I recently began teaching the undergraduate course Orchestration at the University of Huddersfield where I’m also undertaking my PhD in composition. The opportunity to lecture and have considerable autonomy over the coursework and repertoire has granted me the ability to make significant changes to this course. Shared between my fellow PhD candidate, Arash Yazdani, we’ve dedicated a huge amount of time into bringing a more diverse, balanced, and 20th and 21st century component into what has traditionally been a 18th and 19th century white male dominated subject. Reflecting on my own experiences studying orchestration during my Bachelor of Music, it was almost entirely dominated by the narrow and dated linage of Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven, to Brahms, Wagner, and Mahler, ending with a little Stravinsky. In having the opportunity to retell this story, the orchestral trajectory through history, I’ve been able to include composers such as Marianna Martines and Joseph Bologne ‘Chevalier de Saint-Georges’ alongside Joseph Haydn, draw comparisons between Ethel Smyth and Benjamin Britten, illustrate early 20th century Paris using Lili Boulanger and Germaine Tailleferre, look at the conflict between soviet and modernist ideals in Galina Ustvolskaya, and illustrate a growing national identity in the American continent through composers such as Heitor Villa-Lobos, Carlos Chávez, and Florence Price.

This is my first-time teaching orchestration and undoubtedly I will constantly expand upon this repertoire, develop new ways to communicate the trajectory of the orchestral setting, and refine the threads I tie between certain composers and perspectives.

To mark International Women’s Day 2021, I wish to highlight some of the composers and their works which I’ve been able to explore in teaching Orchestration this year. This is not an exhaustive list, but a small selection of some the phenomenal female composers and their works I have covered so far:

Lili Boulanger: Psalm 130

Unsuk Chin: Šu for Sheng and Orchestra

Ruth Crawford Seeger: Music for small orchestra

Chaya Czernowin: Wintersong V – Forgotten light

Louise Farrenc: Overture in E minor, op.23

Sofia Gubaidulina: Patominime for Double Bass and Piano, and the Preludes for solo Double Bass

Liza Lim: Invisibility

(what better way to explore string techniques and timbres than through these two composers!)

Dora Pejačević: Symphony in F# minor, op.41

Julia Perry: Short piece for Orchestra

Florence Price: The Oak

Rebecca Saunders: ‘Alba’ for solo trumpet and orchestra

Ethel Smyth: The Wreckers

Germaine Tailleferre: Image for 8 instruments

Galina Ustvolskaya: Concerto for Piano, Strings, and Timpani

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s