Many, many people write music and have for centuries. When it comes to instrumental music, almost everyone knows of the giants like Bach, Mozart, and Beethoven. However, there are so many composers that have been overlooked due to their ethnicity, gender, or genre. Nonetheless, they create great works that deserve to be recognized. With the Spring Composers Recital scheduled for March 3rd right here on campus, there’s no better time to start discovering what this genre of music has to offer. Below is a list of five composers who you should absolutely look up and give a listen to, in no particular order.
- Thomas Bergersen:
Thomas Bergersen is a Norwegian composer and co-founder of Two Steps From Hell and produces both solo and group work with his company. You might know some of his pieces already from movie trailers for Aquaman, Ant-Man and the Wasp, and Avengers: Infinity War. However, Bergensen has only actually composed soundtracks for smaller films such as Generation Hope, Child 21, and The Human Experience. He mostly works in the ‘epic film’ subgenre, which makes him a great composer to listen to while you work out, clean, or drive. Epic film music is typically the kind of music produced for blockbusters like superhero movies, action movies, and fantasy or sci-fi. In the ‘epic film’ subgenre, it’s survival of the fittest, and Thomas Bergersen continues to prove he’s one of the best in the business.
- Modest Mussorgsky:
Modest Mussorgsky was a Russian composer who you might know from Fantasia and “Night on the Bare Mountain”ー which terrified many of us as children. Mussorgsky was part of a group of Russian composers known as “The Five”. He discovered new ways of vocal music that better suited the Russian language and strove to create a truly “Russian sound”. Aside from “Night on the Bare Mountain,” he has many other delightfully spooky works, such as “The Hut on Fowl’s Legs (Baba Yaga),” “Gnomus,” and “Ballet of the Chickens in Their Shells,” from Pictures at an Exhibition. Many of his works reference Easter European folklore and folk music, which perhaps makes him the perfect composer for cold, Kirksville winters.
- Fanny Mendelssohn:
Fanny Mendelssohn was the sister to the better-known (though still underrated) Felix Mendelssohn and composed hundreds of works, some of which she even published under her brother’s name. Female composers often get overlooked and underacknowledged, and Fanny wasn’t an exception. Her work is of the same caliber as Beethoven and Chopin, yet I can’t recall ever hearing one of her works in a live performance or playing one. Fanny’s music is much more evocative and ethereal than many composers of the early Romantic period, and many themes in her music are reminiscent of motifs used today in the climax of Disney movies. They’re dramatic, elegant, and at times, sorrowful. Mrs. Mendelssohn was a once-in-a-century composer that was born ahead of her time.
- Amy Beach:
Amy Beach is the first American composer on this list and is criminally underrated. She had next to no formal training, other than a year in a conservatory. The rest of her musical growth and achievement comes from years of discipline in self-study. . She started giving piano recitals at 7 years old until she married and her husband made her stop as he only allowed her to compose. After he died, she went on to travel and teach and was the top American female composer of her time. Her Gaelic Symphony was the first symphony composed and published by an American woman.
- Natalie Holt:
Natalie Holt is an award-winning British film composer who created the soundtrack for Marvel’s Loki and LucasFilm’s Obi-Wan Kenobi. She uses uncommon instruments such as the traditional Norwegian hardanger fiddle, stringed nyckelharpa, and theremin. The use of native Norwegian instruments in the Loki score helps create a more immersive score for the shenanigans happening on screen. The theremin has such a classically haunting sound that it adds a horror-esque quality to the soundtrack. Her music is massively emotive, and I cannot wait to see what she comes up with next.
If you’re interested in hearing Truman’s very own composers at their recital this spring, this non-exhaustive list should give you a good place to start. Is the next Bergerson or Holt one of our own classmates? Only time will tell.