Elaine Barkin

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Elaine Barkin née Radoff (b. 15 December 1932) is an American composer, writer, and educator.

Photograph of composer Elaine Barkin taken in 2005, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

Early life[edit]

Elaine Radoff was born in The Bronx, New York City, lived in the Amalgamated Houses, attended Bronx High School of Science, Third Street Music School Settlement, and Queens College (BA in 1954), where she studied composition and theory with Karol Rathaus, Sol Berkowitz, Leo Kraft, and Saul Novack. At Brandeis University (MFA in 1956, PhD in 1971), her mentors in composition and theory were Irving Fine, Harold Shapero, Arthur Berger, and Seymour Shifrin. Summer 1955, she worked with Boris Blacher at Tanglewood and then at the Berlin Hochschule für Musik, 1956–57 on a Fulbright fellowship.[1][2]

In 1963, Barkin was asked by Benjamin Boretz, founding editor of the composers' journal Perspectives of New Music, to join in as an editorial assistant.[citation needed] In 1972 she served as co-editor and when John Rahn became editor in 1984, she remained on for a year as advisory editor.


Barkin taught music appreciation, music theory, and composition at Queens College (1964–69), the University of Michigan (1970–74), Princeton University (Spring 1974, Council of the Humanities Fellowship), and the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), 1974–97. She also taught at Sarah Lawrence College (1969); National Chiao Tung University, Taiwan (May 1989); Victoria University Wellington, New Zealand (Spring 1994); and the Institute for Shipboard Education's Semester at Sea (Fall 1996). Barkin's compositional output includes works for: solo instruments, chamber ensembles, and orchestra; 4-track tape collages; solo voice and chorus; Balinese and Javanese gamelan; dancers and multi-media theater, including a chamber opera; graphic scores and scenarios for improvisation; symphonic wind ensemble; electronic-midi media.

In the 1980s Barkin's interests turned to collaborative endeavors, real-time interactive music-making, out of which emerged UCLA's Experimental Workshop. She joined UCLA's Javanese and Balinese Gamelan ensembles and made 5 trips to Bali and Java to study new music for gamelan under the auspices of a University of California Pacific Rim Research Grant with colleagues Linda Burman-Hall, Sue Carole DeVale, and David Cope. In 1989 Barkin, Benjamin Boretz and James K. Randall co-founded the OPEN SPACE Music publications series.[citation needed]

Barkin has published books and professional articles in journals including Perspectives of New Music.[3][4]

Personal life[edit]

In 1957 she married George J. Barkin. They have three sons: Victor (b. 1958), Jesse (b. 1961), and Gabriel (b. 1963).[citation needed]

Works list[edit]

Principal Compositions:

  • Four Short Pieces for Piano (1955)
  • Chaconne Variations for Orchestra (MFA; 1956)
  • Essay for Orchestra (1957)
  • Refrains flute, clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello, celeste (1967)
  • Six Compositions for Piano (1968)
  • String Quartet (PhD; 1969)
  • Plus ca change string orchestra & percussion (1971)
  • PRIM Cycles flute, clarinet, violin, violoncello (1972)
  • Sound Play solo violin (1974)
  • Mixed Modes bass clarinet, violin, viola, violoncello, piano (ISCM-NYSCA commission) (1975)
  • For Suite's Sake harpsichord (for Fred Hammond) (1975)
  • Inward & Outward Bound chamber orchestra (1975)
  • String Trio (1976)
  • Plein Chant solo alto flute (for Anahid Nazarian) (1977)
  • EbbTide two vibraphones (1977)
  • Two Emily Dickinson Choruses for Donn Weiss & the UCLA Madrigal Singers (1977)
  • "...the supple suitor..." song cycle, Emily Dickinson texts; mezzo-soprano, flute, oboe, violoncello, harpsichord/piano, vibraphone/bells (NEA commission) (1978)
  • "...the sky..." SSA & piano; e. e. cummings' texts for Robert Tusler & the UCLA Women's Choral Society (1978)
  • De Amore mini-opera based on love texts from the 12th to the 20th century, 4 female, 4 male speaker-singers, viola, guitar, harp, contrabass, slides Rockefeller Foundation Study Center, Bellagio, Italy and MacDowell Colony Residencies (April & May 1980)
  • Media Speak theater piece about nuclear technology, 9 speakers, tape, saxophone, masks, & slides – Millay Colony for the Arts (1981)
  • N.B. Suite flutes, contrabass – UCLA College of Fine Arts commission; for Nancy & Bertram Turetzky (1982)
  • At the piano solo piano – written for Gloria Cheng (1982)
  • "...to piety more prone..." theater piece, 4 women readers, 4-track tape collage (1982)
  • Anonymous was a woman 4-track tape collage, for dancer Annamaura Silverblatt (1984)
  • Still Life :CPEBS jazz baritone saxophone, vibraphone – for Carl Pritzkat (1984)
  • On the way to becoming 4-track tape collage on original text (1985)
  • Past is part of 4-track tape collage on original text (1985)
  • 3 Rhapsodies flutes, clarinet – for Catherine Schieve and Robert Paredes (1986)
  • OutBack; 4-track tape collage – for Peggy Circerska and 2 dancers (1987)
  • Anything Goes – in memoriam Abraham Schwadron; 4-track tape collage (1987)
  • Encore for Javanese Gamelan (1988)
  • "...out of the air..." basset horn, tape – written for Georgina Dobree (1989)
  • To Whom It May Concern #2 4-track tape collage; textline by Ben Boretz (1989)
  • Legong Dreams solo oboe (1990)
  • Social Contracts theater piece, texts, five improvising players (1990)
  • Exploring the Rigors of In Between & Coming Apart at the Seams flute, French horn, violin, viola, violoncello (Southern California Music Librarians Association commission) (1991)
  • Kotekan Jam conceived for the University of Oregon's Pacific Rim Balinese Gamelan (1991)
  • continuous texts designed to stimulate interactive music-making (1992)
  • Gamelange harp, mixed gamelan, hand percussion – written for Sue DeVale and the UCLA New Music Gamelan Band (1993)
  • “...for my friends' pleasure...” harp & soprano – written for Sue DeVale and Amy Catlin-Jairazbhoy, texts by Sappho, Sue DeVale, bell hooks, Santal girl, Emily Dickinson (1995)
  • Touching all Bases/Di Mana-mana collaboratively composed with I Nyoman Wenten for Basso Bongo & Gamelan; Meet the Composer Commission (1996)
  • Lagu Kapal Kuning (“Song of the Yellow Boat”) for Balinese Gamelan Angklung (1996)
  • Poem for Tom Lee and the UCLA Symphonic Wind & Percussion Ensemble (1999)
  • Song for Sarah solo violin – written for and with Mark Menzies (2001)
  • Ode 16 woodwinds and percussion (2001–02)
  • Ballade solo violoncello and voice (2002–04)
  • Tambellan Suite for Ron George and his Tambellan (2003–04)
  • Warna/Colors for Balinese & Javanese Gamelan, in memoriam Leonard Stein (2003)
  • Purnama, Cut Short, Step by Step, From the Abbeys Midi pieces (2004)
  • Faygele's Footsteps midi dulcimer, sitar, gamelan, harp, piano (2005)
  • Inti Sari for Loyola Marymount's Gamelan Angklung (2005)
  • Easy Pieces for Harp for Sue Carole DeVale (2005–06)
  • Piano Suite [Prelude, Umbrella Steps, Sara's Dance, When the Wind Blows] (2007)
  • 5 Little Machine Pieces [Barely There, Whorl, IF, ShadowPlay, Ending] (2007–08)
  • Violin Duo & 3 Little Violin Duets (2007)
  • 6 Pieces for Piano (2008)
  • XTET: Last Dance for Milton midi pianos, celesta, harpsichord, organ, drum set – for the OPEN SPACE/Perspectives of New Music Milton Babbitt Memorial CD (2011)
  • Fidl Trio (+1) (in memoriam Paul Des Marais) 2 violins, contrabass + (2012)

Publishers: Mobart Music; Association for the Promotion of New Music; American Gamelan Institute; Yelton-Rhodes Music < www.yrrmusic.com >

RECORDINGS: Cassettes, CDs, and VIDEOS:

  • String Quartet, Composers Recordings, Inc./New World Records, NWCRL 338 (American Composers Alliance Recording Award, 1974).
  • Two Dickinson Choruses, Composers Recordings, Inc./New World Records, NWCRL 482.
  • Plein Chant, Composers Recordings, Inc./New World Records, NWCRL 513. Participant on two INTER/PLAY tape cassettes: #10 & #32.
  • 5 Tape Collage Pieces, Anonymous was a Woman, on the way to becoming, past is part of, Out Back, & To Whom it May Concern #2, OPEN SPACE CD 3.
  • ee2: A Sound Album: Sounds Words Music Collages by Elaine Barkin, Tildy Bayar, Renee Coulombe, and collaborators, OPEN SPACE CD 12.
  • Electronic, Instrumental and Vocal Music by Elaine Barkin, Emma Carle, Judith Exley, Mara Helmuth, OPEN SPACE CD 16.
  • 4 MIDI Pieces on JK Randall 3-CD set, OPEN SPACE CD 21.
  • Elaine Barkin: Blanc, Midi Suite, Violin Duo; Dorota Czerner, reading her own poetry, OPEN SPACE CD 24.
  • Song for Sarah, XTET, Aria for harp, ERB for AVB's 65th; poetry of / read by Dorota Czerner; music of Benjamin Boretz, OPEN SPACE CD 29.
  • New Music in Bali (a video featuring rehearsals and performances of music of 3 Balinese composers, edited by ERB & Grace M) (1993)
  • New Music in Bali; cassette with music of 3 Balinese Composers, produced by Elaine Barkin and Linda Burman-Hall, (UC Pacific Rim Grant) (1994).
  • I Wayan Ssuweca: “It All Comes from Inside” Balinese Master Musician (a video edited by ERB & Grace M) (1994)

Books and Articles:

  • File: a collection (texts, photos, graphics by Elaine Barkin, JK Randall, Robert Paredes, Jane Coppock, Benjamin Boretz), 1987.
  • e/an anthology : music texts & graphics (1975–1995) (endpaper by Benjamin Boretz), OPEN SPACE, 1997.
  • Audible Traces: gender, identity and music. Edited by Elaine Barkin & Lydia Hammesley. Carciofoli Press, 1999.

Barkin has published reviews, analyses, speculative texts, interviews, commentaries, and graphics in: Perspectives of New Music, Musical Quarterly, Music Review, Contemporary Music Newsletter, Journal of Music Theory, Balungan, Journal of the Arnold Schoenberg Institute, American Music, Grove Dictionary of American Music and GROVE Online, Sonus, Intercultural Music, News of Music, G.E.M.S. online journal, the Journal of the International Alliance for Women in Music, and The Open Space Magazine.


  1. ^ Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers (Digitized online by GoogleBooks). ISBN 9780393034875. Retrieved 22 January 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  2. ^ Pendle, Karin (1999). American Women Composers: Volume 16.
  3. ^ "Biographical details". Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 22 January 2011. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  4. ^ Ammer, Christine (2001). Unsung: a history of women in American music.

Further reading[edit]

  • Ammer, Christine (2001). Unsung: a history of women in American music.
  • Edwards, J. Michelle (1984; 2011). GROVE Dictionary of American Music, 1984; 2012.
  • Pendle, Karin (1999). American Women Composers: Volume 16. 1. "Biographical details". Retrieved 22 January 2011.
  • Rahn, John (1989, 'New Research Paradigms', Music Theory Spectrum, xi/1), 84–94
  • Sadie, Julie Anne; Samuel, Rhian (1994). The Norton/Grove dictionary of women composers.
  • Sobaskie, James W. Review of OS CD 3, Computer Music Journal 25.1, 2001.
  • “Writings and Reflections for Elaine Barkin”, The OPEN SPACE Magazine, issue 6, 2004, pp. 67–153.