The Undeniable Truth About Women Composers That No One is Telling You

The Undeniable Truth About Women Composers That No One is Telling You

As an undergraduate music major, I did not find it unusual that after four exhausting semesters of music history, I had only studied a handful of talented women involved in composition. The usual names popped up - Clara Schumann, Fanny Mendelssohn, and Amy Beach. Of these women, only one, Amy Beach, was not associated with a famous male composer. After graduate studies in music, I realized the importance of studying women in music, notably contemporary living composers. I had been fortunate to be mentored by Clare Shore, Kristine Burns, and Pauline Oliveros.

For more in-depth studies on women in western music, I suggest Burns' Women and Music in the US Since 1900: An Encyclopedia (Greenwood Press, 2002), Dr. Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner's Crossing the Line: Women Composers and Music Technology in the United States, the Kaprova Society's Women Composer Database, and the International Alliance for Women in Music's official website. Kristine H. Burns' compositions run the gamut of contemporary children's opera to absorbing electronic video works, and composer Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner is a talented composer of electronic and acoustic music. Their in depth studies on women in music are a must-have for any serious music library.

Contemporary composers use a variety of sources for their works, including narrative and the power of the human story. Composer Beth Anderson's works are often whimsical and insightful, often relying on her unique vocal interpretations of text to convey a musical idea. Brenda Hutchinson's works often revolve around compelling narrative, with her latest project being a daily blog recording the sound experiences of a cross country journey with a large 250 pound bell.

Women have been groundbreakers in contemporary music. Laurie Anderson is probably most well-known for her work, O Superman, sponsored by Warner Brothers in the 1980s. Anderson's works continue to marry her views of society with technology and compelling narrative. Brenda Hutchinson's works often revolve around compelling narrative, with her latest project being a daily blog recording the sound experiences of a cross country journey with a large 250 pound bell. Pauline Oliveros influenced composers like John Cage and Terry Riley. With her meditative musical techniques on the accordion, Oliveros incorporates Eastern philosophy with Western electroacoustic traditions.

A few women have broken the glass ceiling in commercial music, such as Rachel Portman and Winifred Phillips. Winifred Phillips has distinguished herself in the field of video game music, with such games as Sim Animals, the popular God of War, and Shrek 3. Rachel Portman's scores include the film Emma, (which she won an Academy Award for in 1996), Jim Henson's TV series The Story Teller, and Chocolat.

Other composers, such as Alex Shapiro and Mary Lou Newmark have been successful in releasing albums of musical works which cross the boundary between electronic and classical music. Mary Lou Newmark's hauntingly beautiful music compositions for electric violin fill the room with contemporary melodies reminiscent of a time long ago. Her Street Angel Diaries is a multimedia work about the homeless. Alex Shapiro's musical work runs the gamut of ring tones to warm classical chamber works.

Emerging composer and conductor Hsiao-Lan Wang has a diverse portfolio of eclectic music compositions, winning music awards nationally and internationally, including the Athena Festival, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and Dutch Radio. Currently teaching in Montana, Hsiao-Lan Wang has recently taken the post as president of the International Alliance for Women in Music.

Other women actively involved in contemporary composition include: Clare Shore, Kristina Wolfe, Judith Shatin, Alice Shields, Diane Thome, Maggie Payne, Sylvia Pengilly, Jennifer Higdon, Judith Lang Zaimont, and Beata Moon.



With over fifteen years experience in music, film, and the arts, Sabrina Pena Young can provide you with the insight you need to develop your creative dreams into a reality. 


Contact Sabrina Pena Young Today:
Spenayoung@Gmail.com

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