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Miriam Gideon

Miriam Gideon

Herkunftsland: Vereinigte Staaten von Amerika
Geburtstag: 23. Oktober 1906
Todestag: 18. Juni 1996

Über Miriam Gideon

The music of Miriam Gideon has had a fairly small but highly enthusiastic following for many years. Throughout her life her name was much more widely known and admired by way of her teaching career and her passionate, unstinting support of contemporary music and musicians. She was only 18 when she graduated from college and moved back to New York. Composing steadily, she found that she was particularly drawn to musical setting of words and around then wrote what she regarded as her first piece "which was truly me." Her heritage — a humanistic father whose field was language and a mother who read poetry to her two girls and instilled a permanent love for this art form — began to make itself felt, and she set out to develop connecting links between words, ideas, emotions, and music which became the hallmarks of her creativity. Upon completing her college degree when she was 18, she continued her studies at New York University and privately while earning her living, first as secretary to a neurologist and soon as a teacher in the now legendary Henry Street Settlement School. One of her teachers in the early thirties was Lazare Saminsky, the Russian-American composer, conductor, and writer on music who had studied composition with Rimsky-Korsakov and Liadov and, on coming to America, was one of the co-founders of the League of Composers and music director of New York's Temple Emanu-El. It was Saminsky who first interested Gideon in music based on scriptural texts, not only for the Hebrew service, but for concert performance. It was also Saminsky who told her of two composers in whom he really believed were about to come to New York to teach: Arnold Schoenberg and Roger Sessions. Gideon chose to work with Sessions whom she found to be enormously supportive and encouraging ("he left it to me to be self-critical"). The Sessions classes took place at the Dalcroze School and were attended by such composers as Hugo Weisgall, Vivian Fine, David Diamond, and even Alfredo Casella who sometimes sat in. Later on, Milton Babbitt and Edward T. Cone joined the group. "In fact, this very room was once used by Sessions as a studio before it became my apartment, and we had a constant parade of students." While she was teaching harmony, counterpoint, composition, and even music history at Brooklyn and City Colleges — "that's when I began to really learn, when I started teaching" she decided to go back to school herself. She enrolled at Columbia and took her master's degree in musicology under the supervision of Paul Henry Lang. Her dissertation was on the Mozart string quintets, even though she is not much of a string player herself ("I said I wasn't going to boast, but I am the world's most ungifted cellist"). The music of Miriam Gideon shows a striking balance between construction and communicativeness, with both elements being immediately perceived by the attentive listener. While she would not be considered a prolific composer, she has over 50 titles to her credit, fairly evenly divided in the earlier years among instrumental, orchestral, and vocal music. As early as 1957, she had already established herself as a serious voice among serious musicians, as evidenced by an article of George Perle's in which he wrote: "To her the inherent ambiguity of pitch-functions in the contemporary tone-material means that one must be more careful than ever, and this sense of the significance of every note pervades her work. A melodic or harmonic idea will recur with one or more individual elements inflected by a semitone, a shade of difference that may or may not have a large structural meaning but that imbues her music with a kind of personal, reflective quality, almost as though the composer's search for the ideal formulation of her thought had become part of the composition itself." In later years, her attraction to text settings came to the fore and she became particularly drawn to composing for voice with small instrumental ensembles. In this category are The Condemned Playground (1963; with words by Horace, Milton, Spokes, Akiya, Baudelaire, Millay),Questions of Nature (1964; Adelard of Bath), Spiritual Madrigals (1965; Ewen, Suezkint von Trimperg, Heine), Rhymes from the Hill (1968; Morgenstern), Nocturnes (1976; Shelley, Untermeyer, Sherman), Songs of Youth and Madness (1977; Hoelderlin), and The Resounding Lyre (1979; a reworking of the Spiritual Madrigals). She often opted for "dual settings," i.e., first composing music for an English text and then setting the words in a different language (as in Milton's translation of Horace's Latin). "It's just the fascination of getting the same idea in two different languages and finding the right clothing to drape on the same skeleton, at the same time resolving this diversity into an integrated whole." In 1975, Miriam Gideon became the second woman composer elected to membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.