Marjorie Leff Miller Faculty Scholar in Music. 2010 Recipient of the Lipkin Family Prize for Inspirational Teaching
BA, Cornell University. MM, University of Illinois. DMA, Yale University. Fulbright scholar in Paris; pianist and conductor, with special interests in 17th- through 20th-century music. Performed extensively and recorded as pianist, soloist, chamber musician, and conductor; performed with most of the major new music ensembles, such as the New Music Consort and Speculum Musicae; worked with composers such as Babbitt, Carter, and numerous younger composers and premiered new works, including many written for him. Toured internationally as a member of the Philip Glass Ensemble from 1983-1996; conducted the premieres of several Glass operas and appears on many recordings of Glass’s music. Conducted film soundtracks and worked as producer in recording studios. Formerly on the faculty of the Composers Conference at Wellesley College. SLC, 1998–
Current undergraduate courses
An introduction to orchestral conducting for qualified students, the fall semester will focus on
baton technique, score reading, and interpretation, as well as on how to prepare a score and how to
lead a rehearsal. The aim will be to give students the tools that they need to have in place before
interacting with live musicians. The spring semester will focus on utilizing those tools with live
musicians. In each class, students will have the opportunity to conduct rehearsals, starting with
duets and increasing in size over the course of the semester. A final project will include rehearsing
and conducting a large chamber piece such as the Spohr Nonet. There may also be opportunities
for students who are ready to conduct the Sarah Lawrence College Orchestra in rehearsal.
In rotation over two years, students will have the opportunity to experience and participate in a broad range of musical styles from the Baroque to symphonic and contemporary repertory, including improvisation and experimental music.
This introductory course will meet twice each week (two 90-minute sessions). We will study elements of music such as pitch, rhythm, intensity, and timbre to see how they combine in various musical structures and how these structures communicate. Studies will include notation and ear training, as well as theoretical exercises, rudimentary analyses, and the study of repertoire from various eras of Western music.
This seminar will be both an introduction to and an in-depth exploration of the world of Western classical music. The ability to read music is not required. We will instead develop a vocabulary, based on careful listening, that we will use to analyze and describe the forms, textures, and expressive qualities of the music and of our experience of it. During the course of the year, we will have immersed ourselves in music and aesthetics from the ancient Greeks (the concept of music as sounding number) to the present; however, the class will not be organized as a historical survey but, rather, around topics designed to foster connections among different periods. For example, some of the music of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and of J. S. Bach and the postwar modernists seem to share attitudes about music and its role in intellectual and artistic life. How can these eras illuminate each other? How does music both reflect and influence developments in the other arts, in technology, and in social structures? Other topics will include subjectivity and personal expression, the radically simple, and the relationship between music and text.
Throughout its history, music has been a vehicle for the expression of metaphysical and spiritual ideas. The Pythagorean discovery in the sixth century BC of the ratios behind musical intervals linked music to the cosmos and the soul and gave music both a mathematical and metaphysical dimension. Music also became a vital component of various liturgies; it was a physical, temporal, impermanent art that also pointed to the eternal and immutable. This course will examine works from the Western classical tradition that embody these ideas. Bach will be central to this class, but we will also study works by Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Stravinsky, and Messiaen, as well as earlier composers such as Machaut, Dufay, and Palestrina.