May 7, Birthday of Alison Bauld (b. 1944)

Alison Bauld is an Australian composer and novelist who lives in London.  Most of her work consist of passages from Shakespeare’s plays set to music.  Wish I could have found more about her.  The longest bio is on her own website linked at the beginning of this paragraph.

Titania’s Song

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May 6, Birthday of Victoria Bond (b. 1945)

Victoria Bond is a contemporary composer and conductor. She studied conducting at Julliard under Herbert von Karajan and composition with Roger Sessions.

“Bridges” Mvt. 4 The Brooklyn Bridge

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May 5, Birthday of Delia Derbyshire (1937 – 2001)

Delia Derbyshire had quite an amazing life. The daughter of a sheet metal worker from Coventry, she was evacuated during WWII to Lancashire at the age of 3. Very precocious, at the age of 4 she taught others in her class to read and write. At the age of 8, her parent bought her a piano, but she excelled in Maths and got a scholarship to Cambridge to study at a time when only 1 in 10 students there were women. He got her BA in math and music, specializing in medieval music. After graduating, she told career counselors she wanted to work with sound, and they suggested she work with the deaf. She sodded off to Geneva, where she taught piano to the children of the British Consul-General and maths to the children of the South American and Canadian diplomats. After returning to England, she worked first for Decca Records as an assistant sound engineer and then heard about the BBC’s Radiophonic Workshop, where she learned the art of tape splicing and looping and with the newly invented magnetic tape recorders, she recorded the sound of objects and through manipulation turned them into musique concrète.  She came to fame after composing the opening music to the series Dr. Who in 1963 based on a theme by Ron Grainer.

I wonder where Steven Reich, Philip Glass, the Who, the Talking Heads, and others would have been without her. At the bottom of these videos, there’s a documentary about her called “The Delian Mode.”

First

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April 30, Birthday of Ellen Taaffe Zwilich (b. 1939)

Ellen Taaffe Zwilich has the distinction of being the first female composer to win the Pulitzer prize for music in 1983. Let that sink in for a moment. THE PULITZER PRIZE WAS ESTABLISHED IN 1943.

She got her bachelor’s in music from Florida State (my second alma mater) in 1960 then went to Julliard and in 1975 became the FIRST WOMAN TO EARN DOCTOR OF MUSICAL ARTS in composition.

I’m really sorry for shouting.  It’s just that it’s outrageous that so many wonderful composers are unknown to the world simply for being women.  Men usually give the lame excuse that they always do (for racism, sexism, and most other -ism), that there’s no bias and that if there were really good female composers, they would rise to the top being recognized and rewarded as they are.  Here’s Ellen Zwilich’s perspective on the matter:

‘Why have there been so few women composers? It’s simple: We were, for the most part, denied access. Still, we’re finding out that there were some women who continued to compose, knowing full well that they’d never hear their music. It’s an incredible testimony to the creative spirit.

Compare writing a poem to creating a piece of music. Once you’ve got those words down on paper, they’re there forever, and don’t need any realization. But a staggering amount of people were involved in the creation of my Symphony No. 1 (Three Movements for Orchestra), for which I won the Pulitzer. There was the Guggenheim Foundation, which helped sponsor it; the MacDowell Colony, where I wrote the beginning, and, of course, the American Composer’s Orchestra, all of whom put their collective faith into my symphony and allowed me the time to complete it. Now, go back 100 years and compare the situation: nothing of the sort could possibly have happened, because society simply didn’t recognize female achievements. (New York Times, July 14, 1985).

While in grad school, her music was described as jagged and atonal–which was the style of the time.  However, after her husband, Joseph Zwilich–a well known violinist at the Metropolitan Opera–died of a heart attack while watching the Stuttgart Ballet perform at the Met in 1979, her music shifted and again in her own words, she described the change as a desire for “communicating more directly with performers and listeners.”   And it’s telling that you can’t find any of her pre-1979 works on Youtube.

To demonstrate her range, I’ve selected seven works from the over 50 videos of either her music or interviews with her on Youtube.  I hope you enjoy discovering her as much as I have.
First Movement from Symphony No. 1 (“Three Movements for Orchestra”) which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, 1983)

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