Louise Talma

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Louise Juliette Talma (October 31, 1906 – August 13, 1996) was an American composer. Born in Arcachon in France to American parents, she was raised in New York City and studied at the Institute of Musical Arts (Juilliard School) from 1922 to 1930. She received her bachelor of music degree from New York University and masters of arts degree from Columbia University. She studied with Isidor Philipp at the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France, and with Nadia Boulanger every summer from 1926 to 1939. She taught at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

She began composing in a spare neoclassical tonal style featuring static harmonies, short distinct melodies in counterpoint, ostinatos, and pedal points varied through mode, tempo, rhythm, metre, and articulation. Also featured were rhythmic units varied through imitation, augmentation, and diminution.

She began using the twelve tone technique in 1954 after hearing Irving Fine's String Quartet, and returned to a neo-tonal style in her last works of the 1980s and 1990s. She wrote most of her compositions at the MacDowell Colony where she also met composers of the "Boston school", Arthur Berger, Lukas Foss, Irving Fine, Alexei Haieff, Harold Shapero, and Claudio Spies. She provided a bequest for one million dollars for the MacDowell Colony in her will. She died at the Yaddo artists colony.

She was the first woman to receive two Guggenheim Fellowships, to be elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1974), and to receive the Sibelius Medal for composition from the Harriet Cohen International Music Awards in London (1963). She was also the first American woman to have a full-scale opera performed in Germany and the first American to teach at Fontainebleau.[1]

Her works include Song of the Songless (1928), Three Madrigals (1928), Two Dances (1934), In principio erat verbum (1939), Six Etudes (1954), The Alcestiad (1955–1958) an opera with a libretto by Thornton Wilder, Full Circle (1985), Spacings (1994), and A Time to Remember (1966–1967) based on speeches of John F. Kennedy.

A full-length study of Talma's music by musicologist Kendra Preston Leonard, Louise Talma: A Life in Composition, was published in 2014.


  1. ^ Tyranny, "Blue" Gene. Louise Talma at AllMusic. Retrieved 14 November 2012.

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