Denise Von Glahn explores the relationship between listening and musical composition focusing on nine American women composers inspired by the sounds of the natural world: Amy Beach, Marion Bauer, Louise Talma, Pauline Oliveros, Joan Tower, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Victoria Bond, Libby Larsen, and Emily Doolittle. Von Glahn situates "nature composing" among the larger tradition of nature writing and argues that, similar, works of these women express deeply held spiritual and aesthetic beliefs about nature. Drawing on a wealth of archival and original source material, Von Glahn skillfully employs literary and gender studies, ecocriticism and ecomusicology, and contemporary musicological thought to tell the stories of these composers who seek to understand nature through music.
1. A Context for Composers: Within the Nature-Writing Tradition
I. Nature as a Summer Home
2. Amy Marcy Cheney Beach (Mrs. H. H. A. Beach)
3. Marion Bauer
4. Louise Talma
II. Nature all Around Us
5. Pauline Oliveros
6. Joan Tower
7. Ellen Taaffe Zwilich
III. Beyond the EPA and Earth Day
8. Victoria Bond
9. Libby Larsen
10. Emily Doolittle
Conclusions: The Repercussions of Listening
Denise Von Glahn is Professor of Musicology and Director of the Center for Music of the Americas in the College of Music at Florida State University. She is author (with Michael Broyles) of Leo Ornstein: Modernist Dilemmas, Personal Choices (2007).
"In nine case studies of American women composers, Von Glahn conveys passionately the connections between life, work, nature, and humanity. She listens so well to these composers’ words and sounds, collaborates so productively with them and with scholars from an impressive array of disciplines, and communicates so effectively to her readers that, were she a composer of sounds rather than words, she would deserve a place alongside the accomplished women to whom she ascribes the same important characteristics of listening, collaboration, and communication. Music and the Skillful Listener is a tour de force from a profoundly engaging thinker. It will be of great interest to anyone who cares about the power of music, the place of women in society, the fate of our planet, and what it means to be American -- and human."
– Aaron S. Allen, University of North Carolina, Greensboro
"In Music and the Skillful Listener, Denise von Glahn combines the knowledge and attention to detail of the musicologist with the curiosity and awe of the naturalist. Von Glahn has produced an eminently readable and unique study."
– Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Composer
"It is no accident that Denise Von Glahn calls her book Music and The Skillful Listener, as this ability is one that she has in abundance. Her active listening and probing interviews reveal the artistic, spiritual and personal essence of each of the nine composers in this book. Although all have found inspiration in the natural world and have focused much of their creativity on it, Von Glahn has extracted the significant differences that make up each individual perspective as well as the common thread that unifies them all. She has composed a theme and variations with words, orchestrating each composer as a human manifestation of infinite variety. "
– Victoria Bond, composer/conductor
"Denise Von Glahn’s illuminating study of the profound relationship between American women composers and the natural world takes readers into previously uncharted terrain. Especially interesting is the way Von Glahn frames these relationships in terms of 'collaborations' between human and non-human. Her book, which spans both place and time, will appeal to musicologists and also to those interested in the intersections of the arts and the environment."
– Tina Gianquitto, author of Good Observers of Nature: American Women and the Scientific Study of the Natural World, 1820-1885
"Denise Von Glahn explores the relationship between listening and musical composition focusing on nine American women composers inspired by the sounds of the natural world. [...] The book will appeal to students and professionals who want to explore a connection between music and nature through a study of selected works by notable female composers [...] Recommended."
"Music and the Skillful Listener [...] offers evocative descriptions of compositions influenced or inspired by nature by nine North American women. It is a very readable book that is appropriate for and will likely appeal to undergraduates and general readers with music-reading skills."
"Music and the Skillful Listener is an engrossing study of an important topic that scholars working in a broad array of fields—including American music, music and place, ecomusicology, ecocriticism, gender and music, and many more – will find enriching and illuminating [...] Scholars pursuing research in these areas or in other related fields will find this book an invaluable resource."
– Women and Music
"Whether to nature itself, to the compositions of these women, or to the words written by Von Glahn, we must stop and listen. Music and the Skillful Listener invites us all to participate and even delight in the undertaking."
– Journal of the Society for American Music