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!!
Brass Chorales, for brass choir and percussion
Violin Concerto (Lux Aeterna) in A major, op. 38 No. 7
Le Livre D’Esther in G minor, op. 38 no. 2: 1. The Purification
Concerto Grosso in C minor, Op. 34, No. 4: 1 Feroce maestoso - Allegro
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.
1001 for Orchestra and Prerecorded Electronics
Malaise Main title for Yakuza Princess
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)
Piano Concerto in G Minor, Op. 34
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.
Light Refracted for clarinet, violin, viola, cello, piano
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!!!
Aurolucent Circles for Solo Percussion and Orchestra
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!!
Everything Flows – Concerto for Percussion and Orchestra
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)
20 - Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
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.
Symphony in A minor, op. 8 (1896)
Violin Concerto in G minor, Op. 80 (1912)
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.
Variations on a Theme of Brahms
Dreams of Flying – 1. Resisting
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
25 - Dora Pejačević (1885 – 1923)
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.
Cello Sonata in E minor, op. 35
26 - William Grant Still (1895-1978)
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).
Symphony No. 3 “Sunday Symphony” - 1958
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.
Little Moonhead in three movements / I. Little Prelude
Concerto for Trombone and Orchestra (2006) / III. Catch
Extremity of Sky (2002) / III. Prayer Chain
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!!!
And Whether Pigs Have Wings- Nu Deco Ensemble (2016)
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)
Harpsichord Concerto in E Major
Cantata “Berenice, ah che fai?” (1767)
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)