In this series, OnMilwaukee checks in with female composers from around the globe who are participating in a rare, women-composed concert put on by Present Music called "In The New Chamber."
It’s no secret that female composers are often overlooked and underemployed. For the first time in it 145-year history, The Met recently commissioned a woman to write an opera. And of the 1,445 classical concerts that will be performed around the world by the end of the year, 95 percent won’t include a single piece composed by a woman.
Present Music – Milwaukee's internationally acclaimed new music ensemble that commissions, performs, records and tours the work of living composers – significantly surpasses this lack of recognition year after year. In 2018 alone, 50 percent of the pieces performed were female-composed.
The ensemble kicks off 2019 with, once again, extremely modern chamber music that’s rarely performed elsewhere. "In The New Chamber" features music entirely from women and non-binary composers living in places from Iceland to Australia.
The concert, curated by Present Music’s Eric Segnitz, takes place Feb. 21-22 in the Jan Serr Studio, 2155 N. Prospect Ave. (6th floor). The shows start at 7:30 p.m.
The Thursday night performance is fancier and includes an intimate reception along with the concert, and the Friday night show is more casual.
OnMilwaukee recently chatted with composer Angélica Negrón, a Puerto Rican composer and multi-instrumentalist who writes music for accordions, robotic instruments, toys and electronics as well as chamber ensembles and orchestras. Her piece "Here" will be performed during "In the New Chamber."
OnMilwaukee: How long have you been a composer?
Angélica Negrón: I’ve been a composer for around 16 years. When I was growing up, I never knew being a composer was a possibility because even though I’d been playing music since I was very young I never saw living composers represented in the repertoire I was playing. I was making music in bands with friends but not necessarily thinking of myself as a composer.
What inspired you to become a composer?
I was inspired to become one after learning there was such a thing as composing from a good friend that was a composition major at the Conservatory of Music in Puerto Rico. Around the same time I started discovering music by Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Bang on a Can, So Percussion, George Crumb, John Cage, Kronos Quartet, Rafael Aponte-Ledeé, Alfonso Fuentes, Francis Schwartz, among others, and my curiosity to explore sounds and create became even greater.
Who are some of your favorite composers?
Ligeti, Bjork, Caroline Shaw, Satie, Meredith Monk, Shostakovich, John Adams, Alberto Iglesias, Jóhann Jóhannsson, Julia Wolfe, Harry Partch, Stravinsky, John Cage, Alberto Ginastera, Sarah Kirkland Snider, Bernard Herrmann, Daniel Wohl and Anna Meredith – among many others.
Why hasn't more female composers' work been recognized or performed?
This is a really good question. I would love to hear from institutions, programmers, orchestras and ensembles about this.
What do you love about composing?
Being able to follow my curiosity, discover new things, collaborate with others, share stories I wouldn’t be able to do with just words and the ability to connect with others I don’t even know.
How would you describe your music?
My music is driven by a deep curiosity of the sounds around me. I like to amplify the sometimes overlooked sounds of our everyday life and make music out of them. The result is often fragile yet intense, repetitive but evolving, playful yet profound and above all honest and open.
For tickets to "In The New Chamber" go here.
Find out more about Angélica Negrón here.
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.