Women Composers Wednesday

#WomenCrushWednesday #WomenComposersWednesday is a video series on my instagram page and YouTube channel. I’ll discuss who they were, what they had to fight through to make their music, and some of their music that deserves to be programmed regularly. This page is where I will post links to sheet music, recordings, and other resources.

Delia Derbyshire

May 5th, 1937 – July 1st, 2001
Delia Derbyshire was a pioneer of British electronic music – she created the Dr. Who original theme song (used for 17 years) and the first purely electronic dance track!

Highlighted on September 30th, 2020.

Check out Margit van der Zwan’s portraits of Delia Derbyshire, part of the Music Theory Examples by Women Composer’s poster collection.

Creating the Theme | Radiophonic Workshop | Doctor Who: This video interview with Delia herself discusses the creation of the Dr. Who theme song.
Delia Derbyshire interview with BBC Radio Scotland (1997): This video is the longest recorded discussion with Delia we have, and includes some samples of her incredible work.
The Delian Mode – Delia Derbyshire documentary: This 2009 documentary by Kara Blake discusses Delia’s brilliant innovation, and has video clips of Delia working!
Delia Derbyshire – Dance from ‘Noah’: One of Delia’s purely-electronic dance tracks!

Florence Price

April 9th, 1887 – June 3rd, 1953
On June 5th 1933, Florence Price became the first black woman composer to have a Symphony performed by a major US orchestra (with the Chicago Symphony premiering her Symphony in E Minor).

Highlighted on September 9th, 2020.

Margaret Bonds

March 3rd, 1913 – April 26th, 1972
On June 15th, 1933, Margaret Bonds became the first black soloist with the Chicago Symphony, performing John Alden Carpenter’s Piano Concertino.

Highlighted on September 9th, 2020.

Check out Margit van der Zwan’s portraits of Florence Price and Margaret Bonds, part of the Music Theory Examples by Women Composer’s poster collection.

Florence Price’s Symphonies No. 1 in E Minor and 4 in D Minor” composed in the years 1931-32 and 1945 (respectively). The E Minor Symphony was premiered by the Chicago Symphony in 1933, but the D Minor Symphony was not performed during her lifetime. This recording features the Fort Smith Symphony, conducted by John Jeter.
You can view a PDF of the E Minor Symphony score here on ISSUU.
Margaret Bonds’ The Negro Speaks of Rivers, composed in 1942. Bonds showed this piece to Nadia Boulanger, who then indicated she had nothing left to learn. This recording features Darryl Taylor, countertenor, and Dr. Maria Thomas Corley, piano.
The work was published in 1942, meaning that it should be public domain as of 2012, but it is available for purchase for $5 from Handy Brothers Music Company.
Margaret Bonds’ Montgomery Variations composed in 1964. The work was premiered (almost five decades after her passing) on December 6th, 2018 by the UConn Symphony Orchestra with Paul McShee conducting.
Dr. Karen Walwyn discusses how the titles of Florence Price’s works depict a story, based on their derivation from Negro Spirituals.

Dame Ethel Smyth

April 22, 1868 – May 8, 1944
In 1922, Dame Smyth became the first woman composer to be made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.

Highlighted on September 2nd, 2020.

Check out Margit van der Zwan’s portrait of Dame Ethel Smyth, part of the Music Theory Examples by Women Composer’s poster collection.

Overture to “The Wreckers,” composed in the years 1902 – 04 and premiered in 1906. This recording features the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson.
This piece is in the Public Domain and can be freely downloaded from IMSLP.org
The Serenade in D Major composed in 1889. This recording features the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Odaline de la Martinez.
You can purchase the sheet music here.
The Cello Sonata in a minor composed in 1887. This recording features Rebecca Knight on cello and Diana Ambache on piano.
This piece is in the Public Domain and can be freely downloaded from IMSLP.org.
This is a recording of Dame Ethel Smyth’s very honest recollections of interactions with Johannes Brahms.
“To conclude, in Brahms the man I saw on the one hand detective perception of subtleties whether in people or things, lack of humor, and of course the legitimate selfishness of genius. On the other hand, I saw high-mindedness, generosity to a purpose(?), and real goodness of heart. And after all, seeing what he has bequeathed to us musically, I think this quota of human virtues should suffice.”

Do you have any suggestions for women composers (past, present, or future) that should be highlighted?

If you are submitting a suggestion on behalf of somebody, please get their consent before sending me their contact information.

Composers who are interested in being highlighted in this series should feel more than welcome to contact me using the contact page.