May 14, 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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May 14, Birthday of Emilie Mayer (1812-1883)

 

Emilie Mayer was born in 1812 in the town of Friedland, Germany, and died in Berlin at the age of 70. Considered the female Beethoven of the time, she enjoyed great popularity during her life, but lapsed into obscurity after her death. The first recording of any of works took place in 2001 as a result of a conference in Berlin on 19th century women composer. Since then quite a few of her works have been rediscovered and recorded.

She was the musically precocious daughter of a fairly wealthy pharmacist, whose mother died shortly after her birth. When she was taking piano lessons, she had a tendency to improvise, and her music teacher encouraged her to compose her own pieces–which she did starting at the ripe age of 7.

Around the age of 28, her father committed suicide, and distraught, she moved to Poland to restart her life. There she studied composition, and after her work started to gain attention, she moved to Berlin to continue her studies.

Over the next 42 years, she composed over 70 works including 8 symphonies, chamber music, lieder, and an opera.

In 2012, during which was the 200th anniversary of her birth, many more pieces were performed, however Amazon (even in Germany) lists only three CDs. Youtube turned up quite a few. I enjoyed her string quartet, and the symphonies, violin sonatas, and other works I’m sure will be a delight to listen to.

String Quartet in E minor

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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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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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December 31, Birthday of Daphne Oram (1925-2003)

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

Daphne Oram was taught piano and composition from an early age but turned down a post at the Royal Conservatory of Music in London to take a job with the BBC as a “music balancer.” There she began composing and pushing the envelope of sound recording and synthetic sound to create some of the first works of “electronic music.” Using tape loops, recordings of machines, feedback, tone generation, and manual manipulation, she paved the way for Steve Reich, Kraftwerk, DJ’s, hip-hop, electronic, sampling, and scratching.

She went on to found the BBC Radiophonic Workshop, which created soundscapes for many of BBC’s programs such as The Goon Show, Dr. Who, and The Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

She left that job in the late 1950s to develop “Oramics” a method of composing music by drawing and scratching on 35-millimeter film, which was read by photoelectric eyes and fed into electronic equipment to produce music.

Below are example of some of her works. One, Still Point composed in the 1940s is scored for for turntables, “double orchestra” and five microphones. According to Wikipedia, “Still Point is held to be the first composition to combine acoustic orchestration with live electronic manipulation.”

Pulse Persephone
Snow

Oram Tapes Volume 1 Disc 2

Excerpt from Still Point

December 27, Birthday of Hope Temple

Since July, I have been concentrating solely on female composers.  You can read about that in my post from July 19.  If I can’t find one born on the calendar day, I won’t post.  On with today’s composer.

There is a very short entry for Hope Temple, nee Alice Davis, in Wikipedia.  She studied piano in London starting at age 13, but then due to a riding accident that injured her hand, she turned to composing.  I can only find one piece by her on Youtube.  It’s an Irish song called “My Lady’s Bower,” which was sung by Molly Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.  The other is an excerpt, not very well performed, from her husband’s (Andre Messager), opera Mirette, which she cowrote with him.  She wrote two operettas, which I cannot find.

From Wikipedia:  Hope Temple, born as Alice Maude (called “Dotie”) Davis (27 December 1859 – 10 May 1938) was an Irish songwriter and composer. She was also known as “Mrs. André Messager“.

My Lady’s Bower
For the Wind of Night Comes Wandering

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