Compare composers

Music has long been an enthrallment not only to our auditory appetite, but to our visual, emotional and even spiritual passion as well - Compare composers introduction. Making music is comparable to making a painting or a pottery, clothes or jewelries, movies and television sitcoms. They all have one thing in common, the need to have an inspiration to get the work done. An inspired composer, musician or lyricist can go a long way, and as history tells us, that indeed they have.

Music has evolved through out time. There have been eras or categories wherein certain music falls under. These categories basically reflect the society, culture and the environment by which the composer or musician was mostly influenced by. There was the Baroque era, the Romantic era, Classical era among many others (Essentials of Music Website).

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The Classical era was said to occur during the year 1750 to 1825. It’s meaning, as defined on the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, is of or relating to music of the late 18th and early 19th centuries characterized by an emphasis on balance, clarity, and moderation. However, with the death of world renowned composers of this era like Mozart and Beethoven, artists of today are striving for the classical music to continue to be alive and enjoyed by this generation and next ones to come.

Today, with the technological advancement and fast-paced progression of all things, it is a struggle to keep this kind of music breathing. The emergence of different genres of pop music, rock music, rap music and even jazz music is very enticing to majority of the people, most especially to the young ones. Even composer Joan Tower sees this as a posing problem. In an interview conducted by Bruce Duffie with her, she mentions that there has been a crucial decline in younger audiences that is why she suggests that at the tender age of 3rd grade, classical music should be introduced to them.

Two of the leading women composers of classical music today, Barbara Kolb and Joan Tower, have been keeping the classical music industry alive. They have both been awarded, commissioned and selected composer-in-residence by different institutions. Their achievements, life works and passion for composing can be attributed to what mostly inspires them and who they write their music for. Both have been around in the industry for more than 70 years, and they still continue to share their gift to the world.

Born in the year 1939 in Connecticut, Barbara Kolb’s music is described Peter Wolrich as seen on the Boston Modern Orchestra Project website as interwoven, impressionistic textures and a freely atonal yet deeply expressive harmonic language. On the other hand, 1938 New York born composer Joan Tower’s music is depicted as energetic and bold, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms on the G. Schirmer Inc. website.

Barbara Kolb’s life works include In Memory of David Huntley, All in Good Time, Songs Before an Adieu, Apello, Cavatina, New York Moonglow, Crosswinds, The Enchanted Loom, Umbrian Colors, Grisaille, Broken Slurs, Introduction and Allegro, Monticello Trio, Three Lullabies, Trobar Clus, amongst many others, forming her 46 compositions in her 69 years here on earth; the complete list of her works can be seen on the Boosey & Hwakes website, which is also her publisher.

Joan Tower’s almost 70 years on earth enabled her to compose 69 wonderful classical compositions. Concerto for Orchestra, For the Uncommon Woman, Fascinating Ribbons, DNA, Big Sky, Copperwave, Clocks, Wild Purple, Valentine Thrills, Can I, Island Prelude, Tambor, Stepping Stones, Sequoia, Silver ladders, to mention a few, the complete list can be viewed at the G. Schirmer website. She is officially published by Associated Music Publishers.

Both composers have pristine educational backgrounds. Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) asserts that Barbara Kolb was educated at the Hartt College of music, University of Hartford, while Joan Tower finished her doctorate degree at Columbia University (Naxos website). Tower has been teaching in the academe for more than 30 years already, namely in Bard College, as an Asher Edelman Professor of Music (G. Schirmer website). In contrast to Tower’s consistent teaching position, Kolb was a visiting professor in 1984 to 1985 at the Eastman School of Music and in 1986 she was able to conceive a music theory instruction program for the blind and physically impaired, as mentioned in the BMOP website.

These women are both multi-awarded and have been granted commissions and given fellowships. Barbara Kolb acquires a total of 9 fellowships: 4 from MacDowell, Tanglewood gives her 3, and Guggenheim bequeaths 2 (BMOP website). Joan Tower’s fellowships include one from the McDowell Colony Fellowship, three from the National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, and also one from Guggenheim (The President’s Own website). Both have received awards of great distinction, Kolb is the first woman to receive the American Prix de Rome award on music composition as declared in the BMOP website, whereas Tower takes the Grawemeyer Award in 1990, also the first woman composer to receive it (G. Schirmer website).

Commissions seem to be an everyday thing for these two, as they have received numerous successful ones. To name a few, Kolb has been commissioned by the Washington Performing Arts Society, the New York State Council on the Arts, the Fromm Foundation, and the Music Teacher’s National Association, all of which took place in the 1970s, as cited in the BMOP website. Tower made a feat when she was chosen as the first composer to receive a Ford Made in America commission, as stated in the G. Schirmer website, also a milestone for her is that her compositions won in the 2008 Grammy Awards, namely as Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

According to the W. W. Norton website, Joan Tower’s main inspiration, which is her upbringing in South America, made it possible for her musical creations to com to life. No wonder the New Yorker magazine dubs her as one of the most successful woman composers of all time. Also, she had a baton waving career that made it possible for her to appreciate music more. To further her studies, Kolb, on the other hand, was awarded the Fullbright Scholarship in Vienna for one year (BMOP website).

Their compositions have not only débuted in the United States, but also around the Globe. Among these are Kolb’s Millefoglie, which premiered in Paris in the 1980s, but was also performed in Amsterdam, Cologne, Helsinski to name a few (BMOP website). Sequoia is Tower’s first orchestral masterpiece, but it quickly stole the limelight as it was performed by various ensembles in St. Louis, San Francisco, Tokyo NHK, the National Symphony, to name a few (G. Schirmer website).

There comes a time in one’s career when an individual knows that he or she has reached a certain amount of fame. This can be proven in such a way that one’s work has been performed by not only one, but more than that. Kolb’s Voyants is her most widely performed work, according to the BMOP website. Voyants was first presented on stage at Paris and had its U.S.A. debut a year later and was also performed in Austrian radio and in Rome (BMOP website). Meanwhile, Tower’s most famous composition would probably those which won her the Grammy Awards, Tambor, Made in America, and Concerto for Orchestra.

            Both of them have also been involved in in-house projects or composer-in-residence projects. Kolb is Providence, Rhode Island for her composer-in-residence grant, according to Meet the Composer website. Here, she will be tasked to work on a couple of things like composing original music for certain people, organizations and events in Rhode Island. This will take place for three years. Tower’s composer-in-resident project took place for ten years with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s, as mentioned in the G. Schirmer website.

            With all of their achievements and their contributions to the musical society, these two women indeed deserve everything good in life. Even at their age of 70, both women are still currently active. Kolb is at present engaged in her composer-in-resident project as aforementioned, and Tower is still a faculty at Bard College.

            Music, whether or not it’s the type that we enjoy and love, will always exist here in our world. They are made by the people who want to share their inspiration, talent and gift to us. Making music is not an easy task; it takes a lot of passion, devotion and effort to make. So the least we can do is appreciate what composers like Barbara Kolb and Joan Tower have done. They have been awarded a lot, they are recognized as the best of their times. And they have their own style, and their music is unique. Truly, we can say that even if they have made music under the same genre and they were only born a year apart, they still had different takes on it.

            Music is inspiring, it’s creativity in how it is made is beyond doubt remarkable. Both composers maybe vying for one title, but I would have to conclude their competition already, they are both winners. They have both done remarkable jobs, and they both deserve to be recognized and acknowledged.


Boosey & Hawkes. (2008). Barbara Kolb Work List. Retrieved July 8, 2008 from

Boston Modern Orchestra Project. (n/a). Barbara Kolb. Retrieved July 8, 2008 from

classical. (2008). In Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

Essentials of Music. (2001). Eras Online.  Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

Duffie, Bruce. (April 1987). Joan Tower The composer in conversation with Bruce Duffie. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

G. Schirmer, Inc. (2006). Joan Tower. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

G. Schirmer, Inc. (2006). Joan Tower Work List. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

Meet the Composer. (2008). New Residences Round VIII. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

Naxos. (2008). Joan Tower Biography. Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

The President’s Own United States Marine Band. (2008). Hall of Composers Joan Tower.  Retrieved July 8, 2008, from

W. W. Norton & Company. (n/a). Joan Tower.  Retrieved July 8, 2008, from


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