Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music 1960-2000

Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music 1960-2000

Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music 1960-2000

Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music 1960-2000


Over the past 30 years, musicologists have produced a remarkable new body of research literature focusing on the lives and careers of women composers in their socio-historical contexts. But detailed analysis and discussion of the works created by these composers are still extremely rare. This is particularly true in the domain of music theory, where scholarly work continues to focus almost exclusively on male composers. Moreover, while the number of performances, broadcasts, and recordings of women's compositions has unquestionably grown, they remain significantly underrepresented in comparison to music by male composers. Addressing these deficits is not simply a matter of rectifying a scholarly gender imbalance: the lack of knowledge surrounding the music of women composers means that scholars, performers, and the general public remain unfamiliar with a large body of exciting repertoire. Analytical Essays on Music by Women Composers: Concert Music, 1960-2000 is the first to appear in an exciting a four volume series devoted to the work of women composers across Western art music history. Each chapter, many by leading music theorists, opens with a brief biographical sketch of the composer before presenting an in-depth critical-analytic exploration of a single representative composition, linking analytical observations with questions of meaning and sociohistorical context. Chapters are grouped thematically by analytical approach into three sections, each of which places the analytical methods used in the essays that follow into the context of late twentieth-century ideas and trends. Featuring rich analyses and detailed study by the most reputed music theorists in the field, along with brief biographical sketches for each composer, this collection brings to the fore the essential repertoire of a range of important composers, many of whom otherwise stand outside the standard canon.


I have no doubt that women think and feel differently than men, but it is not very
important whether I am a woman or a man. What matters is that I am myself and
develop my own ideas strictly toward the truth.

—Sofia Gubaidulina

This book celebrates, through musical analysis, the work of eight outstanding composers active in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries: Elisabeth Lutyens (1906-1983), Ursula Mamlok (b. 1923), Sofia Gubaidulina (b. 1931), Norma Beecroft (b. 1934), Joan Tower (b. 1938), Libby Larsen (b. 1950), Kaija Saariaho (b. 1952), and Chen Yi (b. 1953). Their compositions—in genres ranging from solo song to symphony, opera, film, and electroacoustic music—represent some of the most important musical trends of the twentieth century. Many of them have won the highest awards available to contemporary composers and have been honored by prestigious fellowships and commissions. Collectively, their lives and careers extend from Edwardian England to twenty-first-century North America, and their individual creative voices have thus been forged in environments shaped by the major political and cultural events of this period, including Nazi Germany, postwar Soviet Russia, and China’s Cultural Revolution. As we write in 2014, six of the eight composers—some now in their 80s and 90s—continue to pursue lively, successful, and productive careers.

Each chapter in this volume presents a detailed analytical exploration of a single representative composition in the genres of song, chamber, and large-scale orchestral or choral music. (Electroacoustic, computer, and other contemporary musical genres will be represented in a later volume.) The compelling nature of the music, both aurally and intellectually, has been the primary motivation in the analysts’ selection of these particular compositions, as well as each work’s ability to demonstrate fundamental . . .

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