coleridge-Taylor’s Ballade in A minor for orchestra for a presentation in the 1898 Three Choirs Festival, one of Britain’s most prestigious venues.
Samuel married fellow Royal College Music student, Jessie Walmisley in 1899 and the pair had two children: Hiawatha, born in 1900, and Gwendolyn, known as Avril, born in 1903. To support his family, Coleridge-Taylor took on a variety of high-profile posts including principal conductor at the Handel Society of London, professor at Trinity College of Music, the Crystal Palace School of Art and Music, and the Guildhall School of Music. He died much too early from pneumonia at the age of 37.
Ballade in A minor, op 33 (1898)
21 - Emma Lou Diemer
The Seattle Collaborative Orchestra had the privilege of performing Emma Lou Diemer’s “Santa Barbara Overture” a couple of years ago. It was a treat to explore the fascinating and innovative musical career of Emma Lou Diemer. Dr. Diemer had a vast and impressive background beginning with her BM (1949) and MM (1950) in composition at the Yale Music School, Ph.D (1960) at the Eastman School of Music and Fulbright Scholarship to study in Brussels. Emma Lou was a composer-in-residence in Arlington VA under the Ford Foundation Young Composers Project and consultant for the MENC Contemporary Music Project before joining the theory and composition faculty of the University of Maryland (1965 – 1970). In 1971, she moved westward to teach theory and composition at the University of California, Santa Barbara where she was instrumental in founding the electronic/computer music program.
Diemer wrote Santa Barbara Overture in early 1995 for Gisèle Ben-Dor and the Santa Barbara Symphony for their 1995-1996 season. This work was premiered on March 23, 1996. Maestro Ben-Dor requested Diemer to write “happy, beautiful” music and this composition certainly offers these characteristics. Diemer writes of her composition, “There were a number of ideas and reflections that I wanted to express in writing musically about Santa Barbara. Here are some of them: An opening, rhythmic crescendo leading to a loud and joyful theme of ‘deliverance,’ reflective perhaps of seeing the Pacific Ocean and Santa Barbara for the first time after crossing the desert and enduring the clogged freeways and smog of Los Angeles; Transitional material using pentatonic scale figures vaguely reminiscent of Asian music; Intimations of ragtime filtered through a ‘honky-tonk’ piano in a gold miners’ saloon in a Hollywood movie; a Native American melody done up in a brief jazz setting; Musical puns on Spanish and Mexican music; The bells of the Old Mission of Santa Barbara; Organum at the interval of a fourth reminiscent of the imagined friars at the Mission (imagined because they did not sing organum but rather music more in the style of Schubert). This may be quite a lot to put into one eight-minute piece, but I wanted to express musically at least some of the diversity of the wondrous city of Santa Barbara.”
Violin Concerto - A Little Parlour Music (after Poulenc)
Concerto in One Movement for Piano (Betty Oberacker, piano)
22 - Gabriela Lena Frank
Born in California to a mother of Peruvian/Chinese and father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, you can hear Gabriela Lena Frank’s musical explorations and influences of her multicultural heritage. As a member of the Silk Road Ensemble, her music has been performed by some of the greatest musicians of our time – Yo Yo Ma, Dawn Upshaw, the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, and Cleveland Symphony – just to name a few.
I find her music powerful, energetic, exciting, and full of interesting paths to journey.
23 - Victoria Bond
Seattle Collaborative Orchestra had the awesome opportunity to commission a string work by Victoria Bond in 2015. Victoria is a powerhouse in New York where she is the Artistic Director of Cutting-Edge Concerts New Music Festival, which she founded in 1998. She is a frequent lecturer at the Metropolitan Opera and has lectured for the New York Philharmonic.
Through musical textures and timbres, Victoria offers the listener a clear and powerful vision of her work. It was an honor to perform her composition.
24 - Paul Chihara
The first words that come to mind when I think about Paul Chihara, (second generation Japanese-American) are fascinating, captivating, and an utterly charming cat (if you have met him, you will understand)!
Intense collections of emotional and lived experiences have offered Paul an amazing musical palette. His music has been performed in most major cities and top art centers in the US and Europe. In addition, Paul has composed scores for over 90 motion pictures and television series.
Mark Swed, from the Los Angeles Times, beautifully described the music of Paul Chihara:
It is almost easier to think of Paul Chihara as several different composers. There is the Chihara whose sensitivity to exquisite instrumental color has made him a favorite with such performers as conductor Seiji Ozawa and the Sequoia String Quartet. There is, however, a strong theatrical side to Chihara which expresses itself in works for dance, musical theater and film. And there is Chihara’s love for American popular music of the ‘30s and ‘40s.
I had the amazing opportunity to work with Paul last year while I was the Interim Music Advisor for the Seattle Youth Symphony. It was a treat to prepare SYSO students for a performance of “Tempest Suite,” from Chihara’s first American ballet – The Tempest, but my favorite part was getting to know this incredible musical legend. What a treat!
The Tempest – (a Ballet in two acts)
Love Music – 3, for Violin, Clarinet, and Orchestra
Minidoka: III. Haiku: Andante
SUPER excited to introduce you to Dora Pejačević (1885 – 1923) – like so many of these unknown female composers, she possessed many gifts – composer, pianist, violinist, nurse, actress, and philanthropist. As she grew up in an affluent Budapest household, Dora’s precocious and strong-willed nature often led her to rebel against constraints of aristocratic life. Truly I love her already.
As curiosity was her driving force, Dora was dedicated to broaden her intellectual horizons as she had the opportunity to study abroad, though she was mostly self-taught in music. In 1913 (at age 28), she wrote “Piano Concerto,” her first orchestral composition. Interestingly, she was the first Croatian composer to write a concerto. Between 1916-17, she wrote her awesome Symphony in F# minor.
In 1921, Dora married military officer, Ottomar von Lumbe. Before the birth of their first child, Dora wrote to her husband:
“I hope that our child should become a true, open and great human being -- prepare its way for it, never prevent it from knowing in life that suffering ennobles the soul because only in that way can one become a human being. Let it develop like a plant...if it has talent, encourage it...give it freedom when it seeks it…so act this way if it is a boy or girl; every talent, every genius, requires equal consideration, and sex cannot be allowed to come into the matter.”
Dora Pejačević died from kidney failure four weeks after giving birth to her son Theo.
Two-time Guggenheim Fellowship winner, William Grant Still (1895-1978) was a musical leader who became an American legend in a world of racial suppression.
Grant Still’s early days spent in Little Rock, Arkansas where his mom moved after his father’s early death. His stepdad was a record collector, and both his stepdad and mother encouraged Still’s interest in music. Though Still planned to study for a medical career, his love of music intensified during his time at Wilberforce College in Ohio - especially at Oberlin after he heard a live orchestra for the first time.
William Grant Still led a life of “firsts.” He was the first black composer to conduct a major symphony orchestra in the US (LA Philharmonic), to direct a major symphony orchestra in the Deep South (New Orleans Philharmonic), to conduct a major American network radio orchestra, to have an opera produced by a major American company (“A Bayou Legend” 1941), and to have an opera televised over a national network in the US (“A Bayou Legend” on PBS – 1981).
Afro-American Symphony - 1931
Mother and Child - 1943
27 – Missy Mizzoli
Mead Composer-in-Residence with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (2012-2015) and Grammy-nominated composer, Missy Mazzoli offers a consistently interesting array of music to dig into. Her music has been performed all over the world by fabulous ensembles – eighth blackbird, Kronos Quartet, Emanuel Ax, Scottish Opera, JACK Quartet, Minnesota Orchestra, and the list goes on and on.
One of my favorite bits of information on Missy is that she wrote and performed music for Thomas Pembridge – the fictional conductor emeritus of the New York Symphony on the Amazon TV show “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Sinfonia (for “Orbiting Spheres”)
28 - Melinda Wagner
On Melinda Wagner’s website she writes:
"Music offers composers an immeasurably rich and generous sonic landscape in which to explore the “life story” of each musical idea - its dramas, intrigues, joys and sorrows - a life. I strive to find various and persuasive ways of moving through the resulting temporal narrative, and to traverse a wide spectrum of expression and color on the way. Ultimately, I want listeners to know me; I want them to hear that while I enjoy the cerebral exercise, I am led principally by my ear, and by my heart."
Melinda’s music is texturally rich and she leads the listener on beautifully illustrated musical paths, which have interesting twists and turns. Fabulous music to know.
Melinda Wagner currently serves on the faculty of the Juilliard School of Music and has received numerous awards including a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She is a Distinguished Alumni from the University of Pennsylvania.
The first piece I heard of Florence Anna Maunders was “Fist in the Air.” The first words I wrote were, "super-cool rhythm – biting and progressive." It is clear that Maunders has embraced popular culture in her music and brings an inventive and colorful sound palette to her audiences. Here are her notes from her “Fist in the Air” YouTube link:
"...I'll give you a dose but it'll never come close to the Rage built up inside of me FIST IN THE AIR in the land of hypocrisy....
I always loved these lines from Rage Against The Machine's 1992 song "Wake Up" - an amazingly powerful song which is just as relevant now as it was nearly 30 years ago. The image of a fist in the air - raised in anger, raised in defiance, raised as a symbol of the struggle against racism and inequality is eternally powerful. This piece starts with restrained anger, but the fist gets raised higher and higher in defiance as the music builds. I wrote this piece in a day of (rage and anger) for a workshop with the London Contemporary Chamber Orchestra…."
I LOVE it a woman with an awesome agenda!!! :-)
Fist in the Air (midi, though I look forward to a good symphony recording!)
Chain Growth – for Piano Trio and Electronics
30 – Libby Larsen
An incredibly prolific composer, Libby Larsen has composed more than 600 works that have spanned almost every musical genre. She has been commissioned by major artists, ensembles, and orchestras around the world and was the first female composer in residence of a major American Orchestra (Minnesota Orchestra). Her list of awards and accolades is impressive. An amazing composer who has made invaluable contributions to contemporary music, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum (now the American Composers Forum) and is a consistently sought-after leader for up-and-coming musicians.
My son, Julian Garvue had the opportunity to work with Libby last summer at Song Fest (Colburn). I asked him to share a little about Larsen. The first thing he said is that she “vibrates with energy and is a total character.” He shared that during a class with Larsen, she discussed her synesthesia and that as a child, she always heard music in her head for everything. From the Minnesota Original video on Libby, she talked about how she HAD to write music as there were “so many things to say.” For her, writing music allowed her a way to “make an order of sound in time and space in order to communicate what it is like to be alive.” How unbelievably cool is that!!!
31 – Holly Harrison
Several years ago, I had the fabulous opportunity to participate in the Cabrillo Festival as a conducting participant. While there, it was a treat to meet composer Holly Harrison. A composer from Western Australia, she brings insanely interesting, innovative, and progressive music to the classical stage.
The first thing that came to mind to my mind when I heard her composition Frumious was Alice in Wonderland. It became perfectly clear, as I learned more about her music, is that she is DEFINITELY driven by the literature of Lewis Carroll. In program notes of Frumious,” Stella Joseph-Jarecki writes:
Over the course of eighth minutes, Frumious takes the listener on an energetic and sometimes frenzied journey through many musical genres. The piece does not follow a traditional movement-based structure but rather resembles a mosaic of musical moments. Harrison describes how her varied background as a performer helped to shape Frumious: “I was also figuring out ways to embrace my persona as a rock drummer and incorporate this into my scored compositions. [Frumious was] inspired by a collection of funk, jazz, pop, metal, and rock, and you can hear those threads throughout, even if briefly.” It makes sense that Harrison began writing the piece at the drum kit, devising interlocking rhythms and later assigning these to different sections of the orchestra. While there is no specific narrative driving the piece, a piccolo solo which appears five minutes into the piece is meant to represent Alice, navigating her way through Wonderland.
Holly’s music has a clear and edgy stamp of mixing the energy of rock and whimsical humor on the concert stage. Super fun music!!!
Jabberwock – Sydney Symphony Orchestra (2015)
32 – Marianna Martines (1744 – 1812)
Marianna wrote the Sinfonia in C Major in 1770 (the year Beethoven was born) at age 26. It has been a delight to get to know more about Marianna and her fabulous compositions this year. Martines left a significant amount of music including over 200 secular vocal works, sacred vocal works, three sonatas for keyboard, three concertos for keyboard, and the Sinfonia in C Major for orchestra.
Marianna spent her entire career in Vienna. Born May 4, 1744 to Nicolò and Maria Theresia di Martines, to was raised in the Michaelerhaus and lived in a six-room apartment on the third floor (a middle floor apartment where members of the middle class resided) above the Princess Maria Octavia Esterházy.
Viennese court poet Pietro Metastasio lived with the Martines family and was responsible for educating the Martines children in the languages of Italian, French, English, and in music. It was clear that Marianna possessed considerable talent in music. Auspiciously, Metastasio was aware of a very bright, and then unknown, keyboard instructor - Joseph Haydn, who happened to live in the attic room of Michaelerhaus. Pietro arranged free board for Haydn in the exchange of daily lessons for Marianna for three years.
It is interesting to think that when Martines was 29 years old, she met Mozart for the first time. Singer Michael Kelly wrote that “Martines was a favorite of Mozart and witnessed that Mozart was an almost constant attendant at her weekly musical parties. Kelly further stated that he had heard Mozart play duets of his own composition on the pianoforte with Martines.” (Women Composers Music Through the Ages, p. 70)
Following the death of her father, Martines moved from the Michaelerhaus and lived with her brother Joseph and sister Antonia. She continued her dedication to the arts. Marianna established a singing school and continued to arranged musical events open to all in the musical society until her death at age 68 from tuberculosis.
Sinfonia in C Major – (1770)
33 – George Walker (1922 – 2018)
George Walker was born in Washington D.C. in 1922 of West Indian-American parentage. At the age of five, Walker’s mom – Rosa King, began to supervise his piano lessons and continued to encourage his music education at home until he graduated from Dunbar High School at age 14.
Walker graduated from Oberlin College at age 18 with the highest honors in his Conservatory class and was admitted to the Curtis Institute of Music to study piano with Rudolf Serkin, chamber music with William Primrose and Gregor Piatigorsky, and composition with Rosario Scalero (Samuel Barber’s teacher). George became the first black graduate at Curtis Institute to receive an Artist Diploma in piano and composition in 1945. Later he became the first black recipient of a doctoral degree in piano from the Eastman School of Music in 1955.
George Walker composed over 90 works and his compositions have been performed in most major orchestras in the United States. His list of awards is substantial and impressive – including two Guggenheim Fellowships, two Rockefeller Fellowships, a Fromm Foundation commission, and an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award - to name a few. In 1996, Walker became the first black composer to receive the coveted Pulitzer Prize in Music for his work, “Lilacs for Voice and Orchestra.”
Lyric for Strings (1946)
34 – Thea Musgrave
My exploration of women composers and composers of color continues to amaze and excite me on a daily basis. As I delve into my sixth week of research, it is a thrill to begin the week with music by Scottish-American composer Thea Musgrave. Words that come to mind as I listen to Musgrave’s music are dramatic, vivid, and powerful. Her orchestration and musical communication to both the performing ensemble and audience is clear. This, of course, is no surprise as she had the opportunity to study with two of the great compositional teachers – Nadia Boulanger and Aaron Copland.
On a short 12-minute video - https://youtu.be/74NaRw_kT2M, Musgrave discusses her music and a short overview of her fascinating life. One of my favorite stories from this video was an important lesson she had with the great Nadia Boulanger. Being in a rush to finish a composition before her lesson, Musgrave added a few hurried notes to her composition that Boulanger immediately noticed. Musgrave retold the Boulanger’s clear expectation:
“Everything has to be really the best you can ever do. A jeweler will make a beautiful ring with all the stones set around - and that looks beautiful. But, if you turn it over, it is also beautiful underneath where you don’t see.”
As I listen to Thea Musgrave’s compositions, I can hear this lesson in her music.
Phoenix Rising (1997)
Turbulent Landscapes (2003)
35 – Nkeiru Okoye
For the last couple of days, I have been listening to the music of Nkeiru Okoye (pronounced “in KEAR roo oh KOY yeh”). Her music is raw, powerful, and is exactly the type of music that expresses truth. In trying to learn more about Okoye, I found her website fascinating and humbling. Her FAQ page describes “Press Info” – The Basics: Expertise, Musical Style, Early Life, and Formal Education. Each subject with a one or two sentence clear description – no fluff.
Okoye writes contemporary music that drives the necessity of diversity to artistic organizations. Her voice is accessible “classical” music, but with a flair of pop and West African/African American flavors. Her music is clearly influenced by her upbringing in New York from her African American mom and Nigerian father. She spent much of her youth traveling between Nigeria and the US and began composing at age 13.
I am Harriet Tubman, Free Woman – Janinah Burnett (Harriet Tubman: When I Crossed That Line to Freedom)
We’ve Got Our Eye On You (Cleveland Opera)
Invitation to a Die-In (in memory of Trayvon Martin)
36 - Mary Watkins
In Helen Walker-Hill’s book “ From Spirituals to Symphonies: African-American Women Composers and Their Music,” Mary Watkins was aware of the importance of music in relationship to her spirituality at an early age. As a young girl, Mary experimented with “colors, shades and the effects of melody and harmony on emotion,” as she herself delved deeper in her spiritual beliefs. Watkins has written over 100 works that cover a broad range of genres and mediums.
In 1976, Mary was exposed to “women-oriented” music and began working for the newly formed women-owned and operated Olivia Records Collective in Los Angeles. This opportunity seemed to liberate her creative energy and catapulted Watkins into performing and recording her own works.
Watkins has had a fascinating life with unusual twists and turns beginning with her adoption at birth, living through the civil rights movement of the ‘60s, being part of the fused jazz scene of the 60s and 70s (the third listening example – “Witches Revenge” is her answer to Miles Davis’s “Bitches Brew”), writing chamber and solo works in the 90s, and now focusing her energies on operas that address important social issues.
37 - Julia Wolfe
Another amazing woman with a powerful musical voice with a clear message. Julia Wolfe’s music is compelling in whichever direction she chooses to go. Her music demands attention and clearly draws inspiration from folk and classic rock genres. In addition to receiving the Pulitzer Prize in 2015, she had won numerous awards including the 2016 MacArthur Fellow, 2015 Herb Alpert Award and was named Musical America’s 2019 Composer of the Year. She is co-founder/co-artistic director of Bang on a Can, and she is Artistic Director of NYU Steinhardt Music Composition. Insanely fabulous!
What I love about the way she approaches music is her intense interest in the subject matter of her music and how she relates the content to sound. Intense. Emotional. Declamatory.
Fuel – string orchestra (2018)
38 - Tan Dun
A global cultural leader, Tan Dun’s journey has been full of experiences that most people from the United States cannot imagine. After being raised in a rural Hunan village in the People’s Republic of China where cultural traditions enrich and shape identity, Tan was sent to farm rice in the Huangjin commune as a teenager. While there, he became entrenched with local music and became an enthusiastic preserver of their musical traditions. After two years, Tan was recalled from his farming duties and became a fiddler and arranger for the Peking Opera troupe. Subsequently, Tan was invited as one of thirty students (out of thousands of applicants) to attend the Central Conservatory, which re-opened at the end of China’s Cultural Revolution. In 1986, he moved to the U.S. and immersed himself in the New York avant-garde scene.
Tan’s eclectic background provides a fantastic foundation for broad, wide-ranging music that melds his vision of musical diversity to the concert stage.
Passacaglia: Secret of wind and Birds – 12’ (2015)
Concerto for Orchestra (Marco Polo) (2012)
39 - Maria Teresa Prieto (1896 – 1982)
Born in northern Spain in the city of Oviedo, Maria Teresa Prieto spent much of her adult life in Mexico where she moved to live with her brother Carlos during the Spanish Civil War in 1937. While in Mexico, she studied with Manuel Ponce and Carlos Chavez and additionally studied with Darius Milhaud at Mills College in Oakland, California.
Prieto was strongly influenced by Bach as you will hear in the first listening example “El Palo Verde: Obertura.” Her various compositions reflect the many changing styles that took place during the mid-twentieth century and you can hear the important influences of her musical mentors – particularly Manuel Ponce and Darius Milhaud.
El Palo Verde: Obertura (1967)
Symphony No. 2, Breve (1945)
Impresion sinfonica (1940)
40 - Elizabeth Maconchy (1907 – 1994)
Considered to be one of the most substantial composers of the British islands, Elizabeth Maconchy (1907-1994) grew up in England and Ireland and went on to study at the Royal College of Music with Vaughan Williams at age 16. Though she enjoyed a life-long friendship with Vaughan Williams, her compositional interest geared towards the central European modernism of Bartók and Janáček and completed her studies with Karel Boleslav Jirák in Prague.
Maconchy was in great demand as a composer in the post-war era by leading professional ensembles, orchestras, and soloists of the day and became the Chair of the Composers Guild of Great Britain in 1959. She produced over 200 works and was considered to be a “gestural composer” where she mainly concerned herself with musical fragments.
I love that she once said, “for me, the best music is an impassioned argument.”
Symphony for Double String Orchestra – 1st movement (1952-53)
41 – Anna Thorvaldsdottir
To me, the music of Anna Thorvaldsdottir is music of the earth. She has one of the most interesting and distinct musical voice I have heard. Her music is fascinating on every single level. On her website, her opening page video offers a clear view of how she is able to transform music into an ecosystem of sound.
“I grew up in a very small town in Iceland surrounded by the mountains and the ocean and you can hear all of these textures and sounds that kind of just become the soundtrack to your life and I was just paying attention to those sounds….”
Aion (Trailer) (2018)
In the Light of Air – 3rd movement Existance (2013/14)
42 – Hannah Lash
New York Times music critic Steve Smith wrote that “Ms. Lash’s compact sequence of pale brush strokes, ghostly keening and punchy outbursts was striking and resourceful; you hoped to hear it again…”
Hannah Lash has received numerous honors and awards including the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, a Fromm Foundation Commission, and the Barnard Rogers Prize in Composition. Hannah obtained her Ph.D in Composition from Harvard University and has held teaching positions at Harvard University, Alfred University, and currently serves on the composition faculty at Yale University School of Music.
Music for Loss (2011)
Eating Flowers (2015)
43 - Eleanor Alberga
In the midst of a current writing project, I have stumbled upon Eleanor Alberga and there is something about her music that absolutely pulls me in. It started with watching the 14-minute black and white short film “Market of the Dead” where Alberga composed the soundtrack. There was something about the magical realism of the film in conjunction with the music and the characters – especially the children Ezekial and Edith - that drew me in. All I could say was “Wow! I need to hear more.” Then I listened to her three Quartets. Each is interesting, has a unique and mysterious quality, and merges the timbres of the strings in various powerful ways. Finally, I am sharing a movement from Alberga’s musical score from Roald Dahl’s “Snow-White and the Seven Dwarfs.” For me, her music immediately pulls me into the surroundings of the story.
Eleanor Alberga is one of hundreds of people of why my passion is to share the music of amazing women composers and composers of color. I begin this listening list with her “Arise, Athena!” (only 3 minutes). Would love to hear what you think.
Arise, Athena! (2015)
Market of the Dead (1997)
String Quartet No. 1 (1993) – Detache et matellato ezehr lebhaft und Swing It Man
44 - Roberto Sierra
Born in Vega Baja, Puerto Rico, Roberto Sierra later moved to Europe to study with György Ligeti at the Hochschule für Musik in Hamburg, Germany. Sierra’s music came in to prominence in 1987 when his first major orchestra composition, Júbilo was performed by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra at Carnegie Hall. Since that time, his music has been performed in many of the leading orchestras and ensembles in Europe and the US.
Sierra’s music is packed with rhythmic interest and cinematic flare. Lush orchestration through his compositions offer beauty and a craving for more.
45 - Sally Beamish
Born in London, Sally Beamish began writing music at the age of 4 and knew from then on that she wanted to put “notes on staves.” Beamish grew up playing the viola and went on to study at the Royal Northern College of Music (Music Conservatoire). She was the founding member of the Raphael Ensemble and regularly performed with the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields, the London Sinfonietta, and was principal viola in the London Mozart Players and Scottish Chamber Orchestra.
Beamish moved to Scotland in 1990 to develop her career as a composer. It is clear that she embraces many musical genres, especially traditional Scottish music and jazz.
Cauldron of Speckled Seas (2016)
Dawn Day (1999)
46 - Ethel Smyth (1858 – 1944)
One of the most important and extraordinarily gifted British composers bridging the 19th and 20th centuries is the forgotten strong-willed suffragist Dame Ethel Smyth (rhymes with Forsyth). Quoted from her book What Happens Next,” Smyth stated to Henry Bennet Brewster (philosopher friend and librettist), “I feel I must fight for [my music], because I want women to turn their minds to big and difficult jobs; not just to go on hugging the shore, afraid to put out to sea.”
The funny, talented, and strong-willed suffragist - Dame Ethel Smyth (made Dame of the British Empire at age 36) spent two months in jail for throwing a rock through the home window of avowed anti-suffragist and Secretary of the State for the Colonies, Lewis Harcourt. Coordinated by militant suffragist Emmeline Pankhurst, hundreds of women walked Westminster’s busiest streets (Piccadilly to Regent St.) in groups of twos and threes. At 5:30 pm on March 1, 1912, the riot erupted. Women stopped and began hurling rocks and other large objects into the windows of shops, department stores, and political offices that opposed a woman’s right to vote. The New York Times reported the following day, “Never since plate glass was invented has there been such a smashing and shattering of it as was witnessed this evening when the suffragettes went out on a window-breaking raid in the West End of London.” By the end of the evening, 148 women had been arrested.
Serenade in D Major (1889)
Boatswain’s Mate: Overture (1913-14)
47 - Fanny Mendelssohn (1805 – 1847)
In celebration of Mother’s Day and her birthday week (May 14, 1847), we shall listen to a few pieces by Fanny Mendelssohn Bartholdy Hensel. Hensel grew up in a prominent family in Berlin Germany. She and her famous brother Felix shared an excellent music education and developed a close relationship. Because of the social conventions of the day, while Felix was able to continue his musical career, Fanny was expected to continue the traditional role of wife and mother. Fortunately, Fanny married painter Wilhelm Hensel, who encouraged Fanny to continue writing music. As he went off to paint daily, he would leave Fanny a blank piece of manuscript paper on her music stand and tell her he wanted to see it filled up when he returned. Though this seems a bit controlling in my 21st century eyes, it was clear he saw and encouraged his talented wife. Fanny wrote over 460 compositions.
Fanny had one son – Sebastian Hensel.
Happy Mother’s Day to all you moms out there who are continuing your passions while being awesome parents. I hope you enjoy!
Easter Sonata for piano – thought to be written by Felix, in 2010 it was discovered by Angela Mace Christian that this was a composition by Fanny Mendelssohn.
48 – Diane Wittry
It is a pleasure to open this week with a composer I admire and have been lucky enough to call a mentor, colleague, and friend. Renaissance woman - Diane Wittry - has maintained a dual career as both an esteemed music director and guest conductor throughout the world. She currently is Music Director for the Allentown Symphony and Garden State Philharmonic in addition to conducting numerous orchestras throughout the US, Europe, and Asia.
Diane uses her “spare” time to make meaningful impacts as a teacher and composer. Diane is considered to be one of the most respected international conducting pedagogues. She has been a guest lecturer at prestigious conservatories such as the Julliard School, Manhattan School, and Curtis. She teaches many national and international conducting courses and workshops such as the Czech Republic International Conducting Workshop, the South Carolina Conductor’s Institute, and right here in Washington at the Pacific Northwest Conducting Institute - to name a small few. Diane writes books. In particular, she wrote a Pulitzer nominated book - “Beyond the Baton.” Her other book “Baton Basics,” is used in conducting courses across the country.
To round out her terrific musical talents, she has recently established herself as a composer. The Saratoga Orchestra and Pacific Northwest Conducting Institute both performed her work “Mist,” which was a huge hit for both the orchestras and the audience.
After the Rain (2012)
49 - Grazyna Bacewicz (1909 – 1969)
Witold Lutosławski wrote of his friend - Grazyna Bacewicz, “one can already predict that her music will stand this test of time.”
Grazyna Bacewicz was the second female Polish composer to have achieved national and international recognition (to the first being Maria Szymanowska who largely wrote piano compositions). Grazyna’s life as a composer started at age thirteen after beginning her music education as both a violinist and pianist. Over her lifetime, she wrote over two hundred compositions including four symphonies, seven violin concertos, seven string quartets and numerous other compositions for both orchestra, solo, and chamber works.
Early on, talented violinist and pianist Bacewicz made it clear that she was interested in having a well-rounded education. In addition to studying violin, piano, and composition at the University of Warsaw, she additionally studied philosophy. After completing her education at Warsaw, she continued her studies in Paris at the École Normale de Musique and worked with Nadia Boulanger. This education was made possible from a scholarship from Jan Paderewski (1860-1941), the Polish piano virtuoso, composer, and statesman.
Bacewicz string and violin compositions are particular amazing!
Overture – (1943)
Violin Concerto No. 1 (1937)
50 - Chen Yi
A prolific composer who blends both Chinese and Western traditions, Chen Yi writes to naturally blend music with her mother tongue which she says has “Chinese blood, Chinese philosophy and customs.” Her interest is to embody her “temperament and spirit in the new society, to improve the understandings between peoples from different cultural backgrounds, for the peace of our new world.”
Dr. Chen Yi is the recipient of numerous awards including the Charles Ives Living Award andshe has been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She received her Bachelor and Master degrees from Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing and Doctor of Musical Arts from Columbia University.
Symphony No. 4, “Humen 1839” I. Andante luminoso
51 - Augusta Read Thomas
I know I have said this before, but again – WOW!!! Will start with this quote from Augusta Read Thomas’ website, “Luciano Berio, one of my heroes, used the phrase "remembering the future" to describe his musical philosophy. He made his name as an avant-gardist and he remained a Modernist throughout his career, but he also saw himself as reinventing the past.
TS Eliot in his poem, Burnt Norton, wrote
Time present and time past Are both perhaps present in time future, And time future contained in time past.
Berio's process of reexamining the past through the present has influenced me.”
All I can say is “YES” and thank goodness. Clearly Berio has influenced her aesthetic, yet Thomas’ music has a clear innovative musical voice. It has been a terrific morning full of the exploration of her music. I highly recommend!!
The youngest child of ten, Augusta began writing music at the age of six and became the youngest recipient ever of the Guggenheim in addition to many other awards. She attended Northwestern University, Yale University, and the Royal Academy of Music in London. My favorite quote from her bio is what she said about mentoring. Thomas said, “Teaching is a natural extension of my creative process and of my enthusiasm for the music of others.” I LOVE THIS!!!
I hope you enjoy!
Radiant Circles (2010)
52 - Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901 – 1953)
As a young woman, Ruth Crawford Seeger attended the Foster’s School of Musical Arts to study piano and later moved to Chicago to study at the American Conservatory of Music. Though her original intent was to study piano for a year, her focus shifted from piano to composition and theory. This was the time Ruth began to develop her unique “ultramodern” voice and she was forging her on unique path. Critics in the late 1920’s remarked that Ruth could “sling dissonances like a man.”
In 1930, Seeger became the first female composer to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship and went to Berlin and Paris to study. Ruth married her future husband Charles Seeger and they moved to Washington DC. There Crawford Seeger worked at the Archive of American Folk Song at the Library of Congress. Her American folk song interpretations and arrangements are highly respected.
I had not realized that her older stepson was American folk singer and social activist Pete Seeger.
53 - Arturo Márquez
Many people are familiar with Arturo Marquez’s Danzón No. 2, which is a fantastically fun composition. I am happy to introduce many of you to some of his other terrific works.
Born in Álamos, Sonora, Arturo Marquez is the oldest of nine children. Born in a family of musicians, Marquez found a musical foundation inspired by the folk and mariachi music of the northern Mexican states of Sonora and Chihuahua.
The Marquez family immigrated to La Puente, California where Arturo began playing trombone, piano, and later violin as a teenager. At 16, he began composing and furthered his studies at the Mexican Music Conservatory and later in Paris with Jacques Casterede.
Danzón No. 2 is part of his series Danzónes, which he introduced in the early 1990s. Evolved from an older dance style called the contradanza, the danzón is the official musical genre and dance of Cuba and is an active musical form in Mexico. Marquez’s initial inspiration for Danzón No. 2 came while traveling to Malinalco with friends, painter Andrés Fonseca and dancer Irene Martinez. Entranced and inspired, Márquez wrote:
I was fascinated and I started to understand that the apparent lightness of the danzón is only like a visiting card for a type of music full of sensuality and qualitative seriousness, a genre which old Mexican people continue to dance with a touch of nostalgia and a jubilant escape towards their own emotional world; we can fortunately still see this in the embrace between music and dance that occurs in the State of Veracruz and in the dance parlors of Mexico City. The Danzón No. 2 is a tribute to the environment that nourishes the genre. It endeavors to get as close as possible to the dance, to its nostalgic melodies, to its wild rhythms, and although it violates its intimacy, its form and its harmonic language, it is a very personal way of paying my respects and expressing my emotions towards truly popular music.
Danzón No 2 was commissioned in 1994 by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de Mexico and is dedicated to Lily, Arturo Marquez’s daughter.
Conga del fuego nuevo (2005)
Please check out this collaboration of Mexican youth ensembles and choirs to perform Alas (a Malala). This is a tribute to Malala Yousafzai, activist for female education and the youngest Nobel Prize laureate from Pakistan. A great video to show and hear the future of hope and beauty. I love it!!!
54 - Ester Mägi
Mägi’s compositional output is substantial and represents all genres from symphonic music to chamber and vocal music. She grew up in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia and is considered to be “the First Lady of Estonian music.” She collected folksongs as a student and there are clear influences of Estonian folk music in her work as well as musical trends of the late twentieth century. Mägi initially trained with Mart Saar at the Tallinn Conservatory and then the Moscow Conservatory with Vissarion Shebalin.
Piano Concerto (1953)
55 - Holmès, Augusta (1847 – 1903)
French born of Irish parentage, Augusta Holmès became a naturalized French citizen in 1871 and added the accent to her last name. She grew up in Versailles and with her parents, were part of the artist circles in France. Augusta’s parents and encouraged her to paint and write poetry, but her mother did not encourage music even though Augusta showed musical talent. At age 11, Augusta began taking piano lessons after the death of her mother. Holmès later studied with César Franck, though her prominent creative influence came from Richard Wagner.
Holmès first compositions were published under the pseudonym Hermann Zenta. She was drawn to larger forms of music such as large tone poems based primarily on themes of classical or mythological subjects and opera. Her greatest successes were with her choral works. Though Augusta attained her own musical distinction through her compositions, it would be interesting to see what she would have accomplished if she had had the musical education as her colleagues.
Ethel Smyth described her work as “jewels wrought by one who was evidently not among the giants, but for all that knew how to cut a gem.”
Augusta was beautiful, vivacious, and well-loved by her friends and colleagues. Saint-Saëns once said, “We were all in love with her.” He also wanted to marry her.
Irlande, Symphonic Poem (1882)
Pologne (Symphonic Poem) (1883)
56 - Derrick Spiva Jr
Quick shout out and thank you to Alexandra Gardner for introducing me to the music of Derrick Spiva Jr. who blends various cultural traditions with his classical music vocabulary. Not only educated in the classical genre with the likes of Ian Krouse, Alex Shapiro, and Paul Chihara, Derrick has also studied West African music and dance with Kobla Ladzekpo; Persian music with Pirayeh Pourafar and Houman Pourmehdi; Balkan music theory with Tzvetanka Varimezova; and tala (Indian system of rhythm cycles) in Hindustani classical music with Swapan Chaudhuri and Aashish Khan.
American composer from Ghanaian, Nigerian, British, Irish, and Native American descent, Spiva has beautifully developed his brand of “American” aesthetic to reflect “the diverse communities he is part of.” He believes the “doorway” to understand other cultures is through the education of music through other cultures.
This morning, I listened to his Premiere excerpt from his “Prisms, Cycles, Leaps.” What a way to get excited about your day!! It is interesting to see various music organizations such as the LA Chamber Orchestra bring about music in exciting and broad reaching new ways. I am so thankful that we are all able to continue listening to great music by fantastic ensembles during this crazy time. Please keep supporting your local arts organizations!!! There are SO MANY Seattle musicians who are working hard to keep music fresh and engaging for our community.
Prisms, Cycles, Leaps – Part III: “To be a Horizon” (excerpt)
A Vision Unfolding – Exigence
57 - Lynette Westendorf
Currently residing in Washington’s beautiful Methow Valley, Lynette Westendorf is a composer, musician, and music educator who is constantly inspired by the fabulous outdoors and regional history. Her musical score to documentary film “False Promises: Lost Land of the Wenatchi” was the NW Regional Emmy award winner for best score.
Lynette’s works for documentary film, modern dance, and recital stage have been performed throughout the US, Canada, Spain, and England. She has been an active band leader throughout her career and is a founding member of Seattle’s Composers and Improvisers Workshop.
I am thrilled to write about Lynette as we go way back to our undergraduate degrees at the University of New Mexico (and she was my collaborative pianist for my violin recitals).
Interlude: Seasons – from “False Promises: The Lost Land of the Wenatchi”
58 - Vítězslava Kaprálová (1915 – 1940)
Vítězslava Kaprálová was regarded as one of the most promising young musicians of her generation. Born in Brno in the Czech Republic in 1915, Kaprálová had an impressive career in her short life. She wrote over 50 compositions including art songs, chamber ensembles, and orchestra compositions.
Vítězslava was the first female student to graduate from the Brno Conservatory in both composition and conducting. She went on to study at the Master School of the Prague Conservatory where shy premiered her Military Symphonietta with the Czech Philharmonic and later the British premiere with the BBC Orchestra. A reviewer of Time magazine wrote that she was the star of the opening concert.
Latest research into Kaprálová’s death in 1940 suggests she may have died of typhoid fever rather than the often cited miliary tuberculosis – regardless, as you will hear her clear talent and a very promising life that was cut far too short.
Military Symphonietta op. 11 (1937)
Suita rustica, op. 19 (1938)
59 - Joan Tower
Grammy-winning contemporary American composer Joan Tower offers energetic and striking compositions to audiences around the world. She is widely regarded as one of the most important and successful American composers living today. She has been a significant voice as a composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her compositions have been performed with the top orchestra over the globe. Tower’s recording of Made in America, Tambor, and Concerto for Orchestra with the Nashville Symphony conducted by Leonard Slatkin won three 2008 Grammy awards: Best Contemporary Classical Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance.
Among her most notable works is Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, dedicated to “women who are adventurous and take risks.” My first introduction to Joan Tower was a performance of Made in America.
Chamber Dance (2006)
60 – Florence Price (1887 – 1953)
Wow!! 60 days of awesome composers…It has been so fun to listen, learn, and share about so many new composers. Today seems like the perfect day to discuss Florence Beatrice (Smith) Price. On June 15, 1933, she was the first female of African descent to have a symphonic work (Symphony No. 1 in E minor) performed by a major national symphony - the Chicago Symphony Orchestra at the Chicago’s World Fair. At this time, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was comprised entirely of white men. Can you imagine?
The Chicago Daily News wrote that this piece, “is a faultless work, a work that speaks its own message with restraint and yet with passion….” Though the composition was positively received and brought recognition and fame to Price, musical success was not an option as she battled within a country embroiled with segregation, racism, and sexism.
Price graduated at age 14 as her high school valedictorian in Little Rock and attended the New England Conservatory where she earned a Bachelor of music with a double degree in organ and piano performance (1906). After her return to Arkansas, she founded the Little Rock Club of Musicians and taught at the segregated black schools as she was unable to find employment and was refused admission with the all-white Arkansas Music Teachers Association. She married Attorney Thomas J. Price with whom she had two daughters.
Because of racial tensions and difficulty in finding suitable employment, Price, her husband and two daughters moved to Chicago in 1927. There, her career began to flourish. She began publishing her songs and piano music (especially instructional books) with G. Schirmer. She filed for divorce from her husband (Thomas Price) in 1928 and moved in with her student and life-long friend Margaret Bonds. During this period of her life, she composed more than 300 works including symphonies, organ works, piano concertos, art songs, and chamber works.
Price died of a stroke at the age of 66.
Mississippi Suite (1934)
Concert Overture No. 2 (1943)
61 - William Levi Dawson (1899-1990)
William Levi Dawson was an American composer of African descent. Born in Anniston Alabama in 1899, William was the first of seven children. His father was a former slave and illiterate day laborer. At age 13, Dawson ran away from home to study music full-time at the Tuskegee Institute (now University). Dawson became a music librarian and manual laborer to pay his tuition. He was a member of the band and orchestra and began to compose for the Tuskegee Singers. By the time he graduated from high school, he had learned how to play most of the instruments.
Dawson went on to earn a B.A. in music theory and composition at the Horner Institute of Fine Arts in Kansas City and later received his master’s degree at the American Conservatory of Music in Chicago Illinois. He was known for infusing West African folk music into his compositions.
Dawson, most known for his choral music, also made important contributions to the orchestral and chamber repertoire. His “Negro Symphony” below is a terrific composition. He additionally composed a Piano trio – “Romance in A for Violin, Cello, and Piano” performed by Kansas City Symphony Orchestra musicians, though I am not able to find a recording.
Negro Symphony (1934)
Ezekiel Saw de Wheel – arr. William Dawson
Soon-ah Will Be Done – arr. William Dawson
62 - Emily Cooley
I was introduced to the music of Emily Cooley by one of my favorite composers Jennifer Higdon. Emily is a Philadelphia based composer where she studied with Jennifer at Curtis. Emily holds degrees from Yale University, the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music, and Curtis Institute of Music.
Emily is also an active concert producer and curator and is a founding member of Kettle Corn New Music, which produces a year-round series of new music concerts in New York.
Unfamiliar Trees (excerpt) (2018)
Scroll of the Air (excerpt) (2015)
63 - Ina Boyle (1889 – 1967)
Ina Boyle was the most prolific and significant Irish composer before 1950. She composed a broad spectrum of compositions including choral, chamber, orchestral, as well as opera, ballet, and vocal music. She began composing at age eleven and later in her teens, continued composition and theory lessons via correspondence with Charles Wood. She took her first lesson with Ralph Vaughan Williams in 1923.
Ina Boyle is a brilliant composer and is definitely underperformed. I am excited to learn more about this terrific composer and will happily share more information as I go.
Violin Concerto (1935)
Symphony No. 1 “Glencree” (1927)
The Magic Harp (1919)
64 - Germaine Tailleferre (1892 – 1983)
While in music school, we learned about Les Six, who were a group of French composers who were often seen as musicians who were reacting again the musical styles of Richard Wagner and the impressionist style of Claude Debussy and Maurice Ravel. Though there were six of the composers, my education primarily included the music of Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, and Francis Poulenc. I wished I would have been MORE curious in my twenties!!!
Tailleferre’s wrote music for almost all genres - solo instruments, chamber, orchestra, ballet, voice, chorus, and film scores. Her original name was Marcelle Germaine Taillefesse, but she changed her last name to “Tailleferre” to spite her dad as he refused to support her musical studies. Her strong will, talent, and tenacity propelled her for a long-life of music making. While at the Paris Conservatory, she met her Les Six buddies – Louis Durey, Francis Poulenc, Darius Milhaud, Georges Auric, and Arthur Honegger. She had a short marriage to American caricaturist Ralph Barton (1926 - 1927) during which she moved to Manhattan and then back to France - where she remained for the majority of her life (except during the outbreak of World War II where she escaped across Spain and Portugal to find passage to the U.S. She lived in Philadelphia during the war years).
Petite suite pour orchestra (1957)
65 - Vivian Fung
Today makes me super happy because the composer I am sharing with you today comes from my awesome mom -Jan Edwards - who lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was reading an article about the Santa Fe Symphony 2020-21 season and noticed that they are performing three compositions by women (Vivian Fung, Jennifer Higdon, and Florence Price) as part of their commitment to diversity in the arts and of course, she sent me the newspaper article!
Vivian Fung has a truly interesting musical palette and I found her story interesting. Born and raised in Edmonton Canada with what she calls a very “western lifestyle,” her parents were emigrants from China raised. After getting a Doctorate in music composition from Juilliard (still highly trained in Western music), she became fascinated with her heritage. After receiving an Apex Fellowship, she went to Asia for the first time and collaborated with 12 artists and musicians from various background with folk music traditions. She found herself to be the only musician who knew how to ready music and found herself quickly learning how to play music by ear. During this time, Fung became very interested in Balinese Gamelan.
Violin Concerto No. 1 (2011)
66 - Clara Josephine Schumann Wieck (1819 – 1896)
My awesome friends, I will be taking a week off from my social listening list. Please know that I will be back with more great music by musicians who should be heard!! For today, I have a few listening examples from the terrific composer Clara Schumann.
Here is a terrific article on Clara - https://www.nytimes.com/2019/08/28/arts/music/clara-schumann.html
Piano Concerto in A Minor, Op. 7 (1833-35)
67 - Quinn Mason
Today, I am excited to highlight a super talented young man currently studying composition at Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts. He has received many awards from the American Composer’s Forum, Voices of Change, the Dallas Foundation, the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra and the ASU Symphony Orchestra. Mason’s music has been performed across the US by ensembles such as the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, South Bend Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Seattle (thank you Will White for introducing me to Quinn’s music), American Composer’s Forum and many others.
Two Fleeting Daydreams (2015, rev. 2016-17)
Dallas Arts District Fanfare (2016)
68 - Carlos Chávez, in full Carlos Antonio de Padua Chávez y Ramírez (1899 – 1978)
As a Mexican composer, conductor, educator, Chávez absorbed elements of his native Mexican culture into the fabric of his music and life. The ballet El fuego nuevo (1921) was his first significant work in the Mexican style. After travelling to Europe and the United States, he founded and became the conductor of the Symphony Orchestra of Mexico. His music is filled with a juxtaposition of Mexican melodic patterns and rhythmic inflections alongside influences by modern European and American composers, especially Igor Stravinsky and Arnold Schoenberg.
Sinfonía India (1935)
Sinfonía de Antígona (1933)
Suite sinfónica del ballet Caballos de vapor (1926-32) (English translation, Horse-Power: Ballet Symphony).
69 - Niloufar Nourbakhsh
An Iranian composer who as had quite a few interesting commissions – Symphony Number One, Spark and Echo Project, Women Composers Festival of Hartford, PUBLIQuartet, Calidore Quartet and the list goes on….
As a strong advocate of music education, Niloufar worked as the site coordinator of Brooklyn Middle School Jazz Academy sponsored by Jazz at Lincoln Center and is currently a Teaching Artist Associate for composition students at the NY Philharmonic Young Composers program and she teaches piano at Brooklyn Music School.
Nourbakhsh is a music graduate of both Goucher College and University of Oxford and is currently pursuing her doctorate degree in music composition at Stony Brook University. She is also the founder and organizer of the Iranian Female Composers Association (IFCA), which endeavors to bring together and promote the work of female-identifying composers, both from and living in Iran.
Run Run (2016)
Lambda of Life’s Frequency: Prologue: for Chamber Orchestra (2014)
70 - Jocelyn Morlock
The first words on Jocelyn Morlocks “About” page read, “Jocelyn Morlock’s music is inspired by birds, insomnia, nature, fear, nocturnal wandering thoughts, lucid dreaming, or a peculiar combination thereof.” Oh my gosh, I find her music to be a plush and sensuous sonic journey.
Morlock’s bio is quite impressive and she has worked with many fabulous Canadian musicians. She recently won the 2018 Juno award for her work “My name is Amanda Todd” (for Classical composition of the year) and was the Composer-in-Residence with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from 2014-2019. The story of Amanda Todd is extraordinarily heartbreaking. Amanda was a young woman who committed suicide at age 15 after living through horrible cyber bullying. Morlock’s sensitively to this story is moving.
My Name is Amanda Todd (2015)
71 - Margaret Bonds (1913 – 1972)
Oh my…Margaret Bonds!! It is truly embarrassing that she is yet another woman that was not part of my musical education.
If you are a musician and you are not familiar with Margaret, I hope you will do a little more investigating. She truly was an impressive, extremely underrepresented musician.
I am currently reading “From Spirituals to Symphonies” by Helen Walker-Hill, a book that my awesome student Muirne Mitchell gave me several years ago. It is a gold mine of information concerning African American women and their amazing contributions to music. For now, here is a little “nugget” of information about Bonds.
Margaret Bonds was a dynamic mover and shaker with a great sense of social, political and cultural interest. She had a strong vision of her personal role in her racial cultural heritage. She is best remembered for her compositions and frequent collaborations with Langston Hughes. As a young woman, Bonds grew up in a home surrounded by the intellectuals and artists of her time. Houseguests included composers such as Florence Price and Will Marion Cook. Margaret showed an early talent for composition and piano. Her mom Estelle C. Bonds was her first piano teacher and then during her formative years in school, she studied with both Florence Price and William Dawson.
Bonds attended Northwestern University where she graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music. She performed as a pianist with numerous organizations and became a music editor New York. While in New York, she furthered her studies with Roy Harris and Emerson Harper at the Juilliard School.
An interesting story regarding Nadia Boulanger. According to Walker-Hill, Bonds had hoped to study with Nadia, however Boulanger refused to teacher her. According to Bond’s “Reminiscence,” Bond states, ”She said that “I had something’ but she didn’t know what to do with it. She added, however, that whatever it was I was doing felt right to her and that I should continue to do it, but I shouldn’t study with anyone.”
Most of her music is unpublished. It is extremely unfortunate that there are no modern professional recordings that I can find of Bond's orchestral music.
72 - Adolphus Hailstork
Born in Rochester, New York Adolphus Hailstork grew up in Albany where he studied violin, piano, organ, and voice. He received his undergrad degree from Howard University, Master’s from the Manhattan School of Music and doctorate from Michigan State University. He went on to study at The American Institute at Fontainebleau with Nadia Boulanger. He is currently the professor of music and Composer-in-Residence at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.
Hailstork blends many of his musical ideas from both European and African American traditions.
Symphony No. 2 (1998)
73 - Will Marion Cook (1869 – 1944)
An American composer, violinist, and choral director – William Marion Cook studied with Antonin Dvořák and became best known for his popular songs and Broadway musicals featuring African-American creators, producers, and casts, such as “Clorindy: The Origin of the Cake Walk” (1898) and “In Dahomey” (1903).
Son to one of the first black lawyers to practice in Washington, his parents were free people of color before the civil war and offered Will an excellent education. He had a clear talent for music and began studying violin at Oberlin at age 14 and later graduated for the College. He then moved to Europe to study with Heinrich Jacobson (student of famous violinist Joseph Joachim) at the Berlin Hochschule fur Musik.
In 1890, Cook became the music director of a chamber orchestra touring the East Coach and soon began producing musical comedies. His production of Clorindy: The Origin of the Cakewalk was the first all-black show to play at the prestigious Broadway house.
Overture to “in Dahomey” (1903)
Swing Along! (1929)
74 - Manuel Ponce (1882 – 1948)
Mexican composer, Manuel María Ponce Cuéllar (1882 – 1948) was a composer, music educator and scholar of Mexican music. His compositions were richly connected to the tradition of popular song and Mexican folklore. According to his biographer, Ponce was considered to be a musical prodigy. A story goes that he began music lessons at age four after interpreting a piece that his sister performed at a piano class. Once he entered the National Conservatory of music, he was already an accomplished pianist and composer. He continued to travel for his musical studies to Italy and Germany. It was during his travels abroad that he became quite famous for promoting music of Mexico. He was the first Mexican composer to project popular music onto the stage. An example of this is his “Estrellita,” which has been standard repertoire for many orchestras and singer throughout the world, though often, the interpreter ignores the origin of the song as well as its author.
75 - Hannah Kendell
Hannah Kendell’s music has been performed by some of the best orchestras in the world – London Philharmonic Orchestra, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonia Orchestra and many others. Kendell’s composition “Spark Catchers’” was premiered by the fantastic group Chineke! for the 2017 BBC Proms and her “Verlada” was premiered by the London Sinfonietta at the 2018 BBC Proms. Her music was described as ”imaginatively intricate” (Financial Times) and as having “strikingly original form” (Daily Telegraph).
Born in London, Hannah graduated from Exeter, went on to the Royal College of Music and is currently based in New York working on her Doctoral Fellow at Columbia University.
The Spark Catchers (2017)
Disillusioned Dreamer (2018)
76 - Undine Smith Moore (1904-1988)
In a keynote address by Undine Smith Moore, Moore spoke of Touse and Theandros who were field hands and friends of her family (David Baker et al, “The Black Composer Speaks,” 1978):
“The power of things we heard when we did not know we were hearing, of the things we saw when we did not know we were seeing, is remarkable, a source of continuing wonder….Such things heard and not heard, seen and not seen, are lodged deeply within us….And the place where they are lodged is also the place from which our creativity comes. About five years ago, in the archives of the Library of Congress, I sat listening to a recording of early blues and hollers. Suddenly I found myself weeping, weeping almost to the point of embarrassment. The timbre of the voices of Touse and Theandros…passing the farm at night, giving their special hollers…had come back to me from some place deep within myself which I did not know existed.”
The music of Undine Smith Moore offers a glimpse of life in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century rural south. Many of Moore’s compositions refer to melodies she learned from her mother and father. Though her parents were not formally educated, they gave their children a love of education. More attended Fisk University and then the Juilliard School to continue her undergraduate studies. She later attended Columbia University for a Master of Arts degree and later at both the Manhattan School of Music and Eastman School of Music for compositional studies.
Afro-American Suite (1969) 1. Andante
We Shall Walk through the Valley (arr. By U.S. Moore) (1977)
Scenes from the Life of a Martyr (excerpt) (1981) dedication to memory of MLK
77 - Vivian Fine (1913 – 2000)
Though Vivian Fine was best known for her chamber music, she wrote in every genre. Another budding brilliant musician, at age five, Fine was the youngest student to be awarded a scholarship to the Chicago Musical College. She began studying harmony with Ruth Crawford (another amazing woman) who considered the young thirteen-year-old her protégé. After performing her professional debuts at sixteen, Fine moved to New York to further her studies in both piano and composition.
Fine’s early music was quite dissonant and contrapuntal though her later works clearly move towards more tonal music. Each of her compositions bring a clear sense of individual style.
Canciones y Danzas (1991)
78 - Alexina Louie
Alexina Louie has become one of Canada’s most sought-after composers. Her compositions have been performed with some of the top orchestras and renowned conductors. Louie’s music has also been selected for productions with The National Ballet of Canada and her opera, The Scarlet Princess was performed with the Canadian Opera Company.
Louie made a statement that resonated strongly with me. She said, “in order to make a statement that is unique, I had to find out about myself.” For her, an important part of her musical journey, was when her father took her whole family back to their family village in China. At that time, she discovered many instruments that have become essential in her music making. Not only does she feel near and dear to the rich timbres of these instruments, but their sounds have become important elements in her music.
Bringing the Tiger Down From the Mountain for cello and orchestra (2004)
79 - Roque Cordero (1917 – 2008)
Roque Cordero is universally acknowledged as Panama’s finest composer and was a man of many talents. Before becoming director of the Institute of Music and Artistic Director of the National Symphony in Panama, Roque Cordero studied composition with Ernst Krenek and conducting under Dimitri Mitropoulos, Stanley Chapple, and Leon Barzin. He later became the professor of composition at Indiana University and distinguished professor emeritus at Illinois State University.
Most of his works are based on the twelve-tone technique, which he uses with the flavors of his Panamanian culture. In 1950, he returned to Panama to create a truly professional Symphony Orchestra. After years of frustration, he left Panama to take a three-year post at Indiana University. After this point, he remained in the United States, but remained loyal to his homeland. He retained his citizenship and lovingly signed all of his correspondence “Roque Cordero, Panamanian Composer.”
Sinfonia No. 2 (1956)
Ocho Miniaturas (1917)
80 - Alice Mary Smith (1839 – 1884)
Another Wow - Alice Mary Smith!!!
Before I start today, I would like to give a shout out to the organizations and people who have been offering GREAT information AND who also share in the love of propelling the music of composers who are underrepresented. Thank you to the Women’s Philharmonic Advocacy, Rob Deemer and the Institute for Composer Diversity, Boulanger Initiative, and Elizabeth de Brito with The Daffodil Perspective. I love your passions and appreciate all of the fantastic information you offer!!! Much gratitude ☺
At 24, Alice Mary Smith wrote the first symphony to be completed by a British woman dispelling the widely held view that women were not capable of composing large-scale works. She was a prolific composer and wrote for a diverse range of ensembles. Her oeuvre of sacred choral music is one of the largest collections by a female composer. Like other female composers of the time, Smith at times adopted the male pseudonym – Emil Künstler, thinking that a female name would cause immediate rejection.
In 1867 Smith married William Frederick Meadows White, a prominent lawyer who actively supported Smith’s musical activities. After the birth of their two daughters, Smith showed a renewed interest in composition. Her Clarinet Sonata (listening below) is the first known British sonata for the clarinet in the nineteenth century!
After her death (at age 45) of typhoid fever, she was mostly forgotten, BUT NOT TODAY!!! ☺
Symphony in C minor (1863)
Symphony in A minor (1876)
81 - Bright Sheng (1955)
The MacArthur Foundation described Bright Sheng as “an innovative composer who merges diverse musical customs in works that transcend conventional aesthetic boundaries” and predicted that Sheng “will continue to be an important leader in exploring and bridging musical traditions.” Sheng has had his music performed by many of the world’s great ensembles including the New York Philharmonic, Toronto Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and numerous others.
Sheng began his musical studies playing piano at age four. At fifteen, during China’s Cultural Revolution, he was sent to Qinghai where he performed as a pianist and percussionist in the musical and dance theatre. It was at this time he began studying the folk music of the region. After receiving a degree in composition at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, he moved to New York City and earned a MA at Queens College and later a DMA from Columbia University.
Sheng has been a composition professor at the University of Michigan since 1995, where he is the Leonard Bernstein Distinguished University Professor of Music.
Red Silk Dance (1999)
Black Swan (2010)
Shanghai Overture (2007)
So many talented musicians….I am happy to end the week with another fabulous composer – Sarah Kirkland Snider.
I am most bummed that her project with the New York Philharmonic premiere for this month has been cancelled. This project included her composition “Forward Into Light,” a composition inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement and features a musical quote from “March of the Women” from British composer and suffragist Ethel Smyth. Super excited to hear this piece. However, until then – here are some terrific compositions by this talented composer.
Something for the Dark (2015)
83 - Errollyn Wallen
Born in Belize, Errollyn Wallen beautifully melds classical symphonic traditions with today’s contemporary pop influenced music in her compositions. Her music is fresh, interesting, and clearly speaks to her audiences.
Wallen is the founder of Ensemble X, which embraces eclectic, free-spirited music.
Concerto Grosso (2008)
Mighty River (2007)
84 - Claudia Montero
Latin Grammy Award winner for 2018, 2016, and 2014, Argentinean composer Claudia Montero brings a flavor of music that is strongly rooted in South American traditional music. Montero began her musical studies at the Conseratorio Alberto Ginastera. There she received a BA degree in Pedagogy and Composition. Later she earned a MA in Aesthetic and Musical Creativity from the Universidad de Valencia.
Luces y Sombras – 2nd movement “Molto Espressivo”
85 - Marion Bauer (1882 – 1955)
From the Pacific Northwest, Marion Bauer grew up in Walla Walla, Washington and later moved on to study music in New York, Paris, and Berlin. In 1911, she received a job with New York publisher Arthur Schmidt to write songs, piano pieces, and chamber music and later became a New York music critic for The Musical Leader. In 1926, she joined the music faculty at New York University and worked there for 25 years. During that time, she also taught at the Julliard School of Music and several summer festivals. As an avid supporter of American music, she was a founding member of the American Musical Guild in 1921 and was an executive board member of both the League of Composers and later the American Composers Alliance.
Bauer’s parents were from France and she was notably absorbed with French music, which gave her compositions an impressionistic flare. Though, throughout her compositional life, she strived to find new compositional styles that resulted in a great variety of textures in her music.
86 - Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
On Ellen Taaffe Zwilich’s website, the first paragraph of her “About” page says, “Her music is widely known because it is performed, recorded, broadcast, and – above all – listened to and liked by all sorts of audiences the world over. Like the great masters of bygone times, Zwilich produces music ‘with fingerprints,’ music that is immediately recognized as her own. In her compositions, Ms. Zwilich combines craft and inspiration, reflecting an optimistic and humanistic spirit that gives her a unique musical voice.”
It has been a pleasure to revisit Zwilich’s music after several years. I highly recommend.
Avanti! – 2010
Symphony No. 1 (1982)
Concerto Grosso (1985)
An eclectic, excellent, and varied musical background has offered Jonathan Bailey Holland an interesting pallet to create his music. He was early on influenced by his father’s record collection that included music from Miles Davis to Sergio Mendes, Michael Jackson, G.F. Handel, Kenny Rogers, and many others. His early studies of piano, bass, trumpet and tuba offered a road to the Interlochen Arts Academy where his compositional studies began. He continued his studies at Curtis Institute of Music and Harvard University and is currently the Chair of Composition, Contemporary Music, and Core Studies at Boston Conservatory at Berklee.
El Jaleo (2019)
Stories from Home (2017)
Shards of Serenity (2012)
88 - Henriëtte Bosmans (1895 – 1952)
Born in Amsterdam, Henriëtte Hilda Bosmans (1895 – 1952) was the daughter of Henri Bosmans, principal cellist of the Concertgebouw Orchestra and Sara Benedicts, piano teacher at the Amsterdam Conservatory. She was a celebrated piano soloist in the 1920s and performed throughout Europe including 22 concerts with the Concertgebouw Orchestra between 1929 -1949.
Bosmans had relationships with both women and men. Many of her relationships were with musicians that she collaborated with musically. She partnered with Frieda Belinfante who premiered Bosmans’ Second Concerto. Later she was briefly engaged to violinist Francis Koene who died of a brain tumor before they could marry. Then later in her life, Bosmans was involved with Noémie Pérugia, with whom Bosmans wrote a series of songs before her death of stomach cancer in 1952.
Piano Concertino (1928)
89 - Judith Weir (1954)
Another brilliant woman, Judith Weir is the first female Master of the Queen’s Music, which is a post in the Royal Household of the Sovereign in the United Kingdom. This post originally served the monarch of England where they directed the court orchestra, composed and/or commissioned music as required. The post is broadly comparable to that of a Poet Laureate, but in the field of music.
Weir was born in Cambridge England and is of Scottish descent. Her music is often drawn from medieval history and traditional stories from Scotland.
Airs from another Planet (1986)
Heroic Strokes of the Bow (1992)
90 - Melissa Dunphy
“I want to bring voices to the forefront that haven’t had a voice before. I want to inspire the next generation to be better than this one.” – Melissa Dunphy on an interview, “Composing Has To Be A Calling” from NewMusicBox.
Hailed by the Philadelphia Inquirer as “unquestionably the city’s leading Shakespeare ingénue,” Melissa Dunphy had a strong theatrical background in addition to her excellent musical training on piano, violin, viola, and cello – in addition to her dabbles in drum kit, horn, and flute. Her music offers a creative and strong landscape for her commitments to bringing “the voices of women and minorities to the stage, either by telling their stories, or telling stories from their perspective.”
Her large-scale choral work “the Gonzales Cantata” was described by Rachel Maddow (on her “The Rachel Maddow Show”) as “the coolest thing you’ve ever seen on this show.”
Dunphy has a Ph.D. in Music Composition from the University of Pennsylvania and is currently a lecturer in composition at Rutgers University.
Come, My Tan-Faced Children (2019)
Tesla’s Pigeon (2013)
91 - Joel Thompson
Joel Thompson is an Atlanta-based composer, conductor, pianist, and educator. His compositions have been performed throughout the US and recently, his Choral Composition “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” won the 2018 American Prize for Choral Composition. Currently, he is a student at the Yale School of Music.
Please take a moment to listen to “Seven Last Words of the Unarmed” and start with VII: Eric Garner, 43. This composition was premiered in November 2015 by the University of Michigan Men’s Glee Club. The music is powerful, painful, and necessary.
Scenes from Childhood – 1. Bliss
Seven Last Words of the Unarmed – VII: Eric Garner, 43
Seven Last Words of the Unarmed – VI: John Crawford, 22
91 - Melinda Bargreen
An aficionado of artistic culture in Seattle, Melinda Bargreen (is a prominent member of the Pacific Northwest’s artistic scene. Bargreen is and has been the “go to” person for musical observations in the Seattle area for years. She was the classical music critic for the Seattle Times from 1977 to 2008 and is author of “Classical Seattle: Maestros, Impresarios, Virtuosi, and Other Music Makers” and “50 Years of Seattle Opera.” Her knowledge of music is vast and impressive. I highly suggest you check out her website as she has an enormous range of interesting stories, articles, and advice for all musicians – AND they are brilliantly written!
In addition to her extensive journaling, Melinda is a terrific composer. Many people may not realize her somewhat hidden talent because as a music critic, she was unable to promote her compositions. I am thrilled to see that her music is now more freely available to a wider audience. Her compositions show a clear love of language and a command of vocal texture.
92 - Johanna Magdalena Beyer (1888 – 1944)
Born in Leipzig Germany in 1888 and WOW!! She was ahead of her time!
After studying piano, harmony, theory, counterpoint, singing, and dancing at the Leipziger Singakademie, Beyer moved to the United States. Her musical colleagues mentioned that her musicianship and piano skills “traditional and solid” though very little is known about her from her early years in the US. After returning to the US in 1923, she received two degrees by the Mannes College of Music and began studying with Ruth Crawford, Charles Seeger, and Henry Cowell.
Beyer was largely ignored as a composer though her music was performed by John Cage and was performed in one of Henry Cowell’s “New Music Society of California” concerts.”
Though this type of music is not my “go to” for concert programming, I find her music very appealing. Beyer’s “Music of the Sphere” listed below is amazing – considering it was written in 1938!! (Please note that the recording is a 2002 recording). Her other works are also very interesting. Percussionists – check out Waltz.
Music of the Spheres (1938)
94 - Kaija Saariaho
Before I begin the last week of my Social Listening Series, I want to thank all of you who have sent me positive and lovely words of encouragement for this project. This was initially intended to happen for about 10 days. Who would have ever anticipated the length of this virus! My hope is that I have offered some new names for your listening pleasure.
This is a passion project for me. I will continue to research, write, and build upon my composer database on my website. Please check it out if you are interested: http://www.annaedwardsconductor.com/
A prominent member of Finnish composers and performers who are making a worldwide impact with their modernistic sound palette, Kaija Saariaho continues to lead the force in her progressive musicmaking and clear absorption of musical color and texture.
As a young woman, she studied at the Sibelius Academy with Paavo Heininen and Magnus Lindberg, which lead her to found the “Ears Open” group. She later (1982) ended up in Paris at the IRCAM (a French institute for science about music and avant garde electro-acoustical art music), where she has spent most of her time.
Saariaho’s compositional methods have been inspired by “spectral” composition, which is a technique based on computer analysis of the sound-spectrum. From her website, she mentions that this approach, or analytical approach inspired the way she developed her own method of harmonic structures in addition to the way she notates her music using harmonics, microtones, and moving from a pitched pure tone to unpitched “noise.” I find myself drawn into the sound of her music and the way I listen evolves.
Du cristal (1989)
95 - Ming-Hsiu Yen
Currently Associate Professor of Composition and Theory at the Taipei National University of the Arts in Taiwan, Ming-Hsiu Yen is definitely a composer to watch! Her works have been performed with the Minnesota Orchestra, Taiwan Philharmonic, National Chinese Orchestra Taiwan and Taipei Chinese Orchestra and ensembles such as PRISM Quartet, Brave New Works, and Music from China in addition to others. Dr. Yen holds degrees from University of Michigan (DMA and MM) and Eastman School of Music (BM). She additionally has a long list of impressive compositions teachers including Bright Sheng, William Bolcom, Christopher, Betsy Jolas, and Rouse, Steven Stucky.
Flying Towards the Horizon (2012)
Speaking Eyes for Orchestra (2018)
Breaking Through (2013)
96 - Odette Gartenlaub (1922 – 2014)
First of all, thank you Paul Taub for introducing me to the AMAZING composer Odette Gartenlaub. It has been a treat to listen to her compositions this morning.
During her life, she won the Premiere Grand Prix de Rome and was a well-known international soloist. While a young woman, she studied music at the Paris Conservatory with Olivier Messiaen, Henri Busser, and Darius Milhaud. During the 1970’s, Gartenlaub participated in a think tank to shape the reform of music theory, which was set up by the Inspector at the Ministry of Culture. She was essential in offering educational guidance concerning educational tools for future teacher training.
Profils for bassoon and piano (1966.rev 2000)
97 - Zara Aleksandrovna Levina (1906 – 1976)
Yikes! How did I not know about Zara Aleksandrovna Levina? I have thoroughly enjoyed my day of listening to Levina’s compositions.
Levina was a gold medal student for piano at the Odessa Conservatory and later graduated from the Moscow Conservatory where she studied piano and composition. She admired the works of Rachmaninoff, Scriabin, Prokofiev, Beethoven, and Schumann, which is clear when you listen to her compositions. I love the beginning of her Piano Concerto No. !! Would love to know what you think?
98 - Hilary Purrington
Was thrilled to learn about two new composers by way of the Women Composers Reading and Commissions program. My friend, colleague, and fellow collaborator Leanna Primiani (who I featured early in the Social Listenings), along with Hilary Purrington and Niloufar Iravani were awarded orchestral commissions through an initiative of the League of American Orchestra. This program is in partnership with American Composers Orchestra and supported by the Virginia B. Toulmin Foundation. Hilary Purrington’s work will be premiered by The Philadelphia Orchestra and Westminster Symphonic Choir. Niloufar Iravani’s work will be premiered by the South Dakota Symphony Orchestra, and Leanna Primiani’s work by ROCO (River Oaks Chamber Orchestra).
Hilary Purrington’s Work
99 - Niloufar Iravani
100 – Kenji Bunch
It is with gratitude and appreciation that I am ending my last listening day with Kenji Bunch. Though I have not met Kenji personally, I feel somehow connected with him and his music as his lovely wife (Monica Ohuchi Bunch) was a student of mine at Bellevue High School before she went to the Julliard School. It has been lovely to watch both of their amazing careers and watch their beautiful family grow. You will hear Monica in the first example below as she is the piano soloist.
Kenji is a Pacific Northwest native and grew up in the beautiful city of Portland, Oregon. His music is fun, well-orchestrated, and extremely appealing to audiences. As a fantastic violist, himself – his string writing is brilliant! Bunch has a knack for integrating interesting bluegrass, hip hop, jazz, and funk idioms into his music. As you will hear with the three examples below, his music has a visceral effect.
Bunch currently is the Artistic Director of Fear No Music and he teaches viola, composition, and music theory at Portland State University, Reed College, and works with students for the Portland Youth Philharmonic.
Piano Concerto, mvt 1
Symphony no. 1 mvt II. We Rose Up Slowly
Son of Sasquatch I. Sasquatch in Love
I hope you enjoy!!!