Ruth Anderson (composer)

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Ruth Anderson
Portrait of Ruth Anderson Composer.png
Portrait of Ruth Anderson by Manny Albam
Born(1928-03-21)March 21, 1928
Kalispell, Montana, United States
DiedNovember 29, 2019(2019-11-29) (aged 91)
OccupationOrchestrator, composer, teacher
Known forElectronic music

Ruth Anderson (March 21, 1928 – November 29, 2019)[1] was an American composer, orchestrator, teacher, and flutist.


Ruth Anderson was born March 21, 1928, in Kalispell, Montana. She was a composer of orchestral and electronic music. Her extensive education spanned two decades, and was spent at eight different institutions. Throughout this time, Anderson was the recipient of a multitude of awards and grants, including two Fulbright awards (1958–60) to study composition with Darius Milhaud and Nadia Boulanger in Paris. After completing her education, Anderson spent time as a freelance composer, orchestrator, and choral arranger for NBC-TV, and later for Lincoln Center Theater.

Post-secondary education[edit]

She was a "respected electronic composer"[4] whose works have been released on the Opus One label, Charles Amirkhanian's "pioneering"[5] LP anthology New Music for Electronic and Recorded Media (1977), New World/CRI, Arch Records, and Experimental Intermedia (XI). Further work is scheduled to be released on Arc Light in 2020.


Anderson composed for a wealth of instruments and ensembles, including orchestra, flute, and electronic music. Her sound poem I Come Out of Your Sleep (revised and recorded on Sinopah 1997 XI) is constructed from speech sounds in Louise Bogan's poem "Little Lobelia." According to the composer "a very soft dynamic level is an integral component of this piece. It is important to listen to it in the way it was composed, near the threshold of hearing." (liner notes) Her collage piece SUM (State of the Union Message) is included on the Lesbian American Composers collection (1998 CRI: 780). SUM and DUMP [6](1970), also a sonic collage, are her best known pieces.[7] She calls her study of Zen, begun in 1990, "a natural extension of my music," and cites as influential, especially on her interest in music and healing, composers Pauline Oliveros and Annea Lockwood.[7]

Anderson received degrees in flute and composition at the University of Washington and later studied with Darius Milhaud and Nadia Boulanger in the 1950s and with Vladimir Ussachevsky and Pril Smiley in the 1960s at the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Center. She wrote that after her exposure to tape manipulation she became open to the potential of, "all material for music". She joined the staff at Hunter College (CUNY) in 1966 and created the electroacoustic music center there after being fired and rehired at the new Hunter College facilities in 1968.[7]

Anderson composed dozens of pieces for a variety of groups; below are some selections of her works.[8]

Title Composition Date Instrumentation
Symphony for small orchestra 1952 Orchestra
Prelude and allegro 1952 Woodwind quintet
Sonata 1951 Flute and piano
Impression IV 1950 Soprano, flute, and string quartet
Prelude and rondo (dance score) 1956 Flute and strings
Conversations 1974 Tape
Sappho 1975 Tape
Wheel on the Chimney 1965 Slide film score and orchestra
Motet, psalm XIII 1952 Mixed choir
Song to my father 1959 Women's voices and piano
Three children's songs 1952 Soprano and piano
Sonatina 1951 Flute and piano
Richard Cory 1960 Women's voices and piano
The pregnant dream 1958 Tape
SUM (State of the Union Message) 1973 Tape


  1. ^ Steve, Smith (December 18, 2019). "Ruth Anderson, Pioneering Electronic Composer, Dies at 91". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2019-12-20. Retrieved December 20, 2019.
  2. ^ Encyclopedia of Lesbian Histories and Cultures, Bonnie Zimmerman (ed.), Routledge (2012); OCLC 877845385
  3. ^ "Couple Weds in Outdoor Ceremony," The Daily Inter Lake (Kalispell, Montana), August 24, 1958, pg. 5 (accessible via; fee required)
  4. ^ "America's Women Composers: Up from the Footnotes". Author(s): Jeannie G. Pool. Source: Music Educators Journal, Vol. 65, No. 5 (Jan. 1979), pp. 28-41. Published by: MENC: The National Association for Music Education. Stable URL: Accessed: 27 June 2008 16:44.
  5. ^ Zurbrugg, Nicholas, ed (2004). Art, Performance, Media: 31 Interviews. Introduction to "Charles Amirkhanian", p.17. ISBN 0-8166-3832-2.
  6. ^ Leidecker, Jon (2009). Variations #3: The Approach . An online radio series on the history of sampling. Barcelona, Ràdio Web MACBA.
  7. ^ a b c Elizabeth Hinkle-Turner. Women Composers and Music Technology in the United States, p.29. Published 2006. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. 301 pages. ISBN 0-7546-0461-6.
  8. ^ I., Cohen, Aaron (1987). International encyclopedia of women composers (2nd edition, revised and enlarged ed.). New York: Books & Music (USA), Inc. ISBN 0961748524. OCLC 16714846.

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