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 24, Birthday of Roxanna Panufnik (b. 1968)

Roxanna Panufnik lives in London where she is a president of a choral society and has been composer in resident with the London Mozart players.

Zen Love Song

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December 24, Birthday of Libby Larsen (b. 1950)

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.

 

Love Song for A Vampire
Holy Roller for Saxophone and Piano

Like Blind Men Tapping in the Dark

Song Concerto

December 11, birthday of Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton (1926 – 1984)

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.

Big Mama Thornton, was a self-taught singer and musician, who was a trendsetter in many ways. She had a powerful unique voice and could hold her own against the likes of Screaming Jay Hawkins and Howling Wolf. She was also an openly gay cross-dresser, something which is still vilified in the US some 60 years after her debut in the 1950s. She recorded “You Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog,” and “Ball and Chain” years before Elvis Presley and Janis Joplin scored hits with these songs, and they cited her as influences on their style.

The biographies online are interesting reads–Wikipedia, for example–and describe her as the “Second Bessie Smith” and discuss her rather racy lyrics.

Ball and Chain

They Call Me Big Mama

Watermelon Man

The Fish

December 3, Mathilde Aloisia Kralik von Meyrswalden

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.

Mathilde Aloisia Kralik von Meyrswalden (3 December 1857, in Linz – 8 March 1944) was an Austrian composer.

“Praeludium, Passacaglia and Fugato”/strong>

Sonate für Klavier und Violine

Rhapsody f-minor

TRIO F-Major

November 12, birthday of Dika Newlin (1923-2006)

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.

Talk about a cross-over artist!  Dika Newlin started college at MSU at the age of 12, (she’d been playing piano since the well before the age of 6 and composing since the age of 7), moved to LA to study with Arnold Schoenberg at the age of 16, (who dissed her chamber compositions), got her phd from Columba, after which she became a noted Schoenberg scholar and taught at Syracuse, Drew, North Texas, and Virginia Commonwealth, where in the 1980s she became a punk rocker!  She also translated Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunnaire into English and performed it in 1999.

This is from Wikipedia:  “Dika Newlin (November 22, 1923 – July 22, 2006) was a pianist, professor, musicologist, composer and punk rock singer. She received a Ph.D from Columbia University at the age of 22. She was one of the last living students of Arnold Schoenberg, a Schoenberg scholar and a professor at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond from 1978 to 2004. She performed as an Elvis impersonator and played punk rock while in her seventies in Richmond, Virginia.”

Piano Trio, Opus 2

Performing Mac the Knife

Murder City

Heartbreak Hotel

November 20, birthday of Meredith Monk (b. 1942)

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.

Meredith Monk is a singer, director, performance artist and composer. She formed an ensemble in the 1960s as her contemporaries Phillip Glass and Steven Reich. Please take a look at “Ascension” which was composed and performed in Ann Hamilton’s Tower, an installation at Oliver Ranch (sculpture park) 70 miles north of San Francisco. It has two helix stair cases. One is for performers and the other is for the audience. As you can hear, the acoustics must make it a really special place and perfect for Monk’s work. Here’s a description of the tower.

Dolmen Music

16 millimeter earrings

Song of Ascension

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