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  • Faculty

  • Joan La Barbara


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    Joan La Barbara


    Joan La Barbara, composer, performer, sound artist, actor is renowned for developing a unique vocabulary of experimental and extended vocal techniques (multiphonics, circular singing, ululation, and glottal clicks, her “signature sounds”) influencing generations of other composers and singers.  Her numerous commissions for multiple voices, chamber ensembles, orchestra, interactive technology, soundscores for dance, video and film, include the choral work “A Murmuration for Chibok” (2016) honoring the 300 Nigerian schoolgirls kidnapped missing since 2014, commissioned by Young People’s Chorus of NYC, “The River Also Changes” for voices, chamber ensemble and sonic atmosphere for Klangspuren Schwaz (2017) in Austria; and a score for voice and electronics for Sesame Street broadcast worldwide since 1977. Her multi-layered textural compositions were presented at Brisbane Biennial, Festival d'Automne à Paris, Warsaw Autumn, MaerzMusik Berlin among many other international venues.   She has collaborated with visual artists Matthew Barney, Judy Chicago, Ed Emshwiller, Kenneth Goldsmith, Bruce Nauman, Steina, Woody Vasulka, and Lawrence Weiner, and premiered landmark compositions composed for her, including Morton Subotnick’s chamber opera Jacob’s Room, and multi-media works Hungers, and Crowds and Power (2017 Lincoln Center Festival); Robert Ashley’s operas Now Eleanor’s Idea, Dust, Celestial Excursions, Improvement and Concrete; Philip Glass and Robert Wilson’s Einstein on the Beach; Morton Feldman’s iconic Three Voices; Steve Reich’s Drumming; John Cage’s Eight Whiskus and Solo for Voice 45 from Song Books and Alvin Lucier’s Palimpsest (2014) and Double Rainbow (2016). Internationally acclaimed recordings of her music include her seminal works from 1970’s Voice is the Original Instrument; Sound Paintings (Lovely Music); ShamanSong (New World), and Mode Records’ 2017 Blu-Ray surround-sound and cd release The Early Immersive Music of Joan La Barbara. She has recorded for A&M Horizon, Centaur, Deutsche Grammophon, Nonesuch, Music & Arts, MusicMasters, Musical Heritage, New Albion, Newport Classic, Sony, Virgin, Voyager, and Wergo.  She is a featured actor in artist Matthew Barney’s film/opera “River of Fundament” and Aleksandar Kostic’s award-winning film “Parallel Dreams” as well as composing original music for the latter.  Her music from “Erin” is featured in Jóhann Jóhannsson’s filmscore for “Arrival” (2016) and she created the character voice for the “Alien Newborn” in the film “Alien Resurrection”. Exploring ways of immersing the audience in her music, La Barbara placed musicians and actors throughout Greenwich House Music School for her music/theater piece Journeys and Observable Events, allowing the audience to explore the building, unveiling theatrical and sonic events, and seated the American Composers Orchestra around and among the audience in Carnegie Hall’s Zankel auditorium, building her sonic painting “in solitude this fear is lived”, inspired by Agnes Martin’s minimalist drawings.  Artistic Director of Carnegie Hall’s multi-year series “When Morty Met John”; co-founder of performing-composers collective Ne(x)tworks; Artist faculty (Music Composition) at New York University; Performing Arts faculty of Mannes/CoPA,The New School.  La Barbara is composing a new opera with award-winning Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong, “Dreams of Water Beyond One’s Depth”, inspired by the lives and work of Virginia Woolf and Joseph Cornell, exploring the artistic process, interior dialogue, and sounds within the mind.

    Degrees Held

    Bachelor of Science in Music Education (NYU 1970)

    Professional Affiliation

    SAG-AFTRA; AEA; ASCAP (Composer & Publisher); VP & Board of Directors of MATA: Young Composers Now! 

    Current Courses

    Composition for Non-Majors

    Composition for Non-Majors (Paris Spring 2021)

    Composition for Non-Majors

    CoPA Core: Whole Human Artist

    CoPA Core: Whole Human Artist (Paris Spring 2021)

    John Cage and The New School

    John Cage and The New School (Paris Spring 2021)

    John Cage and The New School

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