June 25, birthday of Katherine Kennicott Davis (1892-1980)

Katherine Kennicott Davis composed mostly vocal music, and is perhaps best known for “The Carol of the Drums,” popularly known as “The Little Drummer Boy.” Youtube has over 100 different recordings of this piece recorded in nearly every country and by every singer including a very cringeworthy version by Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Pity. She received a classical education, studying at Wellesley
and in Paris under Nadia Boulanger. There are scant recordings of her other works on Youtube, but here’s the ones I could find, followed by (I had to include one) a version of Little Drummer Boy.

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June 16, birthday of Jeanne Beijerman-Walraven (1878-1969)

The Wikipedia page on Jeanne Beijerman-Walraven gives precious little information about this composer. She was a Dutch national born in Indonesia. Another page says she studied piano with her mother and then returned to Holland. Her teacher there was Frits Koeberg. Her early compositions were in the romantic tradition, but then she turned expressionist coming under the influence of Schoenberg’s music. I could only find one work on youtube dating from 1910. This website in Dutch has a longer entry about her under the name Jeanne Walraven translated badly to English here.

Concert-Overture

June 14, birthday of Olga Gorelli (1920-2006)

My apologies for the earlier version of this page. Please see the Wikipedia page on Olga Gorelli. I regret I couldn’t find more works by her on line. She was prolific and from this one piece, I’m sure there’s a fascinating body of work.

I Carry Your Heart With Me

June 5, birthday of Laurie Anderson (b. 1947)

When I heard “O Superman” in 1982, I became an instant fan. “Big Science” was like nothing I had ever heard–witty spoken word pieces that commented on absurdism in the US set to haunting and sometimes minimalist inspired music. Next came “Mr. Heartbreak,” which still mesmerizes me. But I stopped there, though I knew she continued to write, tour and perform. When I heard that she had married Lou around 2008, I went, “What?” I thought he was gay. After that, I rarely listened to her.

Then in October of 2013, Lou Reed died, and I thought about her. Having lost both my parents and one brother, when people fall in love and marry and then one dies, it really makes me sad. My father was married to my mom for 67 years and took care of her until she became obstreperous at the age of 92. Even after that, he would sleep with a pair of her pajamas beside him because he missed her so much. In 2015 Laurie released a film called “Heart of a Dog” and Laura and I went to see it. Though Laurie denied it was a tribute to Lou or a way of expressing grief and closing that chapter in her life, it ends with a picture of Lou and their dog, Lulabell, lying together on a bean bag chair. Later I read a biography of Lou, and it painted a picture of an amazingly unlikeable person, a megalomaniac, an alcoholic, & a control freak who could not stand to have anyone in his band outshine him.

Until yesterday, I never read anything about Laurie’s background. NYC in the 1960s and 70s was great place for artists and musicians. Abstract expressionism was dying, being replaced by Pop & Performance Art. Warhol’s Factory became a site for musical and artistic happenings, with Lou Reed and the Velvet Underground playing music that would influence the next generation that became Punk rockers ane New Wavers. In the 1970s serious music was moving from twelve-tone and atonal serialism, and complex and hypnotic non western rhythms, the spoken word, and concrete and found sounds became the building blocks of what started out as minimalism but eventually morphed into the neo-romantic & post-modern stuff that’s become part of today’s vernacular.

Maybe it was because John Lennon married the artist Yoko Ono, but somehow, visual and performance artists started becoming musicians and vice versa. Laurie was an art history and then sculpture major and wrote a symphony for automobile horn in 1969. So here’s a set of works stretching back to 1977 (the earliest I could find on Youtube). If you have other recordings of her earlier works or pieces you really like, please feel free to post.

Break it (1977)

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May 29, birthday of Franghiz Ali-Zadeh (b. 1947)

Wikipedia has precious little to say about Azerbaijani composer, Franghiz Ali-Zadeh. He biography on the liner notes of the first performance below, “Mugam Sayagi,” on the Kronos Quartet website, fills in the details of this quite well-know (in Europe and Central Europe at least.)

Mugam Sayagi

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May 27, birthday of Liana Alexandra (1947-2011)

Liana Alexandra was born in Bucharest where she lived and worked her entire life. Most of what has written about her is in Romanian, so I’d be grateful to anyone who can find more about her than this Wikipedia entry.

 

Hora
Concerto for Piano Four-Hands

Pastorale

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May 26, Maria de Lourdes Martins (1926-2009)

 
Maria de Lourdes Martins gets about two lines in Wikipedia but this biography is more complete. She was quite established as an avante garde composer, working with Stockhausen, but then she went to Munich and studied with Carl Orff and brought his musical teaching method to Portugal. The following pieces are all that I can find of her work on Youtube, but you can definitely hear the influence of Kodaly, with whom she also studied.

Sonorita

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