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Alice Shields

New York City, NY   

I’m a  composer and librettist, and write operas, music for voice and instruments,  electronic music and music for dance.  I’m deeply involved in non-Western forms of music drama, and my focus is on the environment and on women’s rights. I studied and performed Indian classical music for 10 years, performing Nattuvangam in South Indian Bharata Natyam dance drama, and currently am studying Japanese Noh theater music and drama with Noh performer Mayo Miwa.

On Nov.20, 2018 my new one-act opera ZHAOJÜN – The Woman Who Saved the World was premiered in concert format by the Association for the Promotion of New Music at the Baruch Performing Arts Center in NYC, with soprano Sharon Harms and baritone Jeffrey Huw Williams, conductor Carl Bettendorf and seven musicians and guests of Ensemble Pi, directed by Ashley Tata.  My opera Criseyde, which I re-wrote in Chaucer’s medieval English as a heroic feminist tale, was performed by the New York City Opera singers and orchestra (VOX Festival, 2008) and The American Virtuosi (2008) and called “intense, richly scored” by the New York Times. My mini-opera Komachi at Sekidera, inspired by a Japanese Noh play, was performed at the National Opera Center in Manhattan in 2015, and was referred to as “eloquent, touching” by the New York Times. My work has been called “mind-boggling art” (Associated Press), “…a startling extension of the consciousness of India” (SRUTI, India), and “…eerily evocative, holds the listener spellbound” (Musical America).

My current and recent projects include:

  • The Wind in the Pines (2018), for soprano and 6 instruments (theorbo, Turkish oud, Renaissance harp, alto flute, alto recorder and percussion), is a commission from Chamber Music America to create a work for Seattle’s Eurasia Consort. Based on a Noh play about a poor peasant woman, the piece will be premiered in Seattle in January, 2020 and presented in NYC.
  • Zhaojun – A Woman of Peace (2018), is my new one-act chamber opera for 2 singers and 7 instruments, was just premiered in concert by the Association for the Promotion of New Music in NYC on Nov.20, 2018. Based on the life of Wang Zhaojun, a famous Chinese woman who established peace between China and Mongolia two thousand years ago, the opera attacks militarism, environmental destruction and predatory finance.
  • in May 2018, Larynx (2018) was premiered by Iktus Percussion at Areté Gallery, Brooklyn.
  • In June 2017 Mioritza – Requiem for Rachel Corrie, for trombone and fixed audio media, written to commemorate political activist Rachel Corrie, was performed by trombonist Haim Avitsur for the NYC-Electroacoustic Music Festival at Abrons Art Center in Manhattan: “a stunning and moving musical tribute to Rachel Corrie” — Embassy and Consulate General of Norway

I received the Doctor of Musical Arts in music composition from Columbia University, studying with  Jack Beeson, Otto Luening, Chou Wen-Chung and electronic music pioneer Vladimir Ussachevsky.  I’ve served as Associate Director of the Columbia-Princeton Electronic Music Canter and Director of Development of the Columbia University Computer Music Center. You can find recordings of my work on Koch International Classics, New World Records/CRI, Albany Records and Opus One Records. For more information, please see www.aliceshields.com.

Articles by Alice Shields:

Articles November 16 2018 | By Alice Shields, Sheree Clement, Eleanor Cory, Nina C. Young, Idith Meshulam Korman, Lynne Buchanan
Saving The Earth–Artist/Activists for the Environment

It’s obvious that our physical world is in deep trouble.  Old and new technologies are out of control—polluting our air, water and soil, poisoning our health, heating up the climate...

Articles July 14 2016 | By Alice Shields
Electroacoustic Music with Video: Comparison with Sound for Film

If a concert composer is using video with their music, that composer is writing a film score.

Articles June 23 2016 | By Alice Shields
Timbre, Envelope and Variation in Electroacoustic Music

Timbre and envelope are intricately related and are major determinants of how effective a sound event in music will be, whether in acoustic music or electroacoustic music. Since the sound...

Articles June 9 2016 | By Alice Shields
Structural and Playback Issues in Current Electroacoustic Music

I’ve composed works using electroacoustic technologies since 1963, and I want to share with you over the next several weeks some of my thoughts about the current state of the...

Headlines June 8 2010 | By Alice Shields
Jack Beeson (1921-2010): Composer, Teacher, Advocate, and Born Satirist

Jack Beeson was my teacher in graduate school and beyond. I could say much about his operatic compositions and how he helped me with mine. But right now, as he...