Kate Soper (composer)

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Kate Soper (born 1981) is a composer and vocalist, notable for her innovative treatment of the vocal mechanism. Her work as both a composer and performer explores the dramatic and affective qualities of the human voice, capitalizing on extended vocal and instrumental techniques. She was a recent Guggenheim Fellow as well as a 2012-13 fellow of the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.[1]


Soper was born and raised in Ann Arbor, Michigan and studied piano through the University of Michigan Piano Pedagogy Program. She holds a D.M.A. from Columbia University and a B.M. from Rice University. Early musical activities include frequent performances as a piano-based singer songwriter, study of Indian Carnatic vocal music, and extensive work in the theatre as a sound designer and composer.


Soper’s music is notable for its engagement with rhetoric and theatricality. Her vocal writing incorporates spoken and sung pitches, overtones and unique tuning systems, imitation and adaptation of instrumental timbres and effects, and extended techniques such as abrupt register changes, alternative and mixed singing styles, reverse phonation, and resonance changes. Frequent subjects include the treachery of language and the authenticity/inauthenticity of expression in music, and she has set original texts as well as writings by Lydia Davis, Jorie Graham, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Pietro Bembo, Plato, Freud, André Breton, Christian Bök, and Matha Collins, among others.

In addition to composing, Soper performs frequently as a new music soprano in her own works and the works of others, and many of her vocal works were developed with herself in mind as performer. Her compositional style has been deemed “exquisitely quirky” [2] with “seamless commingling of not only lines but of actual instrumentation and fingering with another player." [3]


Notable recent commissions for work as a performer/composer include a 2012 Guggenheim fellowship for a one-act opera with original libretto, Here Be Sirens, a Koussevitsky Commission for a music theatre work performed with Alarm Will Sound, and now is forever for soprano and orchestra from the American Composers Orchestra.

Wet Ink[edit]

Since 2006, Soper has served as Managing Director and vocalist for Wet Ink, a New York-based new music ensemble founded in 1998 and dedicated to the presentation of programs of new music, with a focus on creating, promoting, and organizing American music. In addition to a New York concert season featuring many of the city's notable freelancers, Wet Ink regularly performs with a subset of the group, the Wet Ink Band, created to facilitate touring and residencies. Alongside fellow composer/directors Alex Mincek (saxophone/ founding member), Sam Pluta (electronics), Eric Wubbels (piano), and performers Ian Antonio (percussion), Erin Lesser (founding member, flute), and Joshua Mondey (violin), Soper frequently tours, performs with, and writes for with the Wet Ink Band. Her large-scale monodrama for the group, Voices from the Killing Jar, was released on Carrier Records in 2014.

Awards and fellowships[edit]

Soper has also received awards from The American Academy of Arts and Letters and the Music Theory Society of New York State, as well as two honorable mentions from the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Awards (2003 and 2011).

List of works[edit]


  • Now is forever (soprano and orchestra), 2012-2013
  • The Crito (soprano and percussion), 2012
  • Only the words themselves mean what they say (soprano and flute), 2010-2011
  • cipher (soprano and violin), 2011–12[8]
  • Nadja (soprano and string quartet), upcoming 2013
  • Voices from the Killing Jar (voice, flute, sax/clarinet, piano, violin/trumpet, piano, electronics), 2010–12
  • Helen Entfettered (soprano, mezzo-soprano, clarinet, trumpet, piano, violin, viola, cello, contrabass), 2009[9]
  • Door (voice, flute, saxophone, electric guitar, accordion), 2007
  • Songs for Nobody (two sopranos and alto), 2006
  • What you think of in the city (baritone, viola, cello), 2002


  • Circuit breaker (bass trombone and orchestra), 2010
  • Entre les Calanques (orchestra; original chamber version with flute, cello, bassoon, two horns, three violins, three violas, two cellos, two contrabasses), 2010
  • Nine Rakes (wind orchestra), 2007
  • The door in the wall (flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, trumpet, tn, piano, two percussionist, two violins, viola, cello, contrabass), 2011, revised 2012
  • What makes it go (flute, oboe, two clarinets, bassoon, horn, trumpet, tn, piano, percussion, two violins, viola, cello, contrabass; original version with three violins, three violas, three cellos, three contrabasses) 2010, original version 2008
  • As the Crow Flies (flute, clarinet, two saxophones, horn, trumpet, trombone, electric guitar, accordion, piccolo, violin, viola, cello, contrabass), 2007
  • Didcas (brass septet), 2006
  • Crosshatch (flute, clarinet, horn, trumpet, trombone, piccolo, violin, viola, cello, contrabass), 2005
  • In the Reign of Harad IV (amplified percussion trio), upcoming, 2013
  • Wolf (piano four hands and two percussionists), 2010
  • The Sleep Side (clarinet, trumpet, piano, and percussion), 2010
  • I had a Slow Thought on a Hard Day (alto saxophone and accordion), 2008
  • Into that World Inverted (horn and piano), 2006, revised 2010
  • Purl (flute and percussion), 2006
  • Knock (solo percussion), 2006


  • I Was Here I Was I (singers and chamber orchestra), 2014
  • Here be Sirens (three voices, piano), 2014


  • Five One-liners (tape), 2003


  1. ^ "Kate Soper's Official Website". 
  2. ^ Kozinn, Alan (June 17, 2010). "Where Composers Lend Their Voices". New York Times. Retrieved November 21, 2012. 
  3. ^ Grella, George (June 12, 2012). "The Product of One's Own Hands". Classical TV Blog. Retrieved November 22, 2012. 
  4. ^ Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. Fellows: Kate Soper. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  5. ^ John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Fellows: Kate Soper. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  6. ^ The Lili Boulanger Memorial Fund at the University of Massachusetts 2010. Current Winner: Kate Soper. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  7. ^ Fromm Music Foundation. Past winners. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  8. ^ Kozinn, Allan (29 January 2012). "New Music Opens a New Hall in a Venerable Building". New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2012.
  9. ^ Kozinn, Allan (12 May 2009). "Composers and Performers, Together as Creators". New York Times. Retrieved 3 December 2012.