MLA Women in Music Blog Feature: Anne LeBaron

Tune into composer, avant-garde harpist, professor, and writer Anne LeBaron's YouTube channel or SoundCloud channel and experience her music while learning about her.

Anne LeBaron: biography

[text by Anne LeBaron; photos provided by Anne LeBaron]

A West Coast experimentalist who is an innovative performer on the harp as well as a composer embracing unusual challenges, Anne LeBaron’s compositions have been performed around the globe. Venues in Italy, Mexico, Sydney, Vienna, Sweden, Kazakhstan, New York, Los Angeles, and elsewhere have programmed her works for chamber groups, opera, cantatas, and presented her as a performer. Her operas celebrate legendary figures such as Pope Joan, Eurydice, Marie Laveau, the American Housewife, and Aldous Huxley. Her current opera-in-progress, Huxley’s Last Trip, (formerly LSD: The Opera) was awarded one of the first Discovery Grants from Opera America. The orchestra includes instruments built by American composer and inventor Harry Partch. Excerpts have been performed at three LA venues: at the Wallis Annenberg Theater in Beverly Hills, at the MAK Center for Art and Architecture at the Schindler House, and at the REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles. More information can be seen, including several performances, at

LeBaron with Partch instruments

LeBaron with Huxley’s Last Trip librettists Gerd Stern and Ed Rosenfeld

LeBaron was recently awarded a Copland House Residency in New York, a Djerassi Program residency in Santa Cruz, and a residency at the Corporation of Yaddo in Saratoga Springs. Radiant Depth Unfolded: Settings of Rumi, commissioned by The Sorel Organization and SongFest, premiered in Zipper Hall at the Colburn School in Los Angeles. The Los Angeles Library Foundation commissioned her to compose a new work inspired by the Oxford English Dictionary: A – Zythum premiered at the Hammer Museum. Mark Robson performed her work for speaking pianist, Los Murmullos, on the highly regarded PianoSpheres, and more recently at the American Center in Paris. The acclaimed French harpist Hélène Breschand performed her work Harpestra: Concerto for Two Harps, One Player. 

Hélène Breschand performing LeBaron's Harpestra: Concerto for Two Harps, One Player

Current projects include a new installment for The Well-Read Clavier for pianist Lorezo Marasso based on writings by Beppe Fenoglio and commissioned by the Ferrero Foundation. The Bogliasco Foundation near Genoa has awarded her a 2018 residential Fellowship at its study center for the development of her Fenoglio piece. A new opera, This Lingering Life, being written with playwright Chiori Miyagawa and librettist Mark Campbell, will blend and update five ancient Noh dramas to convey their universal and timely relevance. In the fall of 2017, she will be the featured international artist and keynote speaker at the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth, Australia, with additional performances and appearances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane, and in Christchurch, New Zealand. 

A recording of a live performance of Crescent City, produced by The Industry, is available on Innova Records.  
[following are scenes from the performance of LeBaron's 2012 opera Crescent City]

Recordings of her music are available on Mode, New World Records, EarRational, Innova, Music and Art, Albany, and other labels. As a member of the School of Music faculty at CalArts, she has developed highly original courses blending theater, art history, cultural topics, and music while encouraging students to actively create work incorporating what they are absorbing. These include HyperOpera; Concert Theater; Musical Reflections of Surrealism; Music of Harry Partch; Contemplative Practices, Musical Arts, Compassionate Mind; and Writing for Everything Else. 

LeBaron serves on the boards of the American Composers Forum, where she is Vice-Chair, and the Corporation of Yaddo. Also an accomplished harpist, she is renowned for pioneering methods of extended harp techniques, electronic enhancements, and notation in compositional and improvisational contexts. In the current season, she lectured on her music at the University of California Irvine, the University of Southern California, the University of California Los Angeles, and Cal State Fullerton. For the past two years, she led a master class for composition students visiting LA from Shanghai, under the auspices of the Bright Institute. Her website:

[photos of LeBaron performing]

[LeBaron having fun with door harp created by Philip Blackburn]

[following text by Renée McBride]

Not wanting to reinvent a wheel already wonderfully made, I direct you to LeBaron's excellent and recently revamped website. You'll find a biography and detailed CV on the About page. Under News & Projects you'll find information about current projects, as well as LeBaron's latest tweets. Compositions presents information about her works organized by genre, a link to a source for purchasing her music, and a complete list of works with instrumentation and duration. Under Recordings are links to recordings of LeBaron as composer and harpist, and a current discography for downloading; for visuals of performances, see Videos. Gallery is a captivating exhibit of photos from LeBaron's musical life -- the images above only whet your appetite. Press & Interviews contains quotes from the press from 2002 to the present, with links to the full reviews, and videos of interviews with LeBaron. And finally, LeBaron offers the opportunity to contact her, and to connect with her YouTube, Soundcloud, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts. For general biographical information, see my entry for LeBaron in Women and Music in America since 1900, edited by Kristine H. Burns, volume 2, page 370, and LeBaron's Wikipedia entry.

While information about LeBaron's projects is available on her website, I would like to highlight one of the most exciting. In late October 2017 LeBaron will give the keynote address at the Totally Huge New Music Festival in Perth, Western Australia. Her address relates to the festival's theme, "Embracing the Irrational: The Sonic Arts in a Post-Factual World," and is titled "Sonic Ventures in Post-Truth Surrealism: Raudelunas, the Rev. Fred Lane, and Huxley's Last Trip." LeBaron provides this abstract of her address:

How are today's musicians and musical communities confronting, reacting to, or embodying belief systems grounded in deception? Does the notion of authenticity embrace or reject deliberate falsifications? To what extent can an opera about LSD address the impossibility of knowing what actually occurs during a psychedelic experience? These inquiries into the irrational will be illuminated by examples of performers, writers, and artists exploring the spectrum between truth and post-truth.

Additionally, several of LeBaron's works are programmed, and she'll be performing some of her compositions for harp, as well as improvising with other participating musicians.

I also want to highlight a review of her most recent composition, Fissure, for violin, piano and fixed audio media, as well as some of my favorite quotes from the press about LeBaron:

Musicians like ... Anne LeBaron ... are among the great artists of our era. It may be awhile before history recognizes [her] for this, but I'm confident that it will come to pass. [Rhys Tranter interviews John Corbett, July 20, 2017]
Anne LeBaron is a composer as transformer. She transforms instruments ... She transforms cultural contexts, be they Kazakh, Bach or Katrina ... her knack is for alternative realities ... There is, in LeBaron's music, a leaving the body and a celebration of the body, meditations on death and breath. [LA Times, April 15, 2014]
... LeBaron has pushed the boundaries not only of opera, but of instrumental music. [Symphony Services International, 2013]
If there is an "it" composer in Southern California right now, [LeBaron would] hold the title ... [All is Yar, July 17, 2012]
The artist inhabits her massive instrument as if it were a continent; she fords its rivers of strings and discovers new worlds in the crevices of tonality ... LeBaron is a true "stratigrapher" in her layering of material, where new vistas seem to unfold endlessly behind others. [The New York City Jazz Record, August 2011]
Anne LeBaron hears music in almost everything: vacuum cleaners, bellowing frogs and "processed" voices. [LA Times, October 23, 2002]
I hope these morsels from the press further pique your interest in Anne LeBaron's composed and performed music.

In closing, I want to share a statement recently written by LeBaron about her work:
One of my primary compositional goals, to create a complete visceral experience for the listener/viewer, frequently places my work in either the instrumental-driven Concert Theater genre, or the vocal genre of Opera. In the production of my opera Crescent City [Opera West review; Stage and Cinema review; laist review; CultureSpot LA review; LA Times review(1) and (2)] the audience members were either immersed into the installations forming the cityscape, or ambulatory around the perimeter of the performance area. A vibrant experimental vein also runs through my work. In LSD: The Opera (now in progress and retitled Huxley’s Last Trip) [LA Times review], microtonal instruments built by Harry Partch are featured. In my cyborg-opera, Sucktion, the American Housewife merges with her vacuum cleaner, while the libretto simultaneously deconstructs. For instrumental pieces, I often construct pre-compositional charts and tables. The structure of A – Zythum (this link includes an interview with LeBaron by Innova; and this Soundwaves: New Music at the Santa Monica Public Library site includes videos of each piece and LeBaron’s introductions), for instance, is based on a grid I developed reflecting the unusual publishing timeline of the Oxford English Dictionary, combined with the linear alphabetical entries displayed on the fascicles and volumes.



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Dr. Deon Nielsen Price: concert pianist, composer, music professor, mother of five