Libby Larsen

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Libby Larsen (born 24 December 1950) is a Grammy Award winning and frequently programmed American composer.[1] Along with composer Stephen Paulus, she is a co-founder of the Minnesota Composers Forum, now the American Composers Forum.[2] A former holder of the Papamarkou Chair at John W. Kluge Center of the Library of Congress, Larsen has also held residencies with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra.[3][4]

Biography[edit]

Early life[edit]

Libby Larsen was born in Wilmington, Delaware on 24 December 1950.[5][6] She is the third daughter of five in the family. At the age of three, Libby and her family moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota.[7]

Larsen’s first musical experience happened when she was three years old. She remembers carefully observing her older sister's piano lessons at home; later, she would imitate what she had heard on piano on her own.[8] Her first formal music education came from the St. Joseph of Carondelet nuns at Christ the King School. All students sang Gregorian Chant and learned to sight read using moveable ‘do’ solfege. The rhythmic flexibility and prosody of text Larsen learned in chant showed her that there is freedom in music, a concept that would prove to be very influential in her future compositions.[9] In addition to her classical training, Larsen's father was an amateur clarinetist in a Dixieland band, and her mother played boogie-woogie on the record player, giving her a multifarious and very American musical background.[10]

Musical career[edit]

Larsen attended the University of Minnesota for both her undergraduate and graduate work. She received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Theory and Composition in 1971, a Masters of Arts degree in Composition in 1975, and a Ph.D in Theory and Composition in 1978. Throughout her studies at the University, she studied composition with Dominick Argento, Paul Fetler and Eric Stokes.[11] In 1975, Larsen married her husband, James Reece, whom she met at the university.[12]

In 1973, Larsen co-founded the Minnesota Composers Forum with colleague Stephen Paulus with the goal to provide a public platform and an audience for the creation and performance of new compositions, along with giving practical help in business matters such as applying for fellowships and negotiating contracts.[13] In 1996, the organization changed its name to the American Composers Forum and established chapters in cities throughout the country including New York, Atlanta, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles, among others. Its base is still in St. Paul, Minnesota.[14]

In 1983 Larsen was appointed one of the Minnesota Orchestra's two composers-in-residence, a position that provided extremely useful opportunities for development as an orchestral composer, along with making her the first woman to serve as a resident composer with a major orchestra.[15][16] She composed her first symphony, “Water Music,” for the Minnesota Orchestra, which was premiered in 1985 under Sir Neville Marriner.[17] During her time with the Minnesota Orchestra, Larsen began to wonder why people her own age weren't coming to concerts, and why non-European composers weren't being programmed. This led her to studies of classical music in America and its place in American culture, the results of which she has explored in her compositions and other philosophical projects.[18] In addition to this work, she became a mother in 1986 when her daughter, Wynne, was born.[19]

Larsen organized and became artistic director of the Hot Notes Series (sponsored by the Schubert Club of St Paul) in 1993, which focuses on the modern keyboard, particularly on the interaction between performer and synthesized sound. This interaction has become a feature of her later works, including Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (1990) based on the book by Mary Shelley. This work used electronic visual effects such as projectors and screens around the theater which showed different perspectives (e.g. those of the Monster or those of Frankenstein himself) throughout the opera. This opera was Larsen's first exploration of technological sound[20] and was selected as one of the eight best classical music events of 1990 by USA Today.[21]

In 1994, she won a Grammy Award for producer of Best Classical Vocal Performance for “The Art of Arlene Augér” featuring her song cycle Sonnets from the Portuguese.[22] In 1996, she received Honorary Doctorates from both St. Mary’s College/Notre Dame, and the University of Nebraska.[23]

In addition to being known as a composer, Dr. Larsen is known as a musical philosopher and is in demand as a guest lecturer and keynote speaker for many events. She has given keynote addresses at places such as the League of American Orchestras, American Choral Directors Association, American Orff-Schulwerk Association National Convention, Concert Band Directors National Association, Dominique de Menil Presidential Lecture Series at Rice University (2001), Music Educators National Convention, and National Association of Schools of Music, to name a few.[24] From 2003-2004, she served as the first Harissios Papamarkou Chair in Education and Technology at the Library of Congress.[25] She has also had many notable composition students, incuding Jake Runestad.

In 2010, Larsen received a George Peabody Medal for Outstanding Contributions to Music in America.[26][27]

Influences[edit]

Larsen’s music is known both for its American idioms and its eclectic mixing of styles and colors. This undoubtedly comes from the wide range of musical influences in her life:

As a young child, she grew up learning Gregorian Chant from nuns at the Catholic school she attended. Her first piano teacher introduced her to many different styles of repertoire including Mozart, Bartok, Stravinsky, Japanese music and boogie. In college, she was influenced by her teachers Dominick Argento, Paul Fetler, and Eric Stokes.[28]

When asked about her influences, Larsen responded, “To tell the truth, my teachers have come to me from unexpected places in my musical life. They have been poets, architects, painters and philosophers. The other way I really learn is by reading scores voraciously, from Chuck Berry to Witold Lutosławski.”[29] Her favorite composers are Hector Berlioz, Maurice Ravel, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Sergei Prokofiev, Big Mama Thornton, Harry Partch, and J.S. Bach.[30]

Style and approach[edit]

Larsen’s style and approach to music comes from her own philosophy on music. Her music comes from the sound she hears everyday around her in the world. It is noted for its "energy, optimism, rhythmic diversity, colourful orchestration, liberated tonality without harsh dissonance, and pervading lyricism."[31]

The rhythms used are often taken directly from the American language: “our own American language has beautiful rhythms in it; it is this American vernacular and the rhythm of our American life that is the language of my music.”[32] Pieces such as “Holy Roller” (about a revivalist preacher’s speech) and “Bid Call” (about auctioneering patter) showcase this style. Larsen composes without barlines, preferring to first discover the natural flow of a line and then refine it until she finds a common meter, giving many of her compositions a feeling of free internal rhythm.[33]

Awards[edit]

  • 1987 Distinguished Alumni Award
presented by the University of Minnesota[34]
  • 1988 National Opera Association Production Competition Award, “Christina Romana”[35]
  • 1989 American Center for International Leadership—US/USSR Emerging Leaders Summit[36]
  • 1992 Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Silver Medal[37]
  • 1994 Grammy Award[38]
for producer of Best Classical Vocal Performance for “The Art of Arlene Augér” featuring Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese
  • 1996 Clarion Award, “The Road to Beijing”[39]
  • 1996 Gustavus Adolphus Fine Arts Medal[40]
  • 1996 Honorary Doctorate, St. Mary’s College/Notre Dame[41]
  • 1996 Honorary Doctorate, University of Nebraska[42]
  • 2000 Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters[43]
  • 2001 Distinguished Minnesota Award[44]
presented by Bemidji State University
  • 2003 Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts[45][46]
presented by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
  • 2007 inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame[47]
  • 2010 George Peabody Medal[48]

Selected works[49][edit]

This is only a list of selected works. For a list of Larsen's complete works please see List of compositions by Libby Larsen. Opera:

  • Clair de Lune (1984)
two act chamber opera; libretto by Patricia Hampl
  • Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus (1990)
full length music drama; libretto by Libby Larsen
  • Barnum’s Bird (2000)
chamber choral opera in two acts; libretto by Bridget Carpenter
  • Dreaming Blue (2000)
opera in one act for child actor, SATB soloists, children’s chorus, rhythm chorus, and drumming group; libretto by Libby Larsen using texts from third and fourth graders from Mountain View Elementary, Salt Lake City.

Orchestral:

  • Symphony No. 1 “Water Music” (1985)
full orchestra
  • Symphony No. 2 “Coming Forth Into Day” (1986)
soprano solo, baritone solo, SATB chorus, full orchestra; various texts
  • Marimba Concerto: After Hampton (1992)
solo marimba and full orchestra
  • Ring of Fire (1995)
full orchestra
  • Song-Dances to the Light (1995)
SA chorus, Orff instruments, full orchestra (or piano); text by young people
  • Symphony No. 5: “Solo Symphony” (1999)
full orchestra
  • “Still Life with Violin” (2000)
solo violin and full orchestra
  • “Evening in the Palace of Reason” (2008)
solo string quartet and string orchestra

Band:

  • Strut (2003)
concert band
  • An Introduction to the Moon (2005)
symphonic wind ensemble, tuned water glasses, recorded voice, eight collaborative improvisations

Choral:

  • ”Who Cannot Weep Come Learn of Me” (1985)
SSA, mezzo-soprano and tenor solos; text from MS09:38 Trinity College
  • Songs of Youth and Pleasure (1986)
four movements
SATB a cappella; Renaissance text
  • The Settling Years (1988)
three movements
SATB, woodwind quintet, piano, percussion; 20th century biographical texts
  • "I Just Lightning" (1994)
SSAA and percussion; text by Maria Sabina
  • Seven Ghosts (1995)
five movements
SATB with soprano solo, brass quintet, piano, and percussion; 20th century biographical texts
  • Today This Spring (1995)
three songs
SA and piano; text by Emily Dickinson, Charles Wilson, and Jan Kimes
  • "By a Departing Light" (1999)
SATB a cappella; text by Emily Dickinson
  • Four Valentines: A Lover’s Journey (2000)
four movements
six-voice male a cappella; text by James Joyce, William Shakespeare, and Karl Joseph Simrock
  • "Jack’s Valentine" (2001)
SSAA; text by Aldeen Humphreys
  • "Womanly Song of God" (2003)
SSAA divisi a cappella; text by Catherine de Vinck
  • Western Songs (2005)
three songs
SATB a cappella; text from American Folksongs

Vocal:

  • Songs From Letters (1989)
five movements
soprano and piano or chamber ensemble; text by Calamity Jane
  • Sonnets From the Portuguese (1991)
six movements
soprano and chamber ensemble or piano; text by Elizabeth Barret Browning
  • Love After 1950 (2000)
five movements
mezzo-soprano and piano; text by Rita Dove, Julie Kane, Kathryn Daniel, Liz Lochhead, and Muriel Rukeyser
  • Try Me, Good King: Last Words of the Wives of Henry VIII (2000)
five movements
soprano and piano; text by Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Katherine Howard, and Katherine Parr
  • This Unbearable Stillness: Songs from the Balcony (2003)
four movements
soprano and string quartet; text by Dima Hilal and Sekena Shaben
  • Sifting Through the Ruins (2005)
five movements
mezzo-soprano, viola and piano; text by Hilary North, anonymous, Alicia Vasquez, Martha Cooper, and Ted Berrigan; chosen by Susanne Mentzer

Instrumental:

  • “Four on the Floor” (1984)
violin, cello, contrabass, and piano
  • “Dancing Solo” (1994)
solo clarinet
  • “Slang” (1994)
clarinet, violin, and piano
  • Concert Piece for Tuba and Piano (1995)
tuba and piano
  • “Holy Roller” (1997)
alto saxophone and piano
  • “Barn Dances” (2001)
flute, clarinet, and piano
  • “Bid Call” (2002)
alto saxophone and cello
  • "Yellow Jersey" (2004)
two clarinets
  • “Song Concerto” (2005)
alto saxophone and piano
  • Concert Piece for Bassoon and Piano
bassoon and piano

Multimedia:

  • Matineé: The Fantom of the Fair (2014)
soprano, baritone, violin, cello, piano with animated slideshow by Toni Lindgren based on Paul Gustavson's 1939 comic book of the same name - première April 6, 2015, Rivers School Conservatory, Weston, Massachusetts[50][51]

Featured discography[52][edit]

  • Dreaming Blue
An opera by Libby Larsen, the story of a child brought by a family into a new culture. Appleton Boychoir; Attic Theater, Inc.; Children’s Ballet Theatre; Fox Cities Performing Arts Center; Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra; Lawrence Academy of Music Girl Choir; University Drumming Group; White Heron Chorale; Brian Groner, conductor
  • I Just Lightning
Las Cantantes, The University of New Mexico Women’s Chorus; Bradley Ellingboe, conductor
  • Licorice Stick
Katarina Strom-Harg, piano; Stfan Harg, clarinet; Kathleen Roland, soprano; Asa Johannon, violin
  • Libby Larsen: Symphony no. 4 for Strings; Songs of Light and Love; Songs from Letters
Benita Valenta, soprano; Scottish Chamber Orchestra; Joel Revzen, conductor
  • Libby Larsen: Deep Summer Music; Concerto for Marimba: “After Hampton”, Symphony no. 5: “Solo Symphony”
John Kinzie, marimba; Colorado Symphony Orchestra; Marin Alsop, conductor
  • The Art of Arleen Augér
Featuring Larsen’s Sonnets from the Portuguese, also includes music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Henry Purcell, and Robert Schumann.
Arleen Augér, soprano; Minnesota Orchestra, Members of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra; Joel Revzen, conductor.
1994 Grammy Award for Best Classical Vocal Performance
  • Missa Gaia “Mass for the Earth”
Koch International Classics. Also includes music of Stephen Paulus and Samuel Barber.
Oregon Repertory Singers; Gilbert Seeley, conductor
  • Grand Larsen-y: Vocal Music of Libby Larsen
Albany Records
Benton Hess, piano; Terry Rhodes, soprano
  • The Eternal Feminine
Koch International Classics.
Featuring Larsen’s Love After 1950, also includes music of Lisbeth Alexander-Katz, Amy Beach, Lili Boulanger, Rebecca Clarke, Alma Mahler, Clara Wieck Schumann, Elinor Remick Warren
Susanne Mentzer, mezzo-soprano; Craig Rutenberg, piano

References[edit]

  1. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, “Libby Larsen,” in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel. (London, UK: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1994), page 267.
  2. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 173.
  3. ^ “News from the Library of Congress,” <http://www.loc.gov/today/pr/2003/03-067.html>, accessed online December 28, 2012.
  4. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, “Libby Larsen,” in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel. (London, UK: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1994), page 267.
  5. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 173.
  6. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, “Libby Larsen,” in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel. (London, UK: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1994), page 267.
  7. ^ Tina Milhorn Stallard, “Libby Larsen,” in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music, ed. Michael K. Slayton. (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), page 191.
  8. ^ Tina Milhorn Stallard, “Libby Larsen,” in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music, ed. Michael K. Slayton. (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), page 192.
  9. ^ Tina Milhorn Stallard, “Libby Larsen,” in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music, ed. Michael K. Slayton. (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), page 192.
  10. ^ Tina Milhorn Stallard, “Libby Larsen,” in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music, ed. Michael K. Slayton. (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), page 192.
  11. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, "Larsen, Libby," in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/42676>, accessed March 29, 2011.
  12. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 173.
  13. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 174.
  14. ^ “American Composers Forum: Mission and History” <www.composersforum.org/about_mission.cfm>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  15. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 174.
  16. ^ Marilyn Biery. "New Music for Organ at the End of the Twentieth Century: A Series on the Compositions of Six American Composers." The American Organist, July 2000, 76-78.
  17. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, “Libby Larsen,” in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel. (London, UK: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1994), page 267.
  18. ^ DeSmith, Christy. "Loading the Canon." The Rake, November 2005, 57-62.
  19. ^ Sophie Fuller, "The Pandora Guide to Women Composers: Britain and the United States 1629-Present", (San Francisco: Pandora, 1994), page 174.
  20. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, “Libby Larsen,” in The Norton/Grove Dictionary of Women Composers, ed. Julie Ann Sadie & Rhian Samuel. (London, UK: The Macmillan Press Ltd, 1994), page 267.
  21. ^ "Classical: Batons Hint at a Brave New World," USA Today, December 24, 1990, 2D.
  22. ^ "The list of winners." USA Today, sec. The 36th Annual Grammy Awards, March 02, 1994.
  23. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  24. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  25. ^ “Libby Larsen: Biography,” downloaded online <http://libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID=222>, March 24, 2011.
  26. ^ Royce, Graydon. "Minneapolis composer wins Peabody Medal." Star Tribune, May 27, 2010.
  27. ^ "Renowned composer honors Linfield with pair of concerts." News Register, April 13, 2011.
  28. ^ “Libby Larsen: FAQ” <http://libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID=232>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  29. ^ “Libby Larsen: FAQ-Influences” <http://libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID=232>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  30. ^ “Libby Larsen: FAQ-Influences” <http://libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID=232>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  31. ^ Mary Ann Feldman, "Larsen, Libby," in Grove Music Online, Oxford Music Online, <http://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/subscriber/article/grove/music/42676>, accessed March 29, 2011.
  32. ^ “Libby Larsen: FAQ-On Music” <http://libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID=230>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  33. ^ Smith, Ken. "Floating free." Choir and Organ, November/December 2001, 43-35.
  34. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  35. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  36. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  37. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  38. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  39. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  40. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  41. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  42. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  43. ^ “Art and Commitment: Libby Larsen,” <artandcommitment.umn.edu/pdf/larsen_cv.pdf>, accessed online March 24, 2011.
  44. ^ “Composer Libby Larsen Receives Distinguished Minnesotan Award,” <http://www.bemidjistate.edu/publications/horizons/files/archive/summer01.pdf>, accessed online December 21, 2012.
  45. ^ “The Eugene McDermott Award in the Arts: Past Recipients,” <http://arts.mit.edu/mcdermott/past-recipients/>, accessed online December 21, 2012.
  46. ^ "Prolific composer Larsen wins Arts Council award." TechTalk. 48. no. 7 (2003): 7.
  47. ^ “Minnesota Music Hall of Fame: Inductees,” <http://mnmusichalloffame.org/Inductees.html>, accessed online December 21, 2012.
  48. ^ “Libby Larsen Receives George Peabody Medal,” <http://www.ascap.com/playback/2010/05/faces_places/concert/libbylarsen.aspx>, accessed online December 21, 2012.
  49. ^ Tina Milhorn Stallard, “Libby Larsen,” in Women of Influence in Contemporary Music, ed. Michael K. Slayton. (Lanham, MD: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2011), page 233.
  50. ^ Program notes: 36th Annual Seminar on Contemporary Music for the Young, The Rivers School Conservatory, April 4-6 2014
  51. ^ "Libby Larsen: Fantom of the Fair (world premiere)". April 24, 2014.  - At the end of the video clip Larsen herself comes on stage to congratulate the performers.
  52. ^ “Libby Larsen: Featured Recordings,” <libbylarsen.com/index.php?contentID-301>, accessed online March 24, 2011.