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Joan Towers’ Music

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As Scholes (1979) points out, the listener to Towers music can hear octatonic scales which Stravinsky, Bartok and Messiaen used, melodic lines rising in fourths reminiscent of Schonberg, intricate rhythms which also recall Stravinsky, free-associative harmony like that employed by Debussy — all combined into works which have their own individuality, their own character and their own context, performed in traditional concert halls by a chamber or symphonic ensembles. Towers’ works, moreover, evoke energy, use of color and texture which are uniquely her own, and which make them not only exciting to listen to but continue the traditional lineage of Western art music (Scholes, 1979). Conductor Leonard Slatkin states that Tower’s works come from the "roots" of the "traditional playing repertory. “He describes her work as being “a continuation of historical musical line, but … late-twentieth-century work” (Slatkin, 1984, p. D3). As will be illustrated through reference to her works, with particular focus on Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman, although Towers music has strong ties to much of the music which came before her, through her use of orchestration, form and musical materials, her final product which combines these elements is not simply a repetition or imitation of what has been written, but an intertwining of these characteristics into the context of her own new musical work.Tower’s practical process of dealing with music as these raw materials from the "traditional playing repertory" actually began at Bennington College where she attended college and first began writing music. While there she worked on music twelve hours a day – playing music, practicing music, performing music and composing music. Her hands-on compositional process continued as she worked at the Greenwich Music School after she had graduated from Bennington and with the Da Capo Chamber Players, a group which she co-founded, performed with and composed for from 1969 to 1984.