Four female composers leading change in contemporary music


Scene from Freya Waley Cohen's opera WITCH by Craig FullerHarrisonParrott Foundation

Introduction to Women Composers

Megan O'Hanlon introduces the theme of Composition

"While classical music’s past might be dominated by men, we can ensure the future isn’t. It takes a collaborative effort to actively include, encourage, and open barriers for women and young girls." Megan is Publishing Assistant at Birdsong Music Publishing.

Bray graduated from Birmingham Conservatoire with First Class Honours, having studied composition with Joe Cutler, and then completed a Masters in Composition with Distinction from the Royal College of Music in London by David BeecroftHarrisonParrott Foundation

Charlotte Bray: British Composer based in Berlin

British composer Charlotte Bray is one of the most esteemed and in-demand composers of her generation, championed by conductors such as Sir Mark Elder, Oliver Knussen, and Marin Alsop and featured by BBC Symphony Orchestra, Royal Opera House Covent Garden and London Sinfonietta.

Composer Charlotte Bray's music has been performed at festivals in Aldeburgh, Cheltenham, Tanglewood, Aix-en-Provence and Verbier by David BeecroftHarrisonParrott Foundation

Charlotte Bray says:

Crossing Faultlines is a song cycle about women’s experiences in the workplace. Searching through volumes of poetry, it became clear that little has been written about this aspect of women’s lives.

Charlotte Bray's recent premieres of solo and chamber works include The Earth Cried Out to the Sky (2022), performed by mezzo-soprano Esther Valentin and pianist Steffen Schleiermacher at Kissinger Sommer Music Festival by David BeecroftHarrisonParrott Foundation

Charlotte Bray continues:

The poet Nicki Jackowska generously agreed to write new poems specially for the cycle. The three songs explore themes on mentorship, discrimination, and ambition.

Charlotte Bray's Crossing Faultlines

Crossing Faultlines: Song Cycle on Women’s Experiences in the Workplace

British-American composer Freya Waley-Cohen demonstrates an ​“instinct for colour” (The Arts Desk) by William MarseyHarrisonParrott Foundation

Freya Waley-Cohen: British-American Composer

Described as ‘at once intimate and visionary’, British-American composer Freya Waley-Cohen’s music is characterised by a sense of the otherworldly. Her music has been commissioned by institutions and ensembles including LA Philharmonic, BBC Proms and London Philharmonic Orchestra

Composer Freya Waley Cohen's music shifts between kaleidoscopic colours and patterns anchored around melodic lines that twist and wind. by Patrick AllenHarrisonParrott Foundation

Freya Waley-Cohen says:

Music is communication, storytelling, and expression - the more different voices we hear from, the richer the art form becomes as a whole. To limit the art form so that weight is only given to music from one specific demographic would result in the death of our art form.

Freya Waley-Cohen was the winner of a 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Composition Prize by Patrick AllenHarrisonParrott Foundation

Freya Waley-Cohen continues:

Changing the status quo requires funding for the arts for programmers to have the freedom to put on music from outside the established canon; for childcare and maternity leave so that women’s voices aren’t silenced once they become parents; for arts education for everyone.

Freya Waley-Cohen's WITCH

WITCH: A Chamber Opera about Female Identity, Power and Passion

Olivia Belli was the first female composer to have been invited by Apple Music to curate its Piano Chill playlist and has been chosen as the cover of Spotify’s EQUAL: Classical playlist by Dovile SermokasHarrisonParrott Foundation

Olivia Belli: Modern classical Italian Pianist and Composer

Olivia Belli is a modern classical pianist and composer based in Italy. She has reached a worldwide audience with her poetic piano compositions accumulating millions of streams, and has featured on leading radio stations such as BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, and Radio France. 

Composer Olivia Belli's music has featured on leading radio stations such as BBC Radio 3, Classic FM, BBC 6 Music, KEXP and Radio France. by Dovile SermokasHarrisonParrott Foundation

Olivia Belli says:

Being a woman has always meant playing many roles at the same time as well as being a professional in our own field. Living by balancing multiple roles is a great challenge that women face every day but it sharpens their empathetic skills, enriching their voice. 

Having kept her compositions private until 2018, Olivia Belli released her debut album of original works with Where Night Never Comes (2018). by Dovile SermokasHarrisonParrott Foundation

Olivia Belli continues:

It is essential to support women in our multifaceted roles, allowing us to be all of this without imposing choices that would deprive us of part of our ancestral nature & identity: only in this way can our voice, our way to conceive the world reach its maximum expression in art.

As a composer, Olivia Belli mixes the intimate sound of a felt piano with synth vintage on her most recent album, Somnio Novo. by Dovile SermokasHarrisonParrott Foundation

Olivia Belli on Spotify’s EQUAL: Classical playlist

Olivia Belli is the cover of Spotify’s EQUAL: Classical playlist, celebrating the great women composers who continue to transform the classical world, from Florence Price to Kaija Saariaho. Belli was also the first female composer to curate Apple Music’s Piano Chill playlist.

Eímear Noone is an award-winning video game music conductor and composer by Kim Matthai LelandHarrisonParrott Foundation

Eímear Noone: Conductor and Composer

Eímear Noone is an LA/​Dublin based conductor & award-winning Irish composer, composing extensively for films and video games. As one of the world’s premier composers of games scores, Eímear is responsible for some of the most enduring soundscapes on World of Warcraft and others

Watch Eímear's speech at Inspirefest, Dublin

Eímear shares insights into her journey as a composer and conductor, and being driven by a passion for music.

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