Helmut Walcha was a gifted organist, improviser, and composer! He would play Evensong every week at his church for free, the Dreikönigskirche in Frankfurt, where the audience would consist of only six or so of us students. When he would give a public recital that had a hefty ticket price, the church was packed.— Barbara Harbach
The most vibrant Barbara Harbach quotes to discover and learn by heart
The culture of suppressing women composers and performers goes centuries back in Germany and other countries. Just think of Fanny Mendelssohn and the struggles she and many other women had to endure to get their music recognized. How many women's compositions were left to languish in attics, only to be thrown out by future generations! So much has been lost over the centuries.
I thought I wanted to be a performing and recording artist, and played many recitals and performances beginning in the 1970s. In the 1980s I went to the British Library and ordered and received reels of historical women and men keyboard composers, and thus was born Vivace Press.
I should mention that I took piano lessons beginning when I was four.
My mother was my first teacher, and it was a wonderful way to bond with her. She was a terrific supporter of my musical career. I knew I wanted to be in music since I began lessons, and I enjoy the various facets that my career has led me.
I think I was drawn to the harpsichord because of the similarity of touch between the harpsichord and the tracker organ. When you press a key on the harpsichord, the pluck of the string gives a slight resistance similar to the feel of depressing a key on a tracker organ. Also, harpsichordists and organists use much less wrist and body motion than pianists, and we do not need the upper body muscles required by pianists.
Who can forget the music of the French composer Germaine Tailleferre? These are just a few composers whose aesthetic ideals we all share, and there are many more women creators writing stunning and exciting music, and I wish I had space to list them all!
I do have to admit that teaching, composing, and editing is a bit easier than sitting at the organ or harpsichord for seven straight hours, but I do love to do it anyway! I have found my career changing over the years.
As all creative people, we have our optimistic side and a darker side.
Yes, I would say that I am more optimistic than not. I have written some very lush pieces when I was at low ebb, and some highly energized pieces when carrying a great sadness. It seems that I am getting more optimistic as I get older - life is a lot of fun!
I have written six symphonies, they are smaller-scale works.
I seem to emit my themes, work them out, combine and intertwine them, and then come to a close. I usually feel that there are no superfluous extras, but probably most composers feel that way about their works.
I was fortunate enough to take classes with Mel Powell at Yale University as well as a semester with Sam Adler at the Eastman School of Music. From Mel I learned to appreciate improvisatory ingenuity and from Sam rhythmic athleticism.
I am a morning person and start work, whether composing, rehearsing, preparing syllabi/tests, or proofing an article or manuscript, early in the morning before the flood of e-mails, phone calls and disturbances, usually by my four cats! I like to do projects that I can become passionate about - women in the arts and mentoring students. Like all of us, if we enjoy what we are doing, it's not work, and we might even get paid for it!
Thankfully, it is getting better for women composers.
We now have five women Pulitzer Prize winners in music since 1983: Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, Shulamit Ran, Melinda Wagner, Jennifer Higdon, and Caroline Shaw. When Marin Alsop was asked what it felt like to conduct the Last Night of the Proms, she said, "I am exceedingly proud to be 'the first' but I am also a bit shocked that there can still be firsts for women in 2013!"
In some ways, it is difficult for contemporary composers to find an audience.
Both men and women would love a culture that embraced and hungered for new music, as they did in the Classical period. I tell my students that they should just keep writing, write what pleases you, and don't worry about what people or critics may think about your music.
In spite of all the cultural restrictions, in spite of marital or political difficulties, a strong woman continues to create and makes the world go round, such as Abigail Adams and Alexandra Bergson, Harriet Scott, and Emily Dickinson all did. History is full of women creators in the arts, many of whom created under oppressive circumstances.
For my qualifying concert, Helmut Walcha would not coach Charles-Marie Widor or any American compositions. In his defense, his forte was Germanic composers, and his forte was really a fortissimo!
For some reason I seem to absorb the landscape and cultures where I am planted.
A State Divided Symphony was inspired by the 150th anniversary of Missouri's entry into the Civil War.
Is there a gender gap in the music industry? It is true that there are more professional male music creators than female. For some reason, it's taking a lot longer in music than in literature and the visual arts to reach equilibrium. It was almost acceptable by the 19th century for female writers to be published, yet it's only in the last couple of decades, since about 1980, that historical female composers have really emerged.
Men have been in the forefront of music for centuries, and they have written glorious music, loved and appreciated by many. In some ways, men are still in the forefront. There is a lot of room for composers of all types of music by both men and women, nowadays.
The first part of my career was indeed as a performer and recording artist, and I am still keenly involved with both. While rummaging around in the British Library, I found many delightful and interesting compositions by 18th-century men and women composers.