Guerilla Composer Portrait: Gloria Coates
Thursday, January 08, 2015
Maybe if we all ask nicely at the same time, we can convince American composer Gloria Coates to return to the United States. She's lived in Germany since 1969, and it's not too difficult to understand why: the support she gets from ensembles in Europe have facilitated the production of fifteen (!) symphonies, making her the most prolific female symphonist of all time.
Characterized by glissando-dominated textures, microtonal inflections (often achieved with detuned string instruments), and complex canons, Coates's works offer new treasures with repeated listenings. Recent years have seen a bloom of new recordings of her work on the Naxos label, and it was hard to choose just one hour's worth of music by her to share with you.
Of her nine string quartets, the third offers a great introduction to many of Coates's trademark sounds, especially the classic string glissando that seems ubiquitous in her output. Her first symphony, Music on Open Strings, is a journey from mysteriously distempered scales back to standard tuning. The Lyric Suite for piano trio, headed by the phrase "Split the Lark, and you'll find the music" finds her in a rare tonal vein, with some of the most breathtaking music she's ever created.
If you don't know this fascinating and prolific composer, now is the time. Don't miss this show.