10 contemporary queer composers to listen to in honor of Pride Month
When reflecting on Pride Month, it's easy to play the same queer composers from classical music history. While listening to Benjamin Britten and Peter Tchaikovsky is valuable, there are plenty of contemporary classical composers to listen to and support during Pride and all year long.
Here's a list of our favorite composers that are also members of the LGBTQIA+ community.
Wendy Carlos is a pioneer in the fields of electronic and film music. Her album Switched-On Bach blazed trails in cross-genre music and won three Grammy awards. She composed scores for movies such as A Clockwork Orange, The Shining and Tron. A transgender woman, she was open about transitioning in a time when it wasn't as widely accepted.
One of the most prolific composers of the 21st century, Jennifer Higdon's works have been recorded and released on more than 60 CDs by ensembles such as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Philadelphia Orchestra, among many more. She married her longtime partner, Cheryl Lawson, in 2014, and conductor Marin Alsop officiated the ceremony.
Nico Muhly is a contemporary composer who has been sought out in classical and alternative music scenes. He has collaborated with indie artist Sufjan Stevens, worked on Broadway productions, and has conducted for Philip Glass. His 2015 oratorio Sentences told the story of Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked the German Enigma code during World War II but was later prosecuted for homosexuality. Muhly is open about his own sexuality and mental health, but he lets his work speak for itself.
David Del Tredici
Pultizer Prize-winning composer David Del Tredici has a composition career spanning decades, with a large body of work focusing on his identity as a gay man. His recent work Bullycide deals with gay teen suicide as a result of bullying, while other works focus on the joy of relationships.
Over the past 40 years, John Corigliano has written more than 100 scores, with many of them earning accolades and awards. An active member of the LGBT community, he channeled his personal grief over the loss of friends to the AIDS crisis into his Symphony No. 1, which has been performed worldwide by more than 150 orchestras.
Meredith Monk is a pioneer of extended vocal technique and interdisciplinary performance, with her work being honored in 2015 with a National Medal of Arts. Her work continues to evolve, with her visual and audio art being performed by classical and contemporary ensembles.
Since starting his career at 16, Marc Shaiman has gone on to compose for TV, film, musicals and the stage. He wrote the score to Hairspray, along with other movies such as Sleepless in Seattle, When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers. In 2008, he wrote the music to Prop 8: The Musical, his attempt to pick apart the anti-gay marriage lobby's logic for California's amendment that banned gay marriage.
Many might not know that along with being a renowned contemporary vocalist, Rufus Wainwright has composed two operas. 2017's Hadrian is based on the life of the Roman emperor and his lover, Antinous.
Film composer Laura Karpman has written scores for Black Nativity and Paris Can Wait, along with others. Her work Ask Your Mama, based on poems by Langston Hughes, was commissioned by Carnegie Hall and has been performed worldwide. She is married to fellow film composer Nora Kroll-Rosenbaum.
Caroline Shaw has been crafting the future of classical music ever since she was the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music in 2013. Along with collaborating with popular artists such as Kanye West, the National, and Arcade Fire, she has composed for chamber ensembles, film and theater.
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