Pin It

Composing Women 

click to enlarge Joan Tower
  • Joan Tower

“Pick up any program from a classical concert—any orchestra, any chamber group; look at how many women composers there are,” suggests Joan Tower, composer and Bard professor. She estimates that about two percent of the compositions are written by women. “Notable Women: A Celebration of Women Composers,” a chamber festival at Dia:Beacon over the first three weekends in June, attempts to redress that inequity. The St. Luke’s Chamber Ensemble will perform music by American women composers of the 20th and 21st centuries. Tower, whom the New Yorker described as “one of the most successful women composers of all time,” is composer-in-residence with St. Luke’s.
Three young women composers were commissioned to create works, one at each performance. The first concert includes a piece by Asha Srinivasan, 26, who was chosen through a contest sponsored by the performance-rights organization BMI. “I am a Western classically trained composer, but I did study carnatic music, the South Indian classical music, a little bit when I was a child—and I’ve always listened to Indian music,” Srinivasan says. Not surprisingly, her fellow students have pointed out an Indian influence in her compositions; Srinivasan has recently worked to merge the two musical systems.
In her string quartet “Kalpitha,” the instruments veer toward an Indian intonation, then back into Mozart territory. It’s like watching an actor speak alternate phrases in two different languages. At times the music seems on the verge of splitting in half—the four instruments breaking into two camps—but always, there is a resolution, if only a provisional one. The struggle is sometimes painful, but compelling.
The festival consists of three concerts on three consecutive weekends. The first, “Unsung,” celebrates female pioneers of American composition, including Ruth Crawford Seeger, Pete Seeger’s stepmother, represented by a string quartet written in 1933. The second, “Notable Women: Unbound,” features works by prominent composers such as Tania Léon and Tower herself, whose first string quartet, “Night Field” (1994), will be played. The third concert, “Unleashed,” presents contemporary works such as “Four Movements with Delays” by Pamela Z and Eve Beglarian’s “Cave,” which includes electronics. (As in other styles of music, computers have altered classical composition.) Question-and-answer sessions will follow each performance.
Music in performance is also a visual art. Rarely does one hear a string quartet in a gallery of world-class paintings. (In previous concerts, the players were surrounded by “Shadows,” a series of paintings by Andy Warhol.) The lighting at Dia:Beacon was designed by artist Robert Irwin, so the visual effects are exquisite, and the serrated roof baffles the sound, making for surprisingly gentle acoustics.
“Notable Women: A Celebration of Women Composers” will take place at Dia:Beacon on June 3, 10, and 17, at 3pm. Each concert will be held the day before at the Chelsea Art Museum in Manhattan; preceding the June 2 concert will be a panel discussion. (845) 440-0100; www.notablewomen.org.

Speaking of...

Comments

Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

Readers also liked…

  • CD Review: Christine Spero's "Spero Plays Nyro"

    Why and how dare she devote an entire album to songs by Laura Nyro when we can just listen to the originals on Spotify? I'll tell you why. Because Christine Spero fully inhabits these songs, uncovers hidden nuances, and with her stunning ensemble—including drummer Peter O'Brien, bassist Scott Petito, saxophonist Elliot Spero, and Christine's own magic hands on the ivories.
    • Aug 1, 2015
  • CD Review: "The Poughkeepsie Jazz Project"

    If you want to catch some of the best jazz in the Hudson Valley, head over to the Derby bar and restaurant on Main Street in Poughkeepsie. Since 2013, the duo of pianist John Scanlon and bassist Ben Basile has held court there every Tuesday, jamming with an array of local talent each week and establishing Po-Town as a rising force in local bop.
    • Aug 1, 2015

Hudson Valley Events

submit event
Cons, Cheats and Scams:The Extraordinary Card Magic of Jason Ladanye @ Bridge Street Theatre

Cons, Cheats and Scams:The Extraordinary Card Magic of Jason Ladanye

Sat., Feb. 18, 7:30-8:45 p.m. and Sun., Feb. 19, 2-3:15 p.m. — One of the top card magicians in the world today, Jason Ladanye...

Acoustic Brunch with The Edukated Fleas

Sun., Feb. 19, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.

View all of today's events

Latest in Music

Related to Music

  • Opera in Phoenicia Park
  • Opera in Phoenicia Park

    With its open-air format, where attendees picnic in the parks and watch the stars emerge during performances, and its $5 youth tickets, the Phoenicia International Festival of the Voice is the perfect place to share with children a love of music and theater, in a variety of styles.
    • Jul 25, 2016
  • More »

More by Sparrow

Hudson Valley Tweets