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Louise Talma

October 31, 1906 - August 13, 1996
born in Arcachon, France, composed during the Modern period
A prolific composer who created more than 40 major works in her lifetime, Louise Talma progressed from a neo-Classical to a more radical serial style and beyond and went from a rigorous traditional education to making significant "firsts" as a female composer.

Raised in New York City, she studied theory and composition at the Institute of Musical Arts between 1922 - 1930 and received her bachelor of music degree from New York University and masters of arts degree from Columbia University. At the American Conservatory in Fontainebleau, France, she studied piano with Isidor Philipp and had rigorous training in composition with Nadia Boulanger every summer from 1926 to 1939. Talma taught at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Talma's compositions of this time were in her spare neo-Classical style that often employed static harmonies and short, distinct melodies in counterpoint. They varied through devices such as mode, tempo, rhythm, metric, accentuation change, imitation, augmentation, and diminution of rhythmic units; ostinatos and pedal points in such works as Song of the Songless (1928), Three Madrigals (1928) for women's voices and string quartet, Two Dances (1934) for piano, and the sacred work for mixed chorus and organ In principio erat verbum (1939).

The majority of Talma's compositions were written at the MacDowell Colony in Peterborough, NH, where she met and was influenced by composers of the so-called Boston school (Berger, Foss, Fine, Haieff, Shapero, and Spies). Talma continued to write in her neo-Classical style until 1954 when serial techniques made their appearance in her composition Six Etudes for piano. In her opera The Alcestiad (1955 - 1958) with text by Thornton Wilder, she combined her previous tonality with the new serial procedures. The opera contains widely contrasting moods attained mainly through harmonic coloration. Yet her general approach still remains elegant and restrained in emotion. In her last works, for example -- Full Circle (1985) for orchestra, Spacings (1994) for viola and piano, A Time to Remember (1966 - 1967) for mixed choir and orchestra based on speeches of John F. Kennedy -- she abandoned serialism to achieve a new kind of tonality.

Talma was awarded three honorary doctorates and many grants. She received the Marjorie Peabody Waite Award (1960) and was the first woman to receive two Guggenheims, the first woman elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters (1974), the first American woman to have a full-scale opera performed in Germany, the first American to teach at Fontainebleau, and the first woman to receive the Sibelius Medal for composition from the Harriet Cohen International Awards in London (1963). ~ "Blue" Gene Tyranny, Rovi
full bio

Selected Discography

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Track List: American Classics

Title: The Ambient Air, For Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano

1. The Ambient Air, For Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano: I. Echo Chamber

2. The Ambient Air, For Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano: II. Driving Rain

3. The Ambient Air, For Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano: III. Creeping Fog

4. The Ambient Air, For Flute, Violin, Cello & Piano: IV. Shifting Winds

Title: Lament, For Cello & Piano

5. Lament, For Cello & Piano: Lament For Cello And Piano

Title: Episodes (7) For Flute, Viola & Piano

6. Episodes (7) For Flute, Viola & Piano: Seven Episodes For Flute, Viola And Piano

Title: Variations On 13 Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird, For Tenor, Oboe & Piano

7. Variations On 13 Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird, For Tenor, Oboe & Piano: Variations On 13 Ways Of Looking At A Blackbird For Tenor, Oboe And Piano

Title: Conversations For Flute & Piano

8. Conversations For Flute & Piano: Conversations For Flute And Piano

Title: Soundshots, For Piano

9. Soundshots, For Piano: II. The Pony Express

10. Soundshots, For Piano: III. Duck Duet

11. Soundshots, For Piano: VII. Skipping

12. Soundshots, For Piano: VIII. The Robin

13. Soundshots, For Piano: XIV. Pitter-patter Pitter-patter

14. Soundshots, For Piano: XIX. The Clocks

15. Soundshots, For Piano: XX. Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep

Title: Full Circle, For Orchestra

16. Full Circle, For Orchestra: Full Circle For Chamber Orchestra

Comments

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So happy to discover this student of Boulanger and excellent composer in her own right. I like her sound-world and love her harmonic syntax.

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