Mildred Couper

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Mildred Couper (December 10, 1887 in Buenos Aires, Argentina – August 9, 1974[1] in Santa Barbara, United States) was a prominent American composer and pianist, and one of the first musicians to experiment with quarter-tone music. She was based in Santa Barbara, California, but her music and influence were felt around the world.


Born as Mildred Cooper, she was educated in Italy, Germany and France, where she studied piano with Moritz Moszkowski and composition with Nadia Boulanger.[2] She was married to American expatriate artist Richard Hamilton Couper, and she spent her early married life in Rome, Italy. At the outbreak of World War I she and her family fled to New York City. There she taught piano for nine years at the David Mannes Music School.

She went to California in 1927 and established a studio in Santa Barbara, where she started her experiments with two pianos by tuning the first a quarter tone higher than the second. This increased the normal 88 pitch levels to 176, expanding so the gamut by a quarter step to emphasize the character of the harmony.[3] The first work in this medium being the ballet Xanadu (1930), which was performed in the production of Eugene O'Neill's Marco Millions in the Lobero Theatre. Besides quarter-tone works, Mildred Couper wrote incidental music for plays at the Lobero and also the Dance-Opera And on Earth Peace, to words by Scottish-Argentine artist Malcolm Thurburn.[4]


  1. ^ "California Death Index, 1940-1997". FamilySearch. Retrieved 26 April 2016. 
  2. ^ Nicole V. Gagné, Historical Dictionary of Modern and Contemporary Classical Music, p.66, Scarecrow Press (2011), ISBN 0810867656
  3. ^ Maurice Hinson, Music for More Than One Piano: An Annotated Guide, p. 42, Indiana University Press (2001), ISBN 0253214572
  4. ^ Catherine Parsons Smith, "Mildred Couper", ed. L. Macy, on Grove Music Online (subscription access). Accessed November 27, 2006

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