When I started composing, as an 18 year old in 1990, I knew of few women composers. Those I did know of either had their careers curtailed when they had kids (Clara Schumann, Alma Mahler, Ruth Crawford Seeger), or they didn’t have kids (Pauline Oliveros, Meredith Monk, and the few women composers I knew personally). I thought I might want to have kids one day, and it was scary going into a field in which I knew no role models. But I needed to compose, and any possible kids were a long way off. Certainly I encountered occasional sexism as a student and young composer, but mostly I received great encouragement. My way of participating in the new music world was no different from that of my male contemporaries. I studied, I went to music festivals, I lived abroad, I went to artist residencies, and most of all, I went to lots of concerts, met people, and talked about music late into the night, hatching plans for new musical projects and adventures. It’s 2017 and I’m now a mother myself (kids born in 2012 and 2015), and though my commitment to composing is as strong as ever, I’m starting to understand some of the ways that composers who are mothers intentionally and unintentionally get written out of new music.
Feel like writing an opera is only for big name composers with big budgets? Or are you willing to take the plunge and create a work in one of the most compelling and cutting edge musical forms...an opera?
Almost two years ago I embarked on the largest musical production I have created to date - Libertaria: The Virtual Opera. After writing the award-winning Creation Oratorio and dozens of multimedia works, I wanted to combine my love of the audio and the visual into a single large scale work.
Find a Great Dramatic Story You need a strong story to write a compelling opera. Fortunately you can easily borrow from thousands of public domain works and modernize them. Think of West Side Story (just a contemporary version of Shakespear's Romeo and Juliet). Many great operas use Shakespeare, the Brothers Grimm, and Biblical stories, all of which include interesting characters, strong themes, and action. Libertaria borrows heavily from messianic stories, but is set in the future and changed…